Part 1: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing

Unfortunately, we live in a time when the bottom line seems to trump what's in everyone else's best interest, and some of us still cling to the hope that our politicians will fulfill their promises and do the right thing.

And then there are those special people who get tired of waiting for someone else to do the right thing and do it themselves.

This is the case of Steven McLeod and Tye Hunt, two Montreal eco-entrepreneurs who started their own composting business two years ago. Sick of waiting for the City of Montreal to deliver on its promise of a citywide composting program, McLeod and Hunt began Compost Montreal with just 20 customers in St. Henri. They now have some 400 residential and commercial clients with routes throughout the island of Montreal.

(Please write to us if you know of an eco-entrepreneur who is doing the right thing.)

Part of the eco-entrepreneurs' task is to educate their clients about what can and cannot be used in compost. After all, like any fine product, the best compost depends on the quality of its ingredients.

Many well-intentioned people without any composting experience have some misconceptions. In order to dispel some of them, I asked McLeod and Hunt specifically why some items were refused.

For instance, a common misconception is that pet excrement can be put in compost.

"People assume that because horse and cow manure is composted, the same is true for dog and cat feces," said Tye Hunt. "However, dogs and cats, like their masters, consume meat and meat by-products, which results in feces with E-coli."

Obviously, this is not something you want to put in your vegetable garden.

The same is true of any animal products (meat, bones, fish and fish bones, shellfish, clam,oyster, mussel and shrimp shells, raw eggs, dairy products and animal fat). I learned from Steven McLeod that not only do these products produce a prolific stench and attract vermin from miles around, but they also carry harmful bacteria which may not be killed in the composting process.

I know that paper products are accepted, but on the Compost Montreal Web site, I see that newspapers must be shredded. That is because a layer of unshredded newspapers or leaves on a compost pile will prevent oxygen from entering, and as you may recall from my previous post, composting without oxygen creates methane, which is not the purpose of this type of composting.

I told Tye Hunt that some of the Toronto municipalities accepted wax-coated paper cups in their curbside composting programs. He said that the City of Toronto is now having a problem dealing with this, as wax is not organic, and it does not break down. Ergo, wax-coated paper cups are not good for compost.

Tye said the same thing about biodegradable bags. Although they break down in the soil, they still contain some manmade components, which are not the best for fine compost, and people should avoid putting them in their organic waste bins.

As Compost Montreal's business has expanded, it can now accept ingredients that were previously refused.

Oak leaves, citrus fruit, corn cobs and cabbage cores are now accepted. Because the operation is larger today, it can accept acidic ingredients, such as oak leaves and citrus fruit. Too much acid kills the bacteria responsible for the composting process. A larger operation also means that the cycle is longer, so there is enough time to break down things as dense as corn cobs and cabbage cores.

For a complete list of the items accepted and refused in Compost Montreal's collection service click here, and check back periodically for important updates.

If you would like to join our eco-entrepreneurs in their quest to rid our landfill sites of valuable compostable ingredients, or if you have any questions click here.

Let's hope that when the City of Montreal finally implements its composting program, it will consult our eco-entrepreneurs and make the most of their initiative and acquired knowledge.

Montreal Mirror
Compost Montreal

Related posts:
Why we should compost--Even Urbanites

Other environmental posts:
Meet the Clean 15 (Produce with lowest pesticide levels)

Evironmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen (12 fruit and veg with the highest pesticide levels)

Buying Local: Vegetables Year Round
Plastics: Of the 3 Rs, we should REDUCE
3 Simple Q&As about Children and Pesticides


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