Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees

Just the other day a friend commented on whatever happened to the environment. You know… back in the 80’s it was top of mind stuff for everyone. People were installing black plastic composting units in their backyards and starting to separate newspapers and tins and glass and plastic. Environmental concerns were the topic of conversation. Politicians were focussing on diversion, and reduction and recycling of product.

And somehow, as the 90’s turned into a decade of economic activity, the environment has taken a bit of a back seat.

I mean, how many of you have a square or round plastic food composter that’s currently holding about four feet of snow on its lid because nobody’s put anything into it for the past three years?
We have an interesting composting situation at our own home. A composting family since 1970, we have an enormous composter, divided in two for year-about usage, built of cinder block with a wooden grate hinged lid. This was built by my father-in-law who, as a farmer, is the original reduce-reuse-recycle king.

Anyway, taking out the compost bucket became the job of the two-year-old son back in 1980; and then the two-year-old daughter got the job. And now that the family’s grown and we’ve failed in training the dog to do this (if the dog was really smart, she’d feign compost duty and enjoy an extra meal!), taking out the compost bucket falls to mom or dad or occasionally teenager. It means wading through waist high snow down an embankment, behind a playhouse. And the miracle is that despite our locked, hinged lid, it’s always empty! So we’re feeding the area raccoons, we figure!

I digress.

John Wilson has watched the attitudinal shift from environmental zeal to environmental lax and developed a solution to complacency.

He’s started Composter.

It’s simple, really. John will deliver to your household a 10 litre lidded pail (or a 15 litre pail if your family is large). Throughout the week you throw your kitchen waste into the pail. And, unlike the backyard composter, you can put meat, bones, egg cartons–anything that you’d use to prepare food in a kitchen–into the pail.

On pickup day you put your pail outside your front door and John picks it up. He leaves a clean pail in its place. No more cleaning out the compost bucket! And once a month you leave a cheque for $2.60 for John (that’s 65 cents a week) and he does the rest.

What’s John do with all the kitchen waste? He delivers it to Canada Composting in Newmarket, and pays them $40 a ton to take the waste. They in turn convert it into energy and topsoil and they accept foodwaste from many communities.

For John and Composter, the economic viability lies in numbers. He’s hopeful that thousands of people will sign on to his program and it will become economically realistic. “I don’t expect to become rich doing this, but I believe our children shouldn’t have to pay bills to have our landfill sites monitored for dangerous gases. I believe that if we make it easy enough, people are willing to divert their waste from dumps into positive things like energy and topsoil.”

Right now, John’s doing the pickups and deliveries in his own Jeep; he’s cleaning the buckets in his basement, and he’s running it from his home in Central Barrie. One day he hopes to open his own small shop, and buy a truck, and grow the business.

Right now, 60 Barrie residents have signed on and four apartment buildings are looking at his service. Several factories have called to look at diverting their cafeteria waste and also to access his cloth towel program. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but it’s a healthy beginning. Seeds. They grow into trees. And then into forests.

“This is my own personal commitment to the earth,” says John Wilson. And, he’s using his background in cleaning and waste management to develop a future for himself and his family while benefitting the environment and tomorrow’s citizens. You can reach John Wilson and Composer at 705 739-5036 or check out his website at

A win-win-win if ever there was one.

Thanks, John.