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R.F. Staples to participate in new food waste composting program

Circular Innovation Council heading up new program in Westlock area, Strathcona County
rf staples school
Food waste generated in the cafeteria at R.F. Staples School in Westlock may soon be collected for compost as part of a new program headed up by the Circular Innovation Council.

WESTLOCK — R.F. Staples School in Westlock may soon be participating in a food waste pilot program where organic waste material generated in the cafeteria will instead be collected and composted, with the eventual goal of being used in place of fertilizers in agriculture. 

During the Pembina Hills board meeting on March 21, superintendent Brett Cooper reported on some discussions he had recently had with representatives of an organization called the Circular Innovation Council. 

According to the organization’s website, the Circular Innovation Council is launching a new institutional, commercial and industrial (IC&I) organic waste diversion pilot in the Westlock area and Strathcona County. 

This pilot, which was announced last September, will be based on a similar initiative headed up by the Circular Innovation Council in Ontario’s Guelph-Wellington County. It essentially mimics the residential food waste collection model, consolidating collections among neighbouring businesses and institutions so they are able to work together to reduce costs. 

As part of this pilot, organic waste from businesses and institutions in Westlock will be picked up by Green For Life (GFL) Environmental— the waste collector for the town — and then delivered to AltRoot Composting for processing, with the resulting compost being provided to local farms to support regenerative agriculture practices. 

The reason they had reached out to Cooper, he said, is because they want to incorporate food waste generated from R.F. Staples’ cafeteria into the program. 

While the pilot is not up and running yet, Cooper said he had put the council representatives in touch with the principal at R.F. Staples to make the necessary arrangements. 

“I see this as being a huge benefit,” he said. “If this works well, I would like to potentially expand it to Westlock Elementary School and have students participate in it.” 

Cooper noted that any costs associated with participating in this program will not be put on the contractor who runs the cafeteria, but rather on Pembina Hills itself. 

However, those costs would be minimal. Cooper said picking up the food waste would only cost about $10 per week. He also suggested that compostable bags may be expensive, but they can be purchased in bulk fairly cheaply.

Cooper said to trustees that he was surprised by the variety of materials that can be composted, using pizza boxes stained with food waste as an example. 

“It’s an excellent initiative. It’s supporting local farmers, it’s doing a great recycling program ... and I know it’s part of the elementary curriculum and will fit in nicely there.” 

Trustee David Truckey noted that AltRoot regularly gives presentations on its composting program in the Westlock area — in fact, they appeared last week at a Westlock Chamber of Commerce luncheon — and if trustees so desired, AltRoot would probably appear at a future board meeting as a delegation or give a presentation at a parent council meeting. 

For more information on the Westlock-Strathcona pilot, residents can visit 

[email protected] 

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