Composting for Beginners | Everything You Need to Get Started

Fighting climate change isn’t just about reducing our carbon emissions. When it comes to methane, Environment and Climate Change Canada has stated that this potent greenhouse gas has about 86 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Recently, Canada announced support for the Global Methane Pledge, aiming to reduce the world’s methane emissions by 30 percent below 2020 levels in the next eight years.

So how can we make this happen? You can do your part with the help of Glad. Landfills are a major contributor to methane emissions. In fact, 23 percent of Canada’s methane emissions come from municipal solid waste landfills. One of the main ways to reduce this figure is to keep organic waste out of landfills. This is why more and more municipalities across the country are offering curb-side pick-up of organic waste through their green bin programs and then composting this waste in special facilities. All they need is for you to help them by separating your organic waste from your recyclables and non-recyclables. Glad makes it easy to do this. Here’s everything you need to start a compost routine.

1. Get the right bins

If your city or town offers a green bin programme, you need to contact your municipality to get a green bin and, while you’re at it, find out the pick-up schedule. If you live in an apartment, the apartment manager should be able to tell you where the bins for the building are. Green bin or not, you’ll also find getting into the routine of separating your compostables much easier if you have a bin in your kitchen where you can toss your food scraps while you’re cooking. The type of bin you choose is up to you and very much depends on how much space you have and what you can afford. Smaller bins don’t take up much space but need to be emptied more frequently, while larger bins allow for more time before you need to empty them but increase the risk of having to deal with rotting, smelly bits of yuck.

2. What do you need to look for in a countertop bin?

No matter what size of countertop bin you choose, there are some other features you need to look for. Most important is that it should have a lid to keep fruit flies and other critters away. Holes in the lid provide ventilation and reduce odours and the higher-end bins come with carbon or charcoal filters for extra odour control. Stainless steel, aluminum and ceramic are more expensive and not as prone to retaining odours as plastic. If you prefer plastic’s light weight, we recommend using the Glad compost bin with removable inner basket, bag storage holders and carbon odour-blocking filters, since it has vents that improve airflow for better composting and odour control. Whatever type of bin you choose, though, it’s important to regularly wash the inside or you’ll have to deal with smelly, icky messes. A Glad compostable drawstring bag makes the perfect bin liner to keep things clean: They come in a 10-litre size for the countertop bin. You can also use regular Glad compostable bags, which come in both the 10-litre size for the countertop and a 49-litre size for a tall bin, such as your outdoor municipal bin.

3. Should you go for bioplastic or paper bags?

Paper bags break down faster than any other type of bag but you’ll be cursing every step of the way to the green bin if you have to carry a paper bag dripping yucky juices everywhere while threatening to fall apart. Traditional plastic makes carrying your compostables from kitchen to green bin much easier but are bad news for the environment. Cue bioplastic bags such as Glad’s compostable bags, now with a drawstring. They’re made of a bioplastic that is certified to break down in municipal composting programs, so you know your compost will be accepted. The drawstring makes it easy to open and close them and to carry, keeping your hands ick free. Check with your municipal composting program, though, since some don’t allow bioplastics.

4. How do you make food waste sorting easier?

The easiest way to sort your waste is to set up a sorting station, with separate bins for compostables such as food scraps, recyclables and non-recyclables. To help everyone in the household remember which bin is which, clearly label each bin and list what should go in it. You may want to use pictures so that little kids who don’t read yet can learn the routine too. Clearly labeled bins also mean you won’t have to explain the system to every guest who might want to throw away something. You can keep your food-scraps bin on the counter near where you cook, so you simply need to reach out to it as needed. Keep the other bins next to one another in one place and within easy reach too.

5. Which food scraps go in which bin?

When you’re cooking, be sure to put the right kinds of scraps in the right bin. Your countertop bin is for what composting enthusiasts will call the “greens”: fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and compostable tea bags. You can also add trimmings from your houseplants here. Check with your municipality what else they’ll accept in the green bin, since different green bin programs have different requirements. Glad compostable bags are specifically designed to meet the standards of municipal composting facilities, so you may be able to simply put them in the green bin with all the other compostables. However, some municipalities won’t accept compostable bags in their green bins, so you should always check with them how to dispose of these bags.

6. What if there’s no green bin program where you live?

You can still keep a compost routine, even if your city of town doesn’t offer a green bin programme yet. Check with your municipality how they’d prefer you to get rid of compostables. Alternatively, the Compost Council of Canada has information on municipal and industrial composting facilities in your province or territory, with relevant links so you can find out how to get the compostables from your countertop bin to the facility. If there is no municipal or industrial composting facility in your area, you can also start composting at home. You can even do home composting in sacks on your balcony if you don’t have the space for a compost pile in your yard. The rich brown compost that results is great for plant beds, the lawn or potted plants. If you’re not into gardening, you’ll have no problem finding a green-thumbed neighbour, community garden or farmer to take the compost off your hands.