Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why are there smells from the Cleanit Greenit Composting site in areas three or four kilometres away?

A: Sometimes our neighbours three kilometres away sense a mix of smells that combine from different sources. Over the past few months, our voluntary patrols confirmed smells from our composting site 13 times. (This is from voluntary patrols not complaint responses.)

Other confirmed sources are area sewers, gas wells, a recycling plant next to Cleanit Greenit, Big Lake, west-end dry landfills, pet food manufacturing and road construction.

In a few cases, the smells are suspected to be from within a residential home. This is common in Alberta and is solved by pouring water into your sump. Many common causes may trigger a sewer gas smell in a house. They include biofilm accumulation, a dry P-trap, buildup in the overflow, or an improperly installed or cut vent pipe. The solution could be as simple as pouring water into your drain, running the sewer or cleaning the buildup in your drain, depending on the cause.

The new neighbourhoods of Trumpeter, Sterling, and Hawks Ridge may be at a lower elevation than our composting site and receive a mix of all the above-mentioned odours when conditions are right. We are further investigating and will update the community when we have more information.

We hear the concerns of the community and are doing everything we can to prevent and reduce odours from our facility.

Q: What is CG doing to reduce smells from its facility?

A: We are improving our ability to control smells. Key actions include:

  • Doubling the number aeration pipes, as recommended by experts.

  • Reducing the total tonnage of compostable material accepted and stopped accepting several types of potentially smelly material.

  • Bringing in a composting specialist to review our procedures and provide further training in best practices for our industry.

  • Increasing the use of biofiltration. Biofilters use moist organic materials as a cover to adsorb and then biologically degrade odorous compounds.

  • Hiring more third-party patrollers over the past year to increase coverage and response time.

Q: What materials does CG accept for composting?

A: We only accept organic materials for composting – in other words, material that was once living. Examples include:

  • Yard waste – such as leaves, prunings, wood chips, grass clippings, sod/soil

  • Food waste – such as vegetables, fruit, egg waste, grains, nuts

  • Kitchen waste – such as soup stocks and cooking oil

  • Paper products – such as towels, cardboard (waxed or wet okay), paper towels, shredded paper, waxed paper containers

  • Biosolids from a local town with no industry base (good source of nitrogen)

  • Straw that may have trace manure

 

Q: What kind of testing is done to ensure regulations are followed at the site?

A: We conduct all testing that is required per its composting registration with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP). For example, groundwater monitoring is conducted by independent, third-party engineering consultants. The consultants have never found significant findings. We regularly, voluntarily monitor and sample for hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is a common product of composting processes and is the main indicator of concern on compost sites. There have been no detections of H2S off-site.

Q: Is the product tested to ensure its safe before it’s offered to the public?

A: Cleanit Greenit's NatureMade™ compost has been graded as Category A (for unrestricted use), under the CCME Guidelines for Compost Quality, since 1996. Since 1996 our product has met the Category A criteria. We conduct this rigorous testing before distribution and as per government requirements.  Our compost also contains a healthy microbial culture to fight off negative vectors found in weak soils.

 

Once laboratory results are confirmed to be above the standard, the product is released for sale.

Q: Should neighbours be worried about their health from CG composting odours?

A: Studies have shown the risk to human health from outdoor compost-site odour and particulates is very low to zero, especially if further than one km away. The smell is a nuisance but not a health risk.

Q: How often do CG staff patrol for smells?

A: Cleanit Greenit staff patrol the surrounding area a minimum of three times per week. This is adjusted seasonally.

Q: What do “odour patrollers” actually do?

A: Patrollers drive to seven regular locations in our greater west-end area where odour has been detected, each time they go out. Patrollers get out of the car at each location and sniff the air. They record data such as wind direction and any smells and their intensity at each location, and whenever possible they interview people living or working there.

We use human patrollers rather than depending on machines because the human nose can detect about 2,000 different smells, and the best machines can only detect about 20!

Q: Can your patrollers really pinpoint the source of odours?

A: Compost sites degrade organic waste. We try to do this aerobically with air, as this reduces odour to a huge extent. In composting, zero odour is not possible. When we moved to our site in 1999, we had few neighbours. Today, we have many neighbourhoods moving in around us. The patrollers do their best to get data on sources and wind direction to help put tools in place to reduce our odour.  We cannot stop other sources.

Q: Why can’t CG eliminate odours?

A: By its nature, the composting process produces smells. We can never get to zero odour, but we can reduce it. 

We are doing everything we can to prevent and reduce odour. We are improving. Key actions taken include:

  • Doubling the number aeration pipes, as recommended by experts.

  • Reducing the total tonnage of compostable material accepted and stopped accepting several types of potentially smelly material.

  • Bringing in a composting specialist to review our procedures and provide further training in best practices for our industry.

  • Increasing the use of biofiltration. Biofilters use moist organic materials as a cover to adsorb and then biologically degrade odorous compounds.

  • Hiring more third-party patrollers over the past year to increase coverage and response time.

Q: Why has CG not complied with the 2011 enforcement order?

A: We have worked diligently to complete the requirements of the order. Now, we are co-ordinating with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) to ensure we have completed everything asked of us.

Q: How does the composting process help kill viruses?

 

A: Composting is a heat-generating and biological process that effectively kills negative microbes and pathogenic viruses, similar to COVID-19, during the process.  Research indicates that the use of composting, as one means of disposal during emergencies, is not only effective in deactivating pathogens, but also limits the risk of air pollution contamination (reference link http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/effectiveness-of-composting-lit-review.pdf). Landfills, where most of our garbage goes, is not a heat-generating or biological process.

Q: What does compost smell like?

 

A: Finished compost smells earthy. However, it is possible for it to have a slight hydrocarbon/charcoal smell. This is normal and is caused by the degradation of wood and bark used to make the compost. The compost is also in a sealed bag which causes the smell to build up. Once the bag is opened, the smell will dissipate.

 

 

Q: Why did I find plastic in my compost?

 

A: Our compost is produced from residential organic recycling programs, and it is therefore possible to have some foreign material in our compost. There is an allowance by regulatory agencies for the occasional piece of glass and plastic (both inert materials and have no effect on plant growth). We screen out these materials but, if you do find the occasional piece of glass or plastic, please pick it out and put it in the garbage.

 

Q: What is Category A compost? 

 

A: Cleanit Greenit's NatureMade™ compost has been graded as Category A since 1996. Our compost has been tested against the CCME Guidelines for Compost Quality. Category A compost can be used in any application, such as agricultural lands, residential gardens, horticultural operations, the nursery industry and other businesses.

 

Why is my compost slightly wet and/or clumpy?

 

The compost was double screened, but because we are an outdoor facility we are exposed to the elements, including precipitation. When wet, the compost may clump together. The clumps are made of 100% compost, not clay. The clumps will not affect plant growth. If you find clumps, water them until they break down.

 

Q: What is compost normally used for in residential gardens and how do I use it?

 

A: Compost, mixed with soil, can be used in your garden beds, potted plants and lawns. It's especially great for growing tomatoes and greener grass. 

 

Apply up to 3.2 cm (1.25 inches) of compost in your garden and work into existing soil. When using compost as part of a soil mix, blend with a minimum of four parts of soil. Blend in one part of compost with a minimum of five parts of potting mix for potted plants and water well.

 

In the spring, top-dress established lawns with a 0.625 - 1.25 cm (¼ - ½ inches) layer, and water well. To prepare for a new lawn, till up to 3.2 cm (1.25 inch) of compost into the topsoil.

Q: What is Boron and why can it be found in compost?

A: Boron is a compound that can naturally be found through the weathering process of parent rock/minerals as well as decay of plant material, fruits and vegetables. Boron can generally be found in higher concentration in clays (common in Edmonton soils) as it adsorbs to clays more easily.

In moderation, boron is an essential micro-nutrient for plants and is essential for healthy plant growth.

This website provides some interesting further reading on boron’ role in healthy crop growth: https://www.cropnutrition.com/resource-library/importance-of-boron-in-plant-growth

 

Q: Is it possible to find petroleum hydrocarbons (incl. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in compost?

Generally, no and it is not a requirement for routine analysis under the CCME Guidelines. The CCME has Canada-wide standards for petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC) analytical methods for F2 – F4 (products such as diesel, crude oil, bitumen, asphalt etc.). However, biogenic organic compounds (BOC) can be falsely detected as PHCs (specifically F3) in compost materials and therefore, PHC analysis for F3 can’t always be taken at face value. In these instances, a Biogenic Interference Calculation Scale should be used to determine if exceedances are false.

 

Q: Are there metals in our compost?

A: Metals are naturally present in soil and some are essential micronutrients and macronutrients for plants. We have metals in our compost, in lower concentrations, which are of no health concern. Our compost is tested for metals (those specified by the CCME guidelines) and is within limits for Category A compost. 

 

Q: Can furans, dioxins and other organic contaminants be present in compost?

A: Dioxins and furans are common in small amounts in the environment, including air, water and soil. As a result of their presence in the environment and their persistent nature (don’t chemically break down), they are also present in some foods, especially meat, milk and related products. Many of these items are found in approved feedstock received by composting sites across North America. For this reason, it is possible for dioxins and furans to end up in our compost as we take residential organics as well as landscape material. For more information on furans and dioxins and the government’s efforts in reducing sources of these chemicals, refer to the following link:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/environment/dioxins-furans.html

Q: What height should the piles be at the Cleanit Greenit site?

 

A: For active piles, where we pump air into them and microbes are breaking down organic matter, the height is 4.3 meters. Piles that are curing or finished can be any height. A pile is in curing stage when the break-down of organic matter has slowed down. The higher piles you see at the site are the finished or curing piles.

 

Happy gardening!

© 2020 Cleanit Greenit Composting System Inc.

20450 - 113 Avenue NW Edmonton, AB

 

 

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