Composting in London: A Pathway to Sustainable Waste Management for a Resource Efficient City

1. Introduction  

1.1 Absence of Composting in London  

The city of London is the largest Ontario city that has yet to implement a municipal green bin collection program to divert organic waste from its landfills. However, the city has been anticipating the introduction of a green bin program for the past 3 years, yet the estimated timeline has once again been postponed by the city. The leading cause for London’s inaction is the estimated to cost 5 million dollar per year price tag associated with the program. Despite running a successful test project 10 years ago, the city has yet to offer the service for their residence. A successful green bin program would significantly contribute to London’s goal to divert 60% of waste from landfills stated by the London Resource Recovery Strategy informed by the Waste Free Ontario Act.  

1.2 London’s landfill capacity  

The urgency to implement a green bin program has been heightened by the projection that the cities landfill will reach capacity by 2024. The cities procrastination in implementing a green bin due to the cost, has now left the city urgently awaiting provincial approval for a $80 million landfill expansion plan. The plan proposes to expand the landfill height by 25 meters, prolonging its life to 2049. However, approval of this expansion relies on London’s ability to move towards its 60% waste diversion target – virtually impossible without composting. Ward 12 councillor Elizabeth Peloza stated, “I’m glad the (province) has that criteria. It holds us accountable and Londoners accountable to strive for that,” Removal of organic waste from landfills extends the lifespan of the landfill mitigates the long-term need for another expensive landfill expansion.  

2. Benefits of Composting  

Composting is a natural process of recycling organic waste (food scraps, yard waste, animal feces) into nutrient rich fertilizers. Organic waste is typically decomposed through aerobic decomposition However, landfills create oxygen-deprived anaerobic environments for organic decomposition. Thus, this produces biogas composed of carbon dioxide and methane. This process accounts for 24% of Canadian methane emissions. Furthermore, compost significantly improves soil health for large agriculture facilities thus reducing the need for harmful chemical fertilizers.​ (O’Connor 2014)​ Research shows compost increases soil productivity, water retention, and resilience.  

Anaerobic digestion facilities for organic waste not only eliminate landfill methane production but provide an opportunity for controlled capture of biogas which can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels.  

3. Social, Economic, and Environmental benefits in connection to SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities 

The UN identified a significant pillar to achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities includes municipal solid waste management and improved air quality. The natural, social, and economic benefits of municipal composting programs prove to be an essential investment to building resource efficient cities. Composting has proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support agriculture productivity, and produce renewable fuels. Furthermore, the city of London estimates their new management system will create 125-170 new jobs, and promote local pride and satisfaction for their progressive community. Evidently, Composting is a highly efficient and natural system that will boost the health of the environment while providing jobs, promoting better resource management, and citizen health and well-being.  It is essential the city of London implements an inclusive, barrier free municipal compost system as the Federal Government of Canada identified a greater likelihood that households with higher income composting were more likely to compost as seen in the figure below. 

4. London’s Pathway Forward  

London is already well on its way to establishing the much-needed green bin program. Anticipation for the program has been looming for over ten years and will hopefully be introduced by the end of 2023. The only benefit to the cities prolonged implementation, is the ability to learn from other Ontario municipal waste systems to implement a well-designed program that will garner lasting community participation in composting.  

4.1 Policy  

In 1998 Nova Scotia introduced policy that banned disposal of organic wastes in landfill aimed to increase participation in composting programs. The province of PEI and city of Vancouver have also implemented this policy, while Ontario is still considering the regulation. Toronto produce’s high participation in municipal composting among its residents. The city requires residents to buy garbage tags while composting remains free. Additionally, Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa have all made a scheduling shift to biweekly garbage pick-up and weekly compost and recycling pick up. This has proven to successfully motivate residents to minimize their garbage and reduce the smell, by putting it into a compost bin. The city of London has taken after other cities success and has plans to implement biweekly garbage and weekly compost pickup. 

4.2 Reducing Barriers / Education  

Waste management directors in Toronto and Vancouver have identified the importance of barrier free and inclusive composting programs coupled with comprehensive public education assist the change in resident habits. For example, Toronto allows their residents to use plastic bags, compost diapers and pet waste. This removes the financial barriers associated with a need to purchase certain compostable bags. Furthermore, similar to London, Vancouver ran a pilot project which identified 78,000 participant questions about the program. This step allowed them to compile a comprehensive community education program on how to compost. This planning resulted in high resident participation and satisfaction with the program.  

Conclusion and Long-Term Possibilities   

In Conclusion, this report summarized the urgency for London to finally implement a green bin program. Despite the significant investment required to introduce a green bin program, the environmental, economic, and long-term possibilities far out-weigh the financial cost. London’s green bin program will successfully slow the growth of its landfill, which requires substantial expansion investments. Additionally, local London farms will greatly benefit from nutrient rich compost. Lastly, the possibilities of biofuel provide the city an opportunity to increase its reliance on renewable fuels. Composting in London is an essential step to developing a resource efficient and sustainable city.  

Works Cited 

​Beuteax, Danielle. 2021. Canadian organics programs share lessons learned on policy, plastics and public engagement. October 18. Accessed February 13, 2023. 

​City of London . 2020. Environmental, Social and Financial Benefits of 60% Waste Diversion Action Plan. March 4. Accessed February 13, 2023.,current%20rate%20of%2045%25%3B. 

​City of London. 2020 . Resource Recovery Strategy | What is proposed . March 4th . Accessed February 13, 2023.,current%20rate%20of%2045%25%3B. 

​Daskal , Shira , Omar Asi , Isam Sabbah, Ofira Ayalon , and Katie Baransi-Karakaby . 2022. “Decentralized Composting Analysis Model—Benefit/Cost Decision-Making Methodology.” Sustainability 2-24. 

​Government of Canada. 2022. Waste and greenhouse gases: Canada’s actions. 09 01. Accessed February 13, 2023. 

​Graham, Andrew. 2023. Curbside collection changes coming to London, Ont. this year. January 9. Accessed February 2023, 2023. 

​Hu, Shelia. 2020. Composting 101 | NRDC. July 20. Accessed February 13th, 2023. 

​O’Connor, Claire. 2014. Using compost to improve soil health and crop productivity . August 11. Accessed February 13, 2023. 

​Stacey, Megan. 2020. Everything you need to know about London’s looming green-bin program. February 14. Accessed February 12, 2023. 

​—. 2022. London in shortened time crunch to expand rapidly filling landfill. Janurary 9. Accessed February 2023, 2023. 

​United Nations . 2022. SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Accessed February 15 , 2023. 


This blog post series is an ongoing partnership between the SDG Cities program at Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Environmental Stewardship course in the Governance, Leadership, and Ethics program at Huron University. As part of their assignments, students are required to write about real-world challenges using the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) as a holistic framework to analyse the problem and propose solutions that could lead to systemic change and a better future for all. The series presents an opportunity for students to address practical and meaningful challenges that their communities are facing currently,  and an opportunity for SDG Cities to enrich their program by including youth perspectives.

All opinions expressed by the guest authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SDG Cities program or Pillar Nonprofit Network.