Last week, I attended the annual composting conference put on by the Compost Council of Canada. It was a two-day event where I learned about some great initiatives in the composting industry and met some wonderful people. We also got to visit the Brady Road Resource Management Facility out the south end of the city.

If you did not already know, the City of Winnipeg has been receiving many tons of residential yard waste from the curbside pick-up that started in the fall of 2012. This new initiative currently only happens in the warmer months mind you and no food waste yet, but hey it’s a start. Starting up again in April this year, curbside yard waste will be collected every two weeks on the same day as your regular city garbage and recycling pick-up.

As our bus pulled into the landfill site, we could see off in the distance the excavators and mountains of trash being moved around. It made me stop and think about what garbage of mine was being pushed around in there.

But then we turned the corner and pulled up to an open spaced area and a small little building set among over 400 meters of windrows of what just looked like long piles of dirt mixed in with our yard waste paper bags. I was looking at over 20,000 tons of diverted waste that would have otherwise been over on that other side of the hill in the landfill!

Oh, what a sight to see! Rows upon rows of our laboured leaves, branches and weeds doing what they do best, composting and breaking down. A group of us stood there and watched as a massive compost turner machine made its way down the windrow with a turbine of blades working hard to turn and incorporate snow into the mix.

Yup, snow. When you need to add water to your windrow, if the outside temperature is cold enough to have snow but the internal temperature of your compost is warm enough to melt it, then it’s the perfect way to add moisture – I guess this is one of those times when this prolonged winter season we’re having is actually benefiting the process, who knew! This allows for the proper mixture of air and water to be added to the process.

We learned about the new British technology that Brady is piloting called Compost Management. As the first municipal composters in North America to use it, this wireless device measures various parameters such as moisture, temperature and oxygen in each windrow determining a dependable maintenance schedule.

As it turns out, the composting industry is growing; large scale organic waste diversion and end-use products are a profitable business. Companies like Filtrexx Canada are coming up with creative ways to put finished compost to good use. Check out the beautification and erosion prevention projects of roadside stabilization and ditch protection they’re working on.

So, if you’re not saving your leaves and weeds for a backyard compost bin and you’re not giving them to your neighbour for their backyard compost bin, then rest assured that this summer your yard waste will be turned into lovely nutrient rich soil to be used again.

On this occasion, when big machines meet Mother Nature, there is a positive outcome.