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Composting for cash

“We’re diverting that from the landfill in Hinton and because of that, it’s considered an offset program,” explained the environmental stewardship coordinator Lori Rissling-Wynn.

The legislation identifies ‘larger emitters’ who emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, who then have to achieve a certain reduction target.

“One of the options for them is carbon offsets,” she added.

If all goes to plan, the town will put their offsets into a larger pool which is managed by a third party. A marketing corporation is then enlisted to assist with selling the offsets to larger organizations.

Although it would generate revenue, Rissling-Wynn said she’s still unsure what that number would look like, but doesn’t expect it to be a large amount.

“I don’t see it as being a huge source of revenue,” she said, noting that selling the offsets will not cost the town a thing, as their fees come straight from the profits.

“The company that’s marketing the offsets will take their fee out of the sale. We’re not paying, we just won’t realize as much revenue,” she explained. “It doesn’t cost us anything.”

After her report to council on Tues, July 21, mayor Richard Ireland said he was concerned ethically about selling carbon offsets to another organization who would just continue to produce greenhouse gases.

He is concerned that by producing offset credits, Jasper is simply allowing other companies to continue polluting.

The mayor said the issue should be debated by council.

Consequently, Rissling-Wynn is investigating the exact protocol an organization must meet prior to being able to buy the offsets. “We need to find out what the legislation says and what the hierarchy of options are,” she said.

Her understanding, which comes mostly from the United States formula, is that organizations must reduce their output, choose environmentally-conscious approaches and then, as a last resort and only for a small percentage of their reduction, purchase offsets.

“If it’s a hierarchy then it’s a more palatable program for people who have concerns that way,” she said, “they have to do other things in addition to being able to purchase offsets.”

However, if mayor Ireland is correct in his thinking, Rissling-Wynn said it may not be the right approach.

“If it was laid out and they were compelled to do other things before they considered offsets, and we didn’t proceed then I think it would be a lost opportunity,” she said. “But if it does just permit large emitters to continue to emit then I think there is a flaw in the entire legislation.”

According to Rissling-Wynn the possibility is just another value-added benefit to the already successful program.

“This is a great program, and here is another reason why it’s a great program,” she said adding that composting is more of a “sure thing” than recycling because it’s kept local and doesn’t rely on volatile markets to be profitable.

She hopes that by making a direct profit from the composting program more Jasper residents will start separating their organic waste.

“I think this would be a really positive message to communicate to the residents… ‘hey, now we’re making some money with this. So, it’s a no-brainer really.’”

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