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Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) regulates all non-agricultural composting facilities. Agricultural composting facilities are those that are on-farm that compost only livestock manures. These facilities are regulated through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry or the Natural Resources Conservation Board.
Composting facilities are categorized as either Class I or Class II facilities. Many of these composting facilities are integrated with other municipal waste management facilities such as landfills and waste transfer stations.
Class I facilities
Class I facilities may accept any type of organics waste that is not hazardous waste. This may include source separated organics (from curbside collection), food waste, biosolids, and agri-food processing waste.
Class II facilities
Class II facilities accept only manure or vegetative matter (leaf and yard waste, brush, and wood waste). Majority of composting facilities in Alberta are Class II facilities.
Registration and approval
The requirements for composting facilities in Alberta are determined by the amount of feedstock collected.
Composting facilities in Alberta that accept up to 20,000 tonnes of feedstock per year require a Registration, and those which accept more than 20,000 tonnes per year require an Approval under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
Composting facilities operating under a registration are required to follow the requirements in the Code of Practice for Compost Facilities, and those under an approval generally follow the requirements in the Standards for Composting Facilities as well as any additional requirements from the Director. All composting facilities in Alberta are encouraged to show due diligence by following the more stringent requirements in Standards for Composting Facilities.
Code of Practice
The Code of Practice for Composting Facilities outlines the minimum requirements for the design, construction, operation, and reclamation of compost facilities that accept up to 20,000 tonnes of feedstock per year.
The Standards for Composting Facilities in Alberta outline the minimum requirements for development, operation, monitoring, closure and reclamation of composting facilities regulated by AEP. The Standards are intended to provide public assurance regarding the protection of groundwater and surface water, and the appropriate management of potential nuisances associated with composting facilities.
Greenhouse gas credits
Composting facilities may qualify for offset credits in Alberta’s carbon offset credit system. Composting facilities that are diverting organic feedstock from landfills can use the "Quantification Protocol for Aerobic Composting" to determine avoided methane emissions from landfills. The opportunity for generating carbon offsets with this protocol arises from aerobically composting organic feedstock that would otherwise anaerobically decompose in landfills and produce methane emissions.
Municipal compost use
While many municipalities are leading the way in diverting organics from landfills for use in composting, some jurisdictions are facing challenges in marketing the resulting compost. As greenspace managers, municipal governments are in a position to address these challenges by applying compost on their own lands.
2012 survey results
More information was needed to better understand current municipal uses of compost in greenspaces and the related barriers and opportunities to use. The department therefore conducted an online municipal survey in the fall of 2012. Thirty-two municipalities responded, representing 70% of Alberta's population.
Key findings include:
- Only about one third of respondents used compost in their greenspaces.
- Over half of respondents planned to construct new greenspaces in the next two years.
- Over one third of municipalities regularly used compost but few had formal municipal council decisions or operational policies supporting these practices.
- 25% of respondents reported encountering problems or barriers regarding the use of compost in their operations.
For more information, see the report on survey results Municipal Compost Use in Alberta: A Report on Survey Results.