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Posterity Group is Composting!

Last winter, Posterity Group decided to lower the waste produced at our office, with a long-term goal of producing zero waste. We were already doing a pretty good job since our office is paperless when possible and we recycle all other paper and plastic, but we wanted to go beyond the status quo and divert our organic waste from the landfill.

Composting reduces methane production (a greenhouse gas that has 25 times the global warming potential as CO2) and comes with several other economic and environmental benefits. In an office filled with environmental professionals, it was not hard to gain everyone’s buy-in. All we needed to get started was a composting bin and the removal service.

We were excited to see that the City of Ottawa offered a free commercial building waste pick-up program intended to encourage commercial tenants to reduce their waste. This seemed like a great opportunity to connect with the other small businesses in our building and show leadership in responsible waste generation.

It seemed straightforward at first, but throughout the process there were several barriers we had to overcome before we were successful:

Barrier 1 - Administrative Barriers

We were surprised to learn that the application needed to be faxed or delivered in person rather than online. Both of these options require a printed version, creating unnecessary waste. Many modern offices no longer are equipped with fax machines, and both staff members working on this initiative were born in the early 90s and neither had ever been required to fax anything before.

After submitting our application in person, we eagerly awaited a response. After four weeks with no response, we called the City to inquire on the status of our application. It turns out that our application was lost and so a new form was delivered.

Barrier 2 - Eligibility

The City program is a wholistic waste removal program which includes pick-up of composting, recycling and regular waste. After being accepted into the free waste removal program, we discovered that our building’s existing waste removal contract couldn’t be cancelled as the contract covered services for all the landlord’s properties in the area.

We then asked the City if we could participate exclusively in the composting portion of the program. This was not possible, as it had to be all or nothing.

Barrier 3 - Principle Agent Problem

The principle-agent problem is a common issue in situations where a tenant is renting space. Landlords often have the mentality that “You don’t fix what’s not broken” leaving tenants with a limited ability to improve the operations of their building.

Final Outcome

We were pleased to ultimately reach an agreement with our landlord and waste collection contractor to add one composting bin to the operation. We are now composting all our organic waste which turns out to be most of the what we generate (consultants tend to be heavy consumers of coffee and tea)!

Conclusion

We need to make it easier for commercial buildings to reduce their waste and participate in composting programs.

The city has made significant investments into their composting facility, yet the facility remains under-utilized. This is in part due to poor participation in composting programs and lackluster regulations mandating the collection of organics.

We hope that other businesses will follow our lead, but even more importantly we hope that cities and municipalities will recognize the importance of getting commercial buildings on board with composting and work to remove existing barriers.

Sonja Dods