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2013 Waste Category ― Co-winner 2

City of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and Ecology North

Centralized Composting Pilot Project

Population: 19,888
Project duration: 2009-2012
Total project value: $358,200

Following a 2008 compost study, the City of Yellowknife partnered with the non-profit organization Ecology North to conduct a centralized composting pilot project (CCPP). The three-year project looked at composting in cold climates and whether the city could do more in this area.

Most municipal composting pilot programs start with collecting organics from single-family dwellings. Instead, the City of Yellowknife collected food scraps and yard waste from the commercial, institutional and multi-family sectors. Twenty businesses and institutions participated in the pilot project, as well as residents in two multi-family buildings.

The city processed 765 tonnes of organics (about nine per cent of Yellowknife's organic waste stream) at the compost facility. The first sale of high-quality compost - in a region where fertile soil is rare - was held in September 2012. The city plans to start building a larger composting facility in 2013, increase the current organics collection program and start residential curbside organics collection.





  • Organics diversion saved 960 cubic metres of landfill space
  • Estimated 870 metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent GHG emissions avoided
  • $144,000 saved in landfill space
  • Sale of finished compost generated $7,000 in revenue for the city
  • Valuable soil amendment for five community gardens, where  more than 200 people grow food
  • 30 public workshops have taught over 600 people about composting


  • The capital and operational costs of this short-term pilot project outweighed the landfill costs saved. However, economies of scale are expected once the operation is expanded.
  • Some citizens and municipal decision-makers questioned whether composting was possible in Yellowknife's cold, continental climate.
  • 44 per cent of Yellowknife's citizens live in apartments or condos. This significant group would have been missed by the more common municipal composting approach of beginning with curbside organics collection.

Lessons learned

  • Provide compostable bags to participating businesses and institutions at the start of the program to encourage participation, demonstrate the ease of separating waste, and reduce potential contamination from non-compostable bags.
  • Evaluate how privatization may affect implementation of recycling and composting programs in light of comparative costs for citizens, businesses and institutions. In Yellowknife, garbage collection for businesses and institutions is privatized, so the city does not have a direct financial relationship with participants for waste management. And with only one contractor operating in Yellowknife, the city could not solicit competitive bids.
  • With so many competing demands for resources, municipalities should draw on the experience of other communities to articulate the business case for composting.
  • There is a growing market for finished compost. The city sold out in its first two-day sale and demand remains high.

Partners and collaboration


Page Updated: 27/04/2018