In Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), organic waste accounts for approximately 30% of disposed waste – or 155,000MT annually (Government of NL, 2019, p. 79). As NL’s government and industries reflect on waste management and plan for the future, organics management has emerged as an area of significant interest. As with other types of waste, emerging markets and innovative uses for different types of organic waste have prompted stakeholders to reevaluate how to exchange and utilize it.
Given the significant volume of organic waste being disposed of, paired with strong interest from stakeholders across the governmental, industry, academic and non-governmental organization (NGO) sectors, investigating organic waste management practices appeared a timely and relevant topic for the Waste Management Applied Research Program. When discussing potential waste streams to explore further, stakeholders noted existing knowledge gaps many wanted to address through this research. In early conversations about pursuing organic waste management research, project partners
and stakeholders noted previous and ongoing work commissioned by government agencies over the past decade and the desire to see that work continued and mobilized.
Stakeholders noted many reasons to pursue this topic, including: the need for widespread organics management to meet diversion targets, environmental concerns over greenhouse gas emissions and shortening of landfill lifespan because of organics entering the landfill, and the potential environmental, economic, and social benefits of utilizing organic waste instead of landfilling it. As the world adjusts to the impacts of climate change, stakeholders acknowledge that NL is no exception and that utilizing organic waste can benefit the environment and the people of NL. Representatives from all sectors noted the benefits of composting not only to small-scale gardening, but the potential for it to contribute to the agricultural sector in NL, and by extension, its ability to contribute to better food security in the province. Representatives from industry also noted the opportunity to process different types of organic waste into high-value products such as soil amendments created from forestry residues and pharmaceutical products from organic fish waste.
Further, through research and as identified by stakeholders, organic waste is being managed in various innovative ways across Canada and the world. They noted the opportunity for this work to explore best practices in both NL and other jurisdictions to help fill existing knowledge gaps and uncover potential strategies to help advance organic waste management and utilization in the province. There was a clear desire to explore more environmentally, economically, and socially beneficial ways to manage organic waste without having to “reinvent the wheel” and learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions.
In April 2022, the Harris Centre hosted the Organics Waste-to-Value Forum. Over 50 participants from forestry, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, waste management, local and provincial government, academia, research institutions and others came together to identify and explore potential organic “waste-to-value” opportunities (i.e., using these materials as feedstocks for creating new products, enterprises and other social and economic benefits) in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Through a mix of presentations, information sharing and group discussions, forum participants were invited to identify the next steps towards realizing what they saw as
-The most promising of these waste-to-value opportunities;
-Significant challenges or barriers that would need to be addressed; and
-Potential next steps to advance the discussion and work
Stakeholders agreed that:
-There is incomplete regarding organics waste in NL and this insufficient data needs to be addressed;
-There is a need to create better opportunities and support for innovation and entrepreneurs;
-Opportunities and interest in collaboration exists – we must create mechanisms for further developing the discussion and potential collaboration needed in this area;
-The agriculture sector is diverse – meaning it provides big opportunities but also complexities to worth through; and
-Scale will be critical for maximizing capturing the economic value and community benefits from organic waste.