How you can take action on climate change

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Home energy efficiency

The largest share of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions (45 per cent) come from homes and other buildings. These emissions are mostly from burning natural gas for heat and hot water. Making energy efficiency improvements to your home is one of the most important actions required to meet Ottawa’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. To meet this target, all homes in Ottawa need to reduce the amount of energy used to heat their homes by 70 percent by 2040.

Improving your homes energy efficiency will make your home more comfortable, healthier and reduce your energy usage.

Through the Better Homes Ottawa - Loan Program homeowners can get a low-interest loan from the City to cover the cost of home energy efficiency improvements.

Steps to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in your home

Step 1: Assess your home’s energy efficiency

An EnerGuide home evaluation is a great way to learn more about your home’s current energy efficiency and make informed decisions on how best to improve it. A registered energy advisor will conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of your home, inspecting your home’s insulation, heating and cooling systems and overall home energy use to detect sources of energy loss. When the assessment is complete you will receive a customized action plan to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

An EnerGuide home evaluation is a requirement to receive financing through the City’s Better Homes Ottawa - Loan Program and for other rebate and incentive programs.

Step 2: Improve your insulation, windows and doors

Insulation, windows and doors make up part of your homes building envelope. The building envelope is the physical separator between the indoor environment and the weather outside. It controls the flow of heat, air, moisture, light, and noise from the inside of your home to the outdoors. Improving your home’s building envelope is a cost-effective way to significantly reduce your energy use. Start by:

Step 3: Replace appliances with ENERGY STAR models

Switch gas and older electric appliances to more energy efficient ones. For example, replace your gas stove with an induction stove which provides a similar cooking experience to gas but is much more energy efficient.

Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol to know you are getting the most energy efficient option. Find certified products using the ENERGY STAR Product Finder and the annual ENERGY STAR Most Efficient list. (Note you will be redirected to the US ENERGY STAR website. Be sure to select Canada as your market to see products available here.)

Water heaters account for almost 20 per cent of the energy used in an average Canadian home. ENERGY STAR certified water heaters use less energy than standard models and can help save money on your utility bills as well as reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.

Replacing your light bulbs with LED light bulbs will also help to reduce your energy use.

Step 4: Replace your furnace and air conditioner with a heat pump

A heat pump is an electrical appliance that takes heat energy from one place and moves it to another – just like a refrigerator. In summer, it moves heat out of the building, and in winter it moves heat into the building, even if it’s cold outside. A ‘cold-climate’ heat pump is designed to work in Ottawa winters.

Switching to a heat pump for heating and cooling will significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

Another option is to get a dual fuel heat pump with gas back up. The heat pump works until it’s below -12 degrees Celsius outside. When it gets colder it switches over to a gas furnace to make sure your home still stays warm. This lower cost option helps significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and is a good option for homes that haven’t undertaken insulation and window upgrades yet.

Learn more about heat pumps:

Step 5: Generate your own renewable energy

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert energy from the sun into electricity. Solar photovoltaic panels have few operating costs and can be installed on any kind of home or building, providing a safe and reliable source of electricity that produces no on-site pollution and is emission free.

Resources to help you plan your energy efficiency renovation

The Better Homes Ottawa website has everything you need to know to make your home more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It includes information on:

  • Renovations and upgrades
  • Rebates, incentives and financing
  • Energy audits
  • Net zero homes
  • Resources for apartment and condo owners and tenants

Borrow a thermal imaging camera from Ottawa Public Library

Thermal cameras measure surface temperature using infrared imaging. They allow you to identify hot and cold spots in your home where insulation is missing and where air is getting in or out.

Borrowing a thermal camera can help you learn about the opportunities to improve the comfort and energy performance of your home.

Some issues such as leaks around windows, doors and outlets are easy to fix yourself with caulking, weather stripping and foam gaskets. For other things such as insulation you may want to contact a local contractor for help. The Keeping the Heat In Guide from Natural Resources Canada and the Better Homes Ottawa website offer guidance on how to complete these projects.

More information about how to reduce your energy use

Resources for tenants, condos and apartments

If you rent your home talk to your landlord about making some energy efficiency upgrades. They will save you money and increase the value of the property. Landlords are eligible for financing through the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program.

If you own a condo get involved in your Condo board so you can influence the buildings energy efficiency decisions.

There are many small changes you can make around your home to use less energy such as lowering your thermostat, replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and replacing your air filter every three months. Find out more in the links below:

Choose an energy efficient home

Consider energy efficiency when looking for your next home to rent or buy. An energy-efficient home has many benefits. It is cheaper to heat and cool, more comfortable to live in, has improved indoor air quality and is better for the environment.

Questions to ask when buying or renting a new home:

  • Is the home certified or rated? Look for energy efficiency labels such as EnerGuide, ENERGY STAR or R-2000. These labels will help you better understand the energy efficiency of the home. If the home has an EnerGuide label, it means a EnerGuide home evaluation was completed. Ask to see a copy of the report and if any upgrades were completed.
  • How efficient is the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC)? What is the fuel source? Look for an ENERGY STAR rated heat pump or furnace. Space heating represents 61 per cent of the average home’s energy uses and offers the most potential for cutting your energy bill.
  • Have you completed any energy efficiency upgrades? Look for improvements such as insulation, energy efficient doors and windows, and air sealing.
  • Are the appliances ENERGY STAR rated?If the home comes with the appliances, check their age and energy efficiency ratings. Newer ENERGY STAR rated appliances will typically use less energy and save you money on your utility bills.

Find out more about buying or constructing an energy efficient home:


Almost half (44 per cent) of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Making changes to how you get around can improve your health, improve air quality and save you money.

Here’s what you can do to reduce those emissions:

Other resources

Waste and recycling

Diverting your waste from landfill reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves the City millions of dollars and reduces the need for additional landfill sites.

Find out more about:

Now afterwards in case you want to go back to it or share it with others next slide please

The purpose of tonight's event is to talk about how using your green bin helps fight climate change. Tonight we'll be hearing from Nichole Hoover-Bienasz from the City's solid waste team who will be walking us through an overview of Ottawa's organic waste collection program and processing. Then we'll have a guest our first guest speaker Maria Kelleher from Kelleher Environmental Consulting who will talk to us about greenhouse gas emissions and waste and last but not least we have Susan Antler from Compost Council of Canada to talk about the soil health and other benefits of your green bin. After the presentation we've left about an hour for questions. Next slide please.

Of course we're using Zoom and because of the number of folks that have registered we have automatically muted everybody. Rather than asking questions verbally we ask you to enter your question in the zoom chat you're welcome to ask questions either in English or in French and to open the chat you can click on the chat icon in the picture shown on the screen. We'll have answers at the end of all of the presentations and we'll make it through as many questions as possible in the time allocated. Next slide please

So April 22nd 2021 Earth Day and it marks two years since the City of Ottawa Council declared a climate emergency for the purposes of naming framing and deepening Ottawa’s commitment to protecting our economy our ecosystems and our community from climate change. It's been a busy two years. In less than a year council approved a new Climate Change Master Plan including new ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100 by 2050 and of course hot in the news today is Prime Minister Trudeau's recent announcements that Canada is increasing their ambition related to greenhouse targets and accelerating those so we're delighted by that news today. In the last year and throughout 2020 we also brought forward a report on the climate projections for the national capital region. This report described how Ottawa's climate is expected to change over the next 80 years and it's being used to inform the Official Plan which we are currently developing as well as supporting master plans and a vulnerability risk assessment that will support adaptation planning. Finally last October Council unanimously approved Energy Evolution Ottawa's community energy transition strategy. Energy Evolution includes 20 projects to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and embed climate change consideration across all operations. Diverting organic waste from landfill and exploring the creation of renewable natural gas are two of the projects in Energy Evolution. Diverting organic waste from landfill and creating renewable natural gas are one of uh sorry I guess two of the top five actions we can take to meet the emission targets we have. So before we go on to our presenters we're going to hear from Councillor Scott Moffatt Chair of the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management. Unfortunately Councilor Moffat couldn't be with us tonight but he has recorded a message for us to listen to.

Welcome to this evening's Earth Day on how using your green bin can help fight climate change. My name is Scott Moffat I am the Chair of the City of Ottawa's Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management. I'm sorry I can't be with you tonight. I'm actually attending a board meeting for the Rider Valley Conservation Authority which happens at the exact same time. Earth Day is an opportunity to celebrate the earth, the environment and the steps that we can take to protect it. Over the last two years City Council has taken significant steps in the fight against climate change. We approved a Climate Change Master Plan which helps us get our reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. As a part of that and the tools to get there we approved Energy Evolution. We're also working on a Solid Waste Master Plan of which the green bin is a component. In the next two months we'll be discussing the Solid Waste Master Plan at our committee and we'll be talking more about the progress we've made in the green bin and some of the steps we've made in order to get more use of the green bin and so far it's looking positive. Using your green bin is a great example of a simple way that you can help protect the environment and today you'll hear from speakers all about the great benefits of using that green bin. So sit back relax and enjoy the presentation and use your green bin.

Thank you I'd now like to introduce Nicole Hoover-Bienasz the program manager of long-term planning and solid waste services at the City of Ottawa. Nicole will provide an overview of Ottawa's organic waste collection program and processing. Fantastic thanks so much Andrea and welcome everyone. Thanks for taking the time to join us today just bear with me for a moment here while I get my presentation up and going.

Alrighty can we see it there Andrea maybe you can give me a nod. Okay fantastic all righty so as Andrea touched on um what I'm hoping to highlight today is just to give everyone a little bit of an overview in terms of the green bin program as it exists today. Just building a little bit as well onto what Chair Moffatt had mentioned and just give some insight as well into the City Solid Waste Master Planning process and not only those opportunities that we're looking at today as part of our existing green bin program but what opportunities we're looking at in the future. So the City of Ottawa first started its green bin program just over a decade ago so a fairly early adopter of a green bin organics diversion program within the industry.

So at the time most household organic waste went to the landfill where it generates methane gas as it decomposes. So I won't go too much detail into that because some of our presenters later today are going to talk a little bit more about this but methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and it does of course contribute to global warming. So on top of reducing methane emissions from landfilling organic waste our green bin program also helps support extending the life of the City's Trail Road landfill which of course is a really important community asset that helps us and enables us to safely manage the waste that Ottawan’s produce. So diverting organics from landfill as it was touched on earlier also reduces odours and impacts our communities near the landfill and helps support some of those circular economy solutions by turning waste into useful products. Since the program's initial introduction it has of course evolved with more households as well as more multi-residential buildings in our City facilities participating in the program. We're also expanding our parks recycling pilot this year and that is also looking at opportunities in the future to expand the use of green bins in our parks. As well the City has also introduced a series of policies aimed at supporting increased participation in the program and helping us work towards achieving not only the City's goals but the provincial organics diversion targets as well as helping us prepare for what we're seeing as a potential impending ban on organics and the allowance of it being landfilled which was originally introduced announced by the province to take place as early as 2022 but they've adjusted that to be in place across the province by 2030 or by as early as 2030.

So the most recent change to the green bin program was in 2019 and that's when our City Council approved the acceptance of plastic and compostable bags as well as dog waste. Allowing dog waste in the program and this was done in an effort to address the top barrier to participating cited by residents and that was confirmed through extensive market research of course as being the yuck factor. So as of today residents can now use almost any kind of bag whether it be paper compostable or plastic bag to bag their organic waste and place that into the green bin. And of course as the chair had hinted at in his opening remarks as a staff we will be bringing forward an update to Committee and Council next month to provide an update on program performance since the program changes were introduced in 2019. So what goes in your green bin. You're likely familiar there are many items here that we have listed on the slide but some of the common items that residents aren't necessarily aware of that we continue to see making its way unnecessarily into the garbage includes meat bones other items such as dryer lint, cold fireplace ashes, vacuum remnants and actually Andrea and I were having a heated discussion earlier about Andrea's son's class earlier today on where the infamous pizza box goes and of course if that pizza box is soiled with any kind of organic matter or oil that should be making its way into the green bin as opposed to the black bin and of course you can check the city's website for a full a list of the acceptable items. So you can visit you can also download the city's recollect app that allows you to search for items that are accepted in the green bin and it's an amazing tool to remind you as well that your you know your garbage day and when the items need to be set out, what should be set out on which day. In terms of if you do not have a green bin and you're looking at getting involved and participating in the program or if your bins are broken, they've gone missing, you've moved houses or your new home doesn't have bins as you're moving into it, it's very simple as simple as filing a service request with the City and in the past couple years we completely changed. You no longer have to wait for a coupon in the mail and take that back to your local hardware store to get yourself a bin. The bins will be delivered directly to your home free of charge so it's very simple. You can choose to fill out an online form by visiting If you're more comfortable doing it over the phone as well too you can call 3-1-1 at any time. If you live in a multi-residential building so we have after a lot of effort over the past number of years we have just about 50 percent of all multi-residential buildings across the city that are now participating or have a green bin program in place we still have a long way to go and of course if your property does not your multi-residential building or apartment building does not have a green bin program feel free to reach out to your property manager or your condo board to discuss the opportunity. You'll also receive some of our contact information at the end of today's session so feel free to follow up with us directly as well. We'd be happy to have one of our staff members follow up directly with property management and look at those opportunities to introduce a program in in your building as well.

So what happens to organic waste after it's you know our collection crews have come by and picked it up? So they take the content of your green bin to a processing plant right here in the City of Ottawa. The City of Ottawa does work with a private sector firm and it's called Convertus. You may have heard of it formerly as Renewi, before that it was Orgaworld. It has changed ownership a few times over the past number of years and it's located in an industrial area in the city right at the end of Hawthorne road and at that plant the organic waste of course gets turned into compost for the agricultural community. So the first step of the process is receiving the material. So the materials hauled to the processing plant from homes, City facilities and also some of our parks are participating in the parks program of course and the organic materials then tipped into the receiving hall as you can see in this picture. Here the second step is kind of going through the shredding and bag ripping process so the plant shredder was actually retrofitted in 2019 and that was after the most recent changes to make sure that it could adequately rip open plastic bags once we introduce them into the program. So it tears apart that bagged organic material. It shreds it and it also chips larger materials such as branches and brush into smaller materials making it easier for the next stage of the process. So step three the material is the mix is put into tunnels for what is called accelerated aerobic tunnel composting. So we have forced air that kick-starts the biological process and the high temperatures kill any harmful bacteria and pathogens. The mix stays in the tunnels for about two weeks which of course is much shorter. For those of you who have backyard composters where you'll notice it takes about a year just around a year to get that good healthy compost. So the next step is screening. So after breaking down for about two weeks the load is fed through a screener where it's sorted into three piles. So here the material that gets sent ultimately to landfill it's considered residual waste so that's what you're going to see here on the right side of the process you'll notice a lot of that tends to be either plastic bags, compostable bags, or any of those larger materials that could have quite frankly were not organic material that kind of made their way into the process. Then you have material that's not quite compost yet but it does have beneficial reuse qualities as processed organic waste so you're going to see that on the left of the screen there. It's also used as an inoculant to kick start the biodegradation process for new waste that's making its way into new facilities so it'll get mixed with fresh organic waste and put into the tunnels and materials smaller than 10 millimeters that's ready to be sold as compost or other materials such as animal bedding. So it comes out the back of the screener so you don't see it in this picture but you're going to see the end product on the next slide here and of course the final compost product. So we have the mature final product is tested to ensure that it meets compost quality standards which are set by the provincial government who is the regulator.

And so the final product itself is being sold to farmers as fertilizer to grow new crops and for other uses such as animal bedding. It's a perfect example for applied circular economy principles by beneficially reusing what was once waste to improve soil health. It's also as we touched on earlier helping extend the life of our landfill and helping reduce methane emissions from landfill which of course we know adversely contributes to climate change and really quickly as well we also have a separate process in place to manage our leave and yard waste composting. So you're actually making your way to the opposite end of the City and what you're seeing here in these photos are windows at the City's outdoor composting facility and this facility in particular helps manage and process leaf and yard waste that we collect during the peak seasons in both the spring and fall and it is also collected separately from what is from the green bin program. The material stays there for about a whole year while being turned regularly and the final product is potting soil and we sell it directly at the Trail Road waste facility to the public while stocks last because it is quite a hot commodity and an important thing to note is as part of that process if you are setting out your leaf and yard waste to use a paper bag as part of that process so we don't allow the use of any sort of plastic bags or compostable bags and that's simply because we do not have the technology in place to be able to properly remove the plastic at this particular facility.

So that kind of takes us to the end of how the program exists today and we'll just quickly touch on the future of green waste management so while I just where as the chair had highlighted earlier in the presentation we are at an exciting juncture as a municipality where we're in the midst of exploring opportunities for the future of how we're going to sustainably manage our waste over the next 30 years. So we're about halfway through developing the City's new Solid Waste Master Plan which will provide that overall framework for how we will sustainably manage our waste over the coming years and while we're considering a whole host of options a strong area of focus of the City Solid Waste Master Plan will be aligning our waste management efforts with the City's Climate Change Master Plan and the City's climate reduction targets that Andrea spoke to earlier. So we're exploring various opportunities of course that will allow us to further reduce our carbon footprint. So while there are a number of different areas within the master plan we are specifically focusing in on organics management. There's of course been a lot of advancement in technology in the sector so we're looking at opportunities to generate biofuel from organics in the future so look at opportunities to convert that biofuel into renewable natural gas as an example. As well we are looking at opportunities to potentially use our waste water treatment plant which has anaerobic digestion process that could also have the potential to co-process our organic waste so we have some of that infrastructure in place today. So we're looking at understanding what the technical feasibility of that option would be and of course as well Andrea touched on organics diversion being an important part of the climate change strategy so we're also exploring various policy options and new programs that will help us further divert organics from landfill. So of course we've come a long way as a community in terms of diverting organics from waste but when you look at our last waste audit that was undertaken a couple of years ago we still have about 45% of what's in the average garbage bag is still organic material that we have an opportunity to divert from landfill. So we still have a lot of way to go a lot of work to do collectively as a community to have all of our residents participating in the program. So um I hope you'll take the time to join the conversation over the couple of next couple months as part of the Solid Waste Master Planning process as we look to seek resident and stakeholder feedback on the various options that we'll be considering as part of this strategy. So thanks so much everyone and enjoy the rest of the presentation.

Thanks Nichole it's always great to see the you know the direction on what goes in and what goes out and it's always fun to see how those things go through. I think that grade one class that was debating the pizza box would have loved to see some of that machinery and how it works and in those tunnels. So many great things for them to talk about. So I see in the chat that there's lots of questions around what goes in what goes out my colleague Meike is doing a good job responding where it's quick and easy. If they're longer questions or more complex we'll hold them all till the end. So Nichole you might want to take a quick look through in case there's anything that you want to respond to directly otherwise we'll direct those questions to you at the end of the next two presentations. So without further ado we will now hear from Maria Kelleher. Maria will talk about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste management and Maria is an environmental engineer who specializes in recycling green energy and climate change projects as a consultant to municipal provincial and the federal government she also works with industry associations and not-for-profit clients. Over to you Maria.

Okay I think that's Susan's presentation there Meike. Mine's a different one. You're right I'm terribly sorry. Okay no problems try that again. Meike is doing this for me because I'm so not able to cope with sharing screen myself so.

It's just a little slow but we're getting there bear with me for a sec.

Okay great so today I’m going to as Nichole said I'm going to talk about how using your green bin helps fight climate change. Next slide please. So what I'll talk about is how waste contributes to Ottawa's corporate and community greenhouse gas inventories. Then the different options we can use for managing organic waste with the greenhouse gas benefits of each of those options and then the greenhouse gases benefits specifically of using your green bin. Next slide please. So to start off the most recent data I have is for Ontario for 2018. So if you look at the province of Ontario on our greenhouse gas emissions this pie chart shows you where all the greenhouse gas emissions come from so you can see those two big chunks which are transportation fuel and building fuel and various other places where the greenhouse gases come from but right down in the left hand corner you've got two slivers one for waste and the other for electricity generation and so waste is a small contributor to the greenhouse gases total that we produce in the province or in the City of Ottawa but they're one source of greenhouse gases over which you have a bit of control and so our electricity generation is very low in greenhouse gases because we banned the use of coal a number of years ago and a lot of our hydro comes from either water power or nuclear power. None of neither of which really produce much carbon. Next slide please. So in the City of Ottawa the City develops two greenhouse gas inventories each year one of them is called the community inventory and the other is called the corporate inventory. So the community inventory includes buildings, transportation, waste and agriculture and the corporate inventory focuses on what the municipality has some control over. So that's facilities, the fleet, solid waste actually just at the landfill and wastewater treatment. Next slide please. So the community greenhouse gas inventory includes buildings, residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, street lights and fugitive emissions. The transportation in the community inventory is all of the on-road, aviation, rail and off-road transportation. The waste part of the community inventory is solid waste and wastewater treatment and then we have agricultural crop production and livestock operations. Next slide please. So this chart shows you how much greenhouse gases comes out of the different parts of the community inventory and you can see at the bottom of that chart you've got a blue part and an orange part and then you've got a little green part and that's the greenhouse gases produced by the waste. The waste activities itself and so they haven't really changed much over the years. Next slide. But they are a big chunk of of greenhouse gases 464,000 tons a year but they haven't changed much and at the right hand of the picture you can see that the city has targets to reduce all these emissions and get to basically zero emissions by the year 2050.

Next slide please. So the corporate emissions are things that the corporation itself manages like facilities, buildings and street lights, traffic lights and light transit, their fleets, police fleets, transit municipal. Solid waste is just the Trail Road facility in the Nepean landfill and then wastewater treatment is the Robert O Pickard Environmental Centre. Next slide please. And so the corporate inventory the corporate greenhouse gases you can see again waste is at the bottom. It's the one in the green color above the yellow but it has gone down quite a bit over the years because of landfill gas collection and basically the green bin program reducing the greenhouse gases from the waste part of the from the waste landfill. Next slide please.

So when we talk about organic waste there's lots of different options to manage organic waste so like Nichole said if you're talking about organics there's food waste, compostable papers like a pizza box with cheese on it and leaf and yard waste and there's lots of different ways you can manage organic waste. You can put in a garburator if you have one. You can put in a backyard composter. You have a leaf and yard waste collection and composting and then your green bin collection and processing and the or it can all go to land or some of it can go to landfill. I'll talk about each of these separately in a minute. Next slide please. So let's talk about what happens in terms of greenhouse gases with each of these options for managing organic waste. So your backyard composter is suitable not for everything. It's suitable for leaf and yard waste and vegetable waste but it's not suitable for cooked waste so you can use it for some of your wastes. The materials break down slowly over about a year and then you can produce compost that you can use in your garden. Now with your garburator you can mince food. So it's not suitable for leaf and yard waste so you can mince some food send it down the sewer it gets treated along with waste water. In this case your organics end up going into the digesters and producing biogas and then the solid part of the organics that's left over ends up in the biosolids that gets spread or whatever happens to the biosolids out of the out of the plant. Next slide please. The big part to remember for today is what happens to organics if they end up in the landfill. So they are covered up so there's no air in the landfill and therefore they break down in what we call an anaerobic environment which means that there's no oxygen and when you've got anaerobic breakdown you produce biogas which is consistent. It consists of methane which is natural gas and that's about sixty percent of biogas and the other forty percent is co2 and moisture and other stuff. So methane is a powerful greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than co2 and what happens is biogas is collected at the Trail Road landfill and it's cleaned up and used for a power source but you can never collect absolutely all the biogas a little bit of it always escapes and that's an issue which needs to be thought about. But the best thing is not to put organics in the in the landfill in the first place. So an anaerobic environment also produces leachate which is acidic and as acidic environments you get metals precipitating in your leachate and at the Trail Road landfill your leachate is collected and tested and then treated if it needs treatment before it's discharged but one big thing is that organics take up a lot of valuable space and capacity in the landfill so that's if nothing else was involved you'd still want to not have organics in the landfill because of the amount of space they take up. Next slide please.

So what happens to organics in the Ottawa green bin program? Nichole went through this. It's sent to Renewi which now has a new name for composting now. So this is in an aerobic environment. It's a different process to the anaerobic breakdown in a landfill so they're broken down aerobically which means in the presence of oxygen they produce a finished compost which you can all use it's used by lots of people and the benefit from a greenhouse gas point of view of the compost is that it brings carbon back to the soil it stores carbon which is a greenhouse gas benefit for the gardeners and on the on the event tonight it provides lovely structure and aeration to the soil which if if you're a gardener you'll know all about and then there's also some nutrients in compost and therefore it reduces the need to make new fertilizers and fertilizers are very greenhouse gas intensive the production of fertilizers. Next slide please.

So if we look at the Ottawa solid waste management system you produce about 338 thousand tons of waste in 2019 61,000 tons roughly went to recycling 89,000 tons went to the green bin and 187,000 tons went to garbage. So of that 187,000 tons an audit a while ago said about 58% of this is not sorted properly it could either be in your blue bin or your green bin and it's a shame that that waste is ending up in the landfill and not in either the blue bin or the green bin because I won't get into it today but blue bin recycling has a huge greenhouse gas benefit. So as Nichole had mentioned that actually 45% of that waste so at least 45,000 tons could be going into the green bin and reducing greenhouse gases so when you want to look at the greenhouse gas impact of the green bin a really rough rule of thumb is you multiply the tons that you divert roughly by two so for eighty nine thousand tons you multiply it roughly by two you get a hundred and eighty thousand tons of this is we call it co2 equivalent carbon dioxide equivalent which is avoided. So that's a that's a big greenhouse gas benefit. Next slide please.

So when we're looking at the greenhouse gas climate change benefits of putting organics in the green bin it saves a lot of landfill capacity which can be which can extend the life of a landfill which is a very good thing it the big the most important thing is it reduces the production of methane in the landfill and so every ton of organics as I mentioned produces two tons of greenhouse gas co2 equivalents when you put it in a landfill. So using the green bin avoids that greenhouse gas production methane think you've got the message loud and clear it's a very powerful greenhouse gas we want to limit the production of that where we can unless it's totally controlled so even when you've got a very good landfill gas collection system some of it escapes so Ottawa assumes that about 90% of their landfill gas is captured and about 10% of it is not but that's a very good performance actually and the other benefit is it produces compost which I've gone over the greenhouse gas benefits of that. Next slide please.

So in a nutshell I think the waste audits showed lots of green bin materials going into the landfill so that should be avoided to the extent possible and if all the material was properly sorted into the green bin and blue bin all the garbage that goes into the landfill now there would be a significant greenhouse gas and climate change benefit. Next slide please. So our next speaker will speak about the benefits of compost to the soil so I’ll hand over to Susan thank you.

Thank you Maria. Our final speaker tonight is Susan Antler who will talk about the soil health and the other benefits of compost. Susan's the executive director of Compost Council Canada, a non-profit member driven organization for the advancement and advocacy of composting and compost usage.

Thanks very much. You know we're coming up to our 30th year as advocates of organics recycling and 30 years ago the message was mostly about landfill diversion with the numbers being significant we're in terms of the amount of organics that are currently diverted across Canada we're still only capturing about a third. So we really as a part of the hats off to Ottawa for the significant work that's been done to step up and provide a organics recycling program for the citizens of Ottawa but ultimately a program only works as each of us does our part and so it's individual choice as to where you place the organics in the landfill and the consequences are such and otherwise into the appropriate place going back to nature through the green bin. Next slide please.

Because it's all about the soil and that's not really coming out yet but I think over the next number of years you'll see more and more respect for the soil. It's not dirt it's the living breathing life of our planet and it's a very thin layer of the earth that draws all the nourishment that we need to keep our life going and paying attention to the quality and the health of the soil is vital and it's the organic matter that goes back into the soil the compost being going back to the soil that provides that life that allows food to continue to be produced and the whole climate and water conservation to be taken care of. Next slide please. I love this this picture because it's you know we're getting into the spring and everyone's quite anxious about the gardening but really before that little green sprout emerges and gets us all excited a lot of work is done in the underground making sure that things get ready and that the root system is well developed and this picture just shows how much work is happening and each of those strands depends on the environment to draw its sustenance and so you as a gardener you as a farmer want to make sure that your soil is as healthy as vibrant as possible because that is the secret to your success. Next slide please.

And it really comes down to there's an there's a life in the above ground but there's just as much life although we don't see it that goes on in the underground that allows our total life on this earth on this wonderful planet to continue and it's the organic matter. That very act your decision as to where that organic residuals i hate saying that word waste it's such a misnomer in terms of the value of this product where you're going to place it and if you don't place it in the right way it doesn't matter what Ottawa provides in terms of a system doesn't matter what else happens the job doesn't get started and the job doesn't get done. Next slide please

This year uh there's, so there's a wonderful organization that spans the world food and agriculture organization the united nations and this year they have focused on the biodiversity of the soil and any of you that are involved with children or even yourself I would really recommend you go over to the website it's filled with great information and multiple of languages to go ahead and give you information about soils biodiversity. Their focus has been since 2015 to raise awareness of the value of the soil and to talk about all the aspects on which we depend upon so this is just one of the many posters. There's fantastic videos and you can just get immersed into knowledge that way. Next slide please.

One of their posters is again it's no longer dirt a very bad four-letter word. It's soil and it's a living resource and it's home to more than 25 of our planet's biodiversity. That's huge and we for the most part until the last couple of years we have collectively ignored it and like people and as species above the ground that need shelter, water, air and a good home to live in so too to the folks underground and so let's talk a little bit more about that. Next slide please.

So there this is um basically an artistic rendition of something called the soil food web and there's so many different species all uh intermingled, interconnected. Very much like our communities where one helps the other and life continues at the very lowest smallest and microscopic level. There's the bacteria in the fungi and then it gets broader to seeing the magical mystical earthworm uh and spiders and ants and all those folks they're all doing their job to keep the world going. Next slide please.

This is a uh magnified version of a picture of bacteria and there's many different types of species but the bacteria and the fungi are called uh are the smallest of creatures and uh in they say in one tables teaspoon of healthy soil you'll have a million uh bacteria with many, many different types of species and these creatures have multiple functions. Bacteria is like humans and there's all types of different humans or books there's all kinds of different genres of books. Bacteria there are different bacteria doing different purposes so some break down organic matter, some have a symbiotic relationship and help fuel the nourishment back to the plant roots, some are pathogens and are predators. All of them intermingle and a lot of their work where you'll see them in under microscopic conditions is that they'll be very close to the roots and it'll be almost like a a feeding trough where the plant will attract the bacteria because they're it's providing nourishment to them and that kind of symbiotic relationship is happening where the bacteria is getting nutrients from the soil back to the plants. Next slide please.

The other group of the small guys the microbiota is a fungi and the fungi are very, very important. They're long, long strands and what they do is that they basically bring little pieces of material together and it's almost like if you're if you're knitter and you wind your roll they basically put clumps of soil together and so that helps in terms of providing substance with soil. They are the ones that help break down carbon and so fungi can be can be damaged very easily when you dig because you're basically cutting them. Although you don't see them but you're cutting them so and then they have to spend time to get back in and together again so one of the dynamics that's going on is that there's more and more work, which basically means minimizing your soil disturbance to go ahead and allow the fungi to do their job. Next slide please.

And so this is the aggregation of fungi around a clump of material and certainly I think in terms of what's very exciting I believe in Ottawa within the next year if not sooner the agriculture museum will have a huge exhibit and that actually I believe is going to go across the country are talking about the soil. So there's the there's tons of resources that you just have to google and soil health is going to be more and more in the conversation and it gets into respecting the creatures of the soil to allow you to have the most vibrant healthy soil possible and all those creatures need something to eat and that's where the role of compost is in terms of getting back to the soil. Next slide please.

So this slide is from our picture is from a farm field where on the right hand side we have a very compacted soil and on the left one that's very rich almost like a cake, chocolate cake on the right. It's very compacted, which if you were to go into the microscope you probably see that there's very little diversity in this in the in terms of microorganisms. There's very little um movement in terms of allowing for water to seat and hold like you would see on the on the left-hand side. So your goal is to have a nice rich great texture soil that has lots of room for your tiny little roots of your plants to grow and also for the micro macro organisms like the earthworms to move through and you can do this. It takes time but and so you have to go ahead and follow some principles but always, always remember that adding organic amendments and that could be items other than compost but compost is there for you in taking an easy way for you to improve your soil. Next slide please.

So soil organisms help soil store carbon and this is going to become more and more conversation because right now for the most part soils are being ignored in terms of the value of paying attention to them for climate change. Next slide please.

We are in the final stages of doing an analysis with the Soil Conservation Council of Canada. We're funded by the Metcalf Foundation and what our team has been doing is looking at the value of improving the soil from a carbon sequestration perspective and what would that mean in terms of helping us in terms of the goals for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and so there's you know quite honestly there's so many different assumptions and studies and so we've taken a very conservative approach as well as a potential a higher approach in terms of if we could go ahead and capture a certain amount of land or more fully land both from an agriculture perspective as well as an urban setting perspective and our numbers say that on an annual basis if we pay more attention to the soil and use it as a way to hold carbon in the soil we can get and deliver quite comfortably almost 20 megatons of carbon a year and Canada's goal is I believe about 218 megatons every year in terms of reduction or if we're much more aggressive almost you know a third to 40 percent just by paying attention to the soil. Now there's going to be a lot of discussion about that but just in terms of the power of soil and that connect in terms of it's the microbes that are doing the work to help with the carbon sequestration and you got to feed them and it's the compost that helps. Next slide please.

Yeah next slide please, thank you. So what we've been saying well what does that mean because sometimes know these numbers I always say well what does that mean to me the every person because I don't understand all those big numbers, what does it mean? What am I supposed to do? what could I do and what are easy things to do and what are the things that are going to be really tough for me to do? And we all have that list and if you're like me you're anxious and you want to do something you keep hearing you've accepted whatever degree of on the on the road as to what you think or not but what I take great comfort in is because in addition to all the benefits about compost which gets into plant productivity, better water conservation, better water quality, reduction of the need to have so much space in a landfill, a respect for the space that's in the landfill. What it also means is that if you buy a bag which is about 25 liters of compost and you do what you want to do in terms of making your garden better and making you know it's a ringer for you good uh gardening season the equivalent in terms of savings of greenhouse gas emissions is seven kilometers driving so you're going to get all these benefits and it's also going to be a vote for the environment if you're if you're using compost on your yard, your lawn and you're buying a yard of compost that's 278 kilometers. Didn't take you any time, you didn't sacrifice anything you save 278 kilometers of driving and all the emissions that come about by that but just by using compost and one ton and that's very important from a farming perspective because we sell mostly in tons 619 kilometers pretty easy way but the issue is that we have to get more and more attention to this and so the next slide will show that's just the use of compost putting it back in the soil but the total greenhouse gas value and these are the Council's numbers and so you know and we've been very conservative and if we built it from information across the world one bag, if you use one bag and you've done all your work in terms of getting that organics into the right bin you've got you've been paying attention to quality that you're not putting the wrong thing into the green bin so that we're dealing with garbage, 30 kilometers of greenhouse gas savings and goes up to almost 3000 kilometers if we can get a ton of organics composted and return back to the soil. Next slide please.

And on Earth Day I think it gets into the fact that we also have to respect that it's not just about us. The work that we're doing in terms of composting and all the things that allow us to be kinder and gentler to the planet also benefits the other creatures who have a place on this planet and FAO says that one percent of the soil microorganism species are currently known so there's a lot of learning that's going to happen. It's going to be a fun journey and all of us can play our part. We have to because the soil is ours. It's ours in the backyard, it's in the parks, it's in the farms. Next slide please.

So we have been doing a lot in terms of working with farmers and landscapers and so there's five principles that you if you're into this, if you buy into this and it doesn't matter whether you're a farmer or a landscaper or a gardener. There's five principles in terms of being respectful for your soil and wanting to give it the best choice in terms of a health. So you have to cover the soil, you have to keep your roots in the ground even in the winter, you have to add organic amendments and there's all kinds of different amendments is not just compost you need to make sure that it's not a monoculture. You support plant and soil diversity and you minimize soil disturbance. And go to the next slide and we'll show why all those points are so in terms of minimize soil disturbance. If you can click it again please.

And why it protects the infrastructure so it doesn't break up the fungi, it doesn't disturb the home of all these creatures because if they their home gets disturbed then they have to work on rebuilding it. So you want to go ahead and minimize it so they can focus on the work that they're doing as opposed to saving their shelter, keep live roots in the ground.

It feeds the workforce, it provides energy both winter and summer. So just keeping them in the ground allows also soil not to be disturbed but it provides the habitat and then also provides food. Go ahead next slide please.

Optimizing the use of soil amendments and inputs there's work that's being done as you move from more conventional farming to more of a soil health, regenerative agriculture practice the optimizing of your chemical synthetic inputs relative to your organic management of your soil changes and so that helps in terms of making sure certainly from a farm in perspective that your money is spent in the right direction and that you're getting long-term value for your investment. Promulgate diversity, so no one likes a monoculture. It's helpful to have as much diversity, as much bench strength as possible because one bacteria does something, another bacteria does it next. There's studies that say that if there's certain bacteria that are missing the work doesn't get done well. And right next slide.

And the last slide. Never leave your soil there. Always have a good cover. It protects and feeds the workforce and it protects the soil as a resource. Next slide please.

And so the other thing that's very exciting in terms of that one step, your one decision which bin the garbage bin or the green bin or your back composter. That one step not only gives you all the things that I've talked about and all the other speakers talked about but this is a study that we're just about to release because the first week of May is international compost awareness week and this study was done in Brandon in Manitoba using source separated organics from the citizens of the City of Brandon and what we did was, we had a long term study, five years and it because it takes time for organic matter to get settled and to do its job and so Dr Lord Abbey is the chap in the middle and what we had was we had three different plots. No compost, once every two years compost, every year compost application and we had four vegetable crops including leaf lettuce, beets, carrots and what Dr Abbey did at the end was, the next slide please.

Was showcase the results and so it's if with a picture being worth a thousand words it didn't matter what crop adding compost, whether every other year or every year outperformed not and what the next step was what uh Dr Abbey had never been done before and now it's getting global attention is that he looked at the nutritional value of the crops and he examined and with his colleagues the value what was in the back produce and the results are outstanding in terms of the nutritional value which scoots over to human health benefits. If you use compost in your soil so all the other benefits plus also human health value in terms of putting organics your decision green bin or garbage, your decision allows that circle to get completed. Next slide please.

And so it's all about love, it's all about love, we all are living in this world, we all have a role to play both above ground and below ground and all of us deserve to live and coexist well and right and that simple step of respecting our planet by putting organics back into the soil makes the world go around. I'm just going to show you that the next two slides please.

The Council, the Compost Council of Canada, we have um a number of resources. There's a little booklet on our website, our website is It's called the wonderful life and soil so that gives you some information about all the wonderful critters in the soil and then the next slide.

What we've been doing over the last number of years is that we do a number of educational efforts. The one on the left we were starting a program called let's go on a soil safari and that is with children and families to go ahead and explore the magic of the soil. We kind of got stopped by COVID but we're hoping that that's going to continue afterwards and we've been doing also some educational with far better presenters than myself, programs on the biology of soil health and right now we're doing I’m going to invite you to come to Manitoba virtually because over the next couple of weeks we're still doing some of our soil health webinars and they're free so if you go onto our website whether you're a farmer, landscaper or gardener there's some great sessions that are free and you can find them on So hats off to Ottawa for getting you to the point where you have the choice and you are making this decision as to how you want your world to go around. Thanks very much.

Well thank you Susan. As a gardener there's certainly lots of good things in there for me and I love that picture of how the vegetables change with the different treatments. That's wonderful and as a parent I want to sign up i want to go on a soil safari. I don't know if I'll bring my kid but I would love to go on something like that. And I think the conversation is changing a lot about the importance of soil in in in climate change at large I mean when you see a star-studded show on Netflix focused on soil and the value of sequestration and agriculture. I'm not sure what your opinion of Kiss the Earth don't Kiss the Ground but yeah so easy access very enjoyable but I think you're right the conversation about soil is changing and there's lots of good comments in the zoom chat about how much people have enjoyed your presentation and the presentations of Maria and Nichole as well today, so thank you to all three of you for your great presentations.

There is a question in the zoom chat about whether or not we can share the presentations and two things the first is that we are going we are recording this as we said at the beginning and we will post this presentation on the Ottawa YouTube channel because of our bilingual policies we will take time to translate the transcripts for this presentation and so it will take a little bit of time. If you're keen and you want to see those pictures again or you want some of those stats at your fingertips just email us you can send us an email at and we'd be happy to share those presentations with you in a more timely manner and we'll put the email up at the end of the of the presentation and q and a's.

I just wanted to let folks know that in case they have to drop off earlier so we are very close to on time we still have about an hour for q and a's and I've got about 10 in my queue already and I see that more and more coming in through the zoom chat so keep them coming. If you have questions use that little chat box at the bottom of your screen to open up the chat feature and send the message to everyone if you'd like to submit your question. We are tonight going to focus primarily on the material that we've already covered, compost, green bins, solid waste, we're staying in that sort of wheelhouse. If we run out of questions related to that and people have more general questions about climate change then we can shift gears but I think in about an hour with already ten more questions coming in we'll probably just stick to that subject matter and if you have questions that are separate from that and you want more information more generally about climate change again you can email us at so finally just a reminder that we do have bilingual staff in the meeting tonight so you're welcome to ask your question in French.

And I think we'll just go from that in the back end we've been trying to theme the questions to the extent possible so that it moves through a little bit more naturally but you know there's a long thread of zoom and there's about 90 people on the chat so we may skip it skip back and forth. So why don't we stop sharing screen sharing for now so that folks can see each other and see all the panelists we'll do our best to sort of send the questions to the appropriate panelists and I'll just ask the presentation the presenters to unmute themselves if they want to weigh in or add anything else.

So first question if invasive weeds find their way into the green or leaf waste bin can these plants survive and spread? And then related to that does the fact that the City composting process kill a lot of the organisms in the organics affect the quality of the compost? So maria, I'm sorry, so Nichole let's start with you and then Maria if there's anything to add then feel free to jump in.

Great thanks Andrea so in terms of the invasive weeds I guess the general rule of thumb is that process the two weeks of being in those tunnels for you know essentially baking away for about 50 at 55 degrees Celsius should kill off any invasive species in terms of the impacts on the soil quality I think I'll let, we can pass that off I'm not sure if Maria or Susan want to touch on that.

I would let that one up to Susan I don't really yeah once the weeds seeds are killed there's no coming back and in terms of the requirements as was mentioned is that every compost facility has very strict requirements in terms of testing of products that's mandatory from an environmental health and safety perspective and also in terms of there's other programs that even go up on the scale of scrutiny in terms of there's a program called the compost quality alliance which actually gets into the attributes of the agronomic attributes of the product so that there's no good or bad compost but you put the compost to the right use. So in terms of weed seeds you're fine once you get them to the high heat and then it's a it's a another good source of organic matter.

Okay thank you. What prevents the green bin waste not creating methane as it sits for two weeks? Maria is that a question that you could start with?

I think so well the green bin they constantly turn it around and get oxygen into it so that prevents it from going anaerobic so it shouldn't, it doesn't go anaerobic if it's constantly turned so that's how they do it blow air into it and turn it around to keep oxygen going in.


What happens if there's waste in the green bin that doesn't belong? Nichole let's start with you. Sounds great so I think there's two particular processes mainly what you're going to see at the end of the process that one slide that I put up primarily the screening process that's what's actually going to pull out those materials that we consider contaminants or items that shouldn't be and that of course did not break down through the process so oftentimes those materials that are not meant to be in the green bin they will make their way to the landfill.

Okay and then there's sort of a classic, there's a bunch of let's just get clear on what goes in and what goes out. So aren't, what about coffee cups? Earlier it was asked about coffee cups and aren't all coffee cups lined even if the lining isn't visible I would assume that the plain fiber cup doesn't hold hot liquids very well? So talk to us about coffee cups. Yeah no problem. So the paper-based coffee cups are allowed but the challenge with I guess there's a lot of different products that you're seeing on the market today and some of them are wax lined which are fine they'll be breakdown in the process but a lot of them are actually lined with a plastic liner and the challenge being from a consumer's perspective it's really difficult for each and any one of us to really be able to identify the difference. So the general rule of thumb are we do accept those ones without liners in the green bin program. If there are plastic based liners they're not going to break down through the composting process so again through that that screening process that we touched or I touched on in the in the presentation will pull that material out. The plastics and that will make its way to landfill. I think one other important thing to let you know, so one thing we do encourage as part of the green bin program is any of your old cooking oil as an example if you're not reusing it for other cooking purposes such as your bacon grease as an example, that you actually put it into a paper cup. Oftentimes people will put it into those line cups so we do accept them in the program but again there's that screening process that can pull out the plastic at the end of the process.

Okay how about diapers? Another classic one I imagine for you. Talk to us about diapers. We do not accept diapers in the City's green bin program so that's put in the regular waste so the garbage bag. The City of Ottawa also does because we have bi-weekly garbage in place we have a special considerations program as well so for those households especially have a ton of young kids who are in diapers or just any individual who's using any of those special consideration products. You can sign up to actually have those picked up on the off weeks where garbage is not regularly collected so you can do that by visiting and registering for that.

Okay a lot of products call themselves compostable. For example I've got a Pela phone case and the company has advertised that I can just throw it into a compost bin. How does Ottawa handle these items? So i guess going back and I'm not sure if Susan or Maria might want to touch on the composting standards but that's one of the greatest ongoing challenges it's not unique to Ottawa it's something we're seeing throughout the industry is that you have this disconnect between what those standards are when it comes to the manufacturing of processes or products or compostable products and what will actually break down in municipal composting systems. So the case, the City of Ottawa a lot of that will not break down in our process so it's ultimately pulled out at the end of the process and it they ultimately make their way to to landfill so that that is something I know that the federal government, the provincial government are looking to address. There's a lot of pressure of course on municipalities to be working with our processors to try to find innovative technologies as well to break it down but as it exists today there is a huge disconnect so for that reason we do not accept compostable products or packaging within the City's green bin program.

Maria or Susan is anything you want to add to that? I would love to add if you'd allow me thank you.

This is when you pick up the phone and you call your MP because quite honestly it's every day that the system doesn't get fixed and it's certainly not the it's not the responsibility of the City of Ottawa. It comes down to claims are not being policed by the federal government. There is not a standard out there in terms of what can or can't be called compostable. A good first step is to make sure that you if a manufacturer or brand owner is putting the word compostable on their packaging that they at the very minimum, that they should have had it tested and so there would be organizations such as the bpi or bmq that will test it in lab conditions to go ahead and make sure that it does break down within a certain time frame and does no harm to the end product that's now being elevated in terms of not just the lab conditions but Ontario with the support of Environment Canada is looking at an infield task so to see how the reality that is basically in something like a City of Ottawa program works with the certified compostable because lab conditions can vary relative to real life conditions as can the difference in timing certain. So in the City of Ottawa they are in the container, they're in for, the products are in for two weeks whereas some other facilities have a longer time frame so there's all kinds of variability but quite honestly there's it's in a sense of it's a source of huge frustration for us at the Compost Council and there seems to be you know for every day that it doesn't get fixed the City of Ottawa's composting program suffers because they have to either take material out, they have to spend extra money or the quality that we all try to have at the end it costs an awful lot to get because you have to remove a lot of the products at the end it doesn't magically go away. In a composting facility you don't want it to come in the first place so uh quite honestly there the time frames that the government's, broader than municipalities are setting are. Very frustrating for us and you can make a difference by making a phone call to your MP or your MPP to encourage them to get it fixed.

Thanks Susan. Maria is there anything you wanted to add to that? Well just what Susan said I mean of course everything will compost if you've got long enough but your process is two weeks long so many things that might be compostable if they had a four-month system or 12-month system like you have in a backyard composter they would break down but not in two weeks. So it's like Susan said, what's the standard and how is it how is it measured. That's, you know there's a lot of products on the market now that they say they're compostable yeah most things are composable eventually but not in a short retention time like you have. And one of the damages to add to that Maria is the fact that you know I think that consumers residents are not aware of the of the magnitude of the problem and if one product in a category is compostable then they think well that is compostable this other must be the same thing and so other things go in that just aren't appropriate and the thing that drives us totally crazy at the Compost Council are those plasticized fruit and vegetable stickers that are on the banana peels and every piece of fruit in the marketplace now and they're plasticized and for the most part like a banana peel like you don't even think about taking the sticker off you know wait for an apple you probably take it off because you don't want to eat it but the banana there's a lot that are on the peels and that causes all kinds of trouble for a facility in terms of managing so that is a challenge for us to try either get retailers and produce brand owners to either not put on those stickers in the first place or put on a compostable version but that that is that has to have some political will.

As well I never thought about that particular one so here's I will be removing my banana stickers and teaching my little ones to do so. Thank you. Okay a couple more quick hits on sort of the what ifs and then we're going to move to a different category. What to do with I guess keurig cups? what about the keurig cups? They say they're compostable are they?

We're talking about I think the keurig coffee pods. So there's I think there's a few that I've seen on the market some of them I think I touched on earlier have the compostable ring and then you actually have the I would say the little basket that's holding the the coffee grinds so the same sort of thing we don't accept them in the City’s program for all the reasons we just touched on. Because it does not break down in our process, there are the also there are other coffee pods that are on the market that do have a recyclable plastic so oftentimes what we recommend is peeling off that almost tinfoil top emptying out the coffee grinds in the green bin but then rinsing it out and recycling that plastic in the blue bin.

Okay Nichole one more you touched on it briefly, pizza cardboard boxes if they're not soiled or only slightly soiled or if they come with wax paper that absorb the oils is it better to put them in the cardboard recycling or in the green green bin?

That's a good question so I'm going to read that again. So if they come with the wax paper that absorbs the oils so presumably if it's absorbing the oils and it's something you can easily pull off great the it's that that box board can make its way into the black box. The biggest thing is you really do want to make sure that it's not soiled because that's what you're going to get the greatest value at the end of the day from in terms of being able to resell that fiber product if it is a clean fiber product so I hope I answered that question.

Yeah that's good thanks. Now let's switch gears for a bit. I live alone so my green bin sits for weeks before getting full and emptied. Should I do something with it while it sits? Nichole?

I was going to recommend to I don't know what size of green bin you have but the city does offer so we have the typical 80 liter which is what you'll typically see for curbside households we also have a 47 liter green bin so it's a much smaller it's almost about half the size of the regular one so that's an opportunity as well is to get a smaller green bin and there's no harm in putting it out on a weekly basis you know those collection vehicles are out they're down your street every single week if it's in terms of what's in your kitchen catcher I would just recommend that is you're taking out what's in your kitchen catcher on a frequent basis placing it in your green bin itself just to avoid some of those smells.

Thank you. Susan how do you add amendments without disturbing the soil and why is the biennial amendment less positive?

One of the ways to do it is to just put compost on top of the soil the critters will come up and bring it down into the soil so that is that is one way or just minimizing it so there's rather than digging up all your garden and things take time you know in terms of that the first year you're gonna have to start digging but as you build your soil organic matter you're going to have less need to keep digging but just fine tuning where you're going to be placing your seeds.

And I can't remember the second part of the question. Why are biennial amendments less positive? It's just a just the ongoing addition of compost on an annual basis just continues to keep feeding the soil what we didn't do in that study was that we didn't add all the other soil health practices so when you add making sure that the ground is covered, add at a second crop in terms of providing some extra value there could be a differences in the change but we wanted to be focused only on compost so the good news I mean particularly as the Compost Council keep using compost use it as much as you want on an ongoing basis but even every other year you can, you can have benefits and also in terms of as part of our environmental health and safety standards we have requirements in terms of how much compost on a long term that can be applied so sometimes certainly from a farmer's perspective you might go ahead and do two or three years application at the same year one year and then you have to let it rest.

Okay I'm not sure, I think maybe all the panelists might have a perspective on this one. What are you doing to minimize microplastics getting into the environment at some point of the activities look like they would be generating more microplastics and they run the risk of getting into our water systems? Maybe Nichole could start with you and then I'd be interested in hearing from Susan, Maria if you want to weigh in. Yeah of course so I think first and foremost I touched on I think at a very high level as part of my presentation that so in terms of that end product that we get out of our composting facility it actually does have to meet the Ontario compost quality standards so our organics processor does have to report regularly to the ministry on that so we do they do operate I'm just looking sorry down here at the most recent report that they have is they're still well below what the maximum amount of course would be for for plastics making its way into the end product so I'm not sure if anybody Susan or Maria wanted to add on to that.

I just think the microplastic issue is a little bit different it's really the minuscule little amounts of plastic that can get into water and then into fish and then back into the, into the food cycle so I don't, I don't know that there would be much of that microplastic activity coming out of a composting site unless I misunderstood the question but regular plastics yeah like you know you have you're not allowed to have much plastic in your compost you couldn't sell it anyway because it would really look ugly so you know the whole issue with plastics is you need to get them out even for aesthetic as well as other reasons but microplastics I don't know that you'd have much from waste that I know of isn't is Compost Council Compost Canada have any perspective on microplastics in compost. Well first of all the first big step is not to put it in the first place because it's hard to get out it takes a lot of money and also it's not a guarantee that you're going to get everything out and certainly the standards recognize that there are some there the whole issue of the words like biodegradable that some of the brand owners are using. Biodegradable oxide degradable unless it's certified compostable which has a standard that at least at the very least it does no harm and it will break down those products need to be parked in the right way and that has that's the role of the federal government and they have to step up. So in terms of the work of the compost facilities such as City of Ottawa they're dependent upon their residents doing the right thing. That's where you start and then you have to also make sure that the brand owners are being fair to their claims and not playing games with their claims and also finding alternatives that can take plastic such as fruit and vegetable stickers and converting that either to none at all or a certified compostable that will do no harm.

Okay thanks. Cool we'll start with you on the next sort of line of questioning. Is the City encouraging companies to participate in the green bin program? Especially when offices return back to normal? It's a great question so currently the City of Ottawa as we're regulated by the province, we do provide where we don't provide the green bin service to local businesses so we provide green bin services to curbside households to our multi-residential facility or households as well as all City of Ottawa facilities that we have ownership and control over and then we do well there are a certain select small businesses that we offer green bin services through the city's yellow bag program. So that is for small businesses that generate just under about 20 bags of waste on a bi-weekly basis and a requirement for them to receive service from the City is to make sure that they are recycling as well as participating in the City's green bin program.

Great I think you probably already answered this question. It sounds like Ottawa does not collect food from restaurant and stale food from stores so who does? Gonna say we have a lot of local amazing non-for-profit organizations that do some of this work and I definitely see tremendous opportunity in the future to expand that and I think you'll see for those engaged in the solid waste master planning process we are looking beyond we've traditionally focused a lot of our efforts on diversion so it's really trying to focus upwards on the waste management hierarchy where there are opportunities to reuse where there are opportunities for further food rescue there's tremendous opportunities if you just think about it through the City's operations not to mention all the different businesses so looking at those opportunities to potentially partner more within the community so that's definitely something that we that we are exploring.

Great, on the theme of restaurants folks have noticed especially in these COVID times that a lot of restaurants are providing takeout in compostable plastic containers but based on everything we've already talked about sounds like they're not compostable is there any way that we can help these companies who think they may be climate conscious by informing them or otherwise can we direct them somewhere perhaps?

I'll jump in here for a second and say those are a big nuisance from the recycling side you know a compostable plastic is a real nuisance it contaminates your whole plastic recycling process so it's very important that it doesn't go that side either so unless it's a rapidly decomposing plastic it's if it was just an ordinary plastic that's recyclable it's actually better from a life cycle point of view than a compostable plastic that can't be recycled and that can't be composted either because it would take too long. So I that's an issue that really bugs me actually because you need to think through these policies long and carefully to understand the impacts of saying plastics are just not good and we want everything to go into the organic side. It just doesn't work that easily without a lot of thought and policy making and thinking ahead of time so as a recycler and also organics person I hate to contaminate the plastic side. It's complicated enough as it is without having plastics that people think they can recycle that really they can't and they're not compostable either really.

There's a wonderful story and good news story in Ottawa and that's the National Art Centre who took on the objective of discontinuing their plastics through service wear and so for a year before that decision was implemented they worked with ourselves as well as their waste hauler which is Thomas and organics and tested each of the products that they were thinking of to whether it would work in the composting facility where it was destined and once they knew that it and so that got into the lab testing as well as the infield testing and once the decision came back from the facility and it was it was it's almost like a little island the National Art Centre because it's one place they can control it pretty much it's very hard on a residential basis where there's hundreds of thousands of green bins but in terms of from an IC&I business sector they were able to be confident enough to know that the products that they chose would work within their infrastructure and just today I got a call from a lady in northern Ontario, another small business who very much wants to go ahead and offer her products in certified compostable and she wanted to make sure she understood where her products would go and whether it would indeed be composting so and you know the businesses it is it is a shame because they should be rewarded for their good effort they're probably paying more for that product and so it's they shouldn't be criticized but also in terms of their needs, there needs to be more and more integration of these products and it does come back more not to the individual restaurant but in terms of the rules of the game again because it's you know food waste and products and that are involved with food waste it's an appropriate place in the long term once everything gets sorted out it's not just one unit but it's the whole category or the whole all packaging but related to food waste then that's more comfortable for a facility perhaps not Ottawa but all of them collectively that they understand what is coming in their doors but when but up until a collective effort could be made it's very difficult for a facility to manage one offs.

Anybody else want to add to that?

Okay, let's go to some gardening questions then.

In the fall is it best to leave vegetable plants on the soil over the winter season? Can we start with you on that? well I started to do that the and I so I do leave them on it looks a little messy and that's one of the issues in terms of the farming community in terms of that they're moving over to regenerative agriculture and they're basically leaving materials on their land and others are criticizing on them but yes you can leave that and actually and I'm not the expert quite honestly but the a lot of the material the debris becomes habitat for insects and bees for overwintering so the issue is the aesthetics and you have to manage that according to your own well on the aesthetics.

In someone's garden they use their own compost and they put eggshells in that compost they find that they're highly visible in her flower beds or in their flower beds excuse me and that they could see small bits now in the spring, should they be doing something different?

I don't think so you're crushing them up and crushing them up and so you make them as small as possible and so the more space that the bugs get to chew then degrade faster I have a worm bin and I'm, I crush my eggshells and I’m surprised over a couple of weeks that they seem to almost disappear so I think crushing them. I found that that helps and again it's natural it's going to break down.

I’ll just say that eggshells were a big nuisance in our backyard. We have a backyard composter and also a green bin so now we just put the eggshells the green bin and the other stuff in the backyard composter. Now if you were my father what you could do is that when you plant he would always put he put eggshells in the base of his tomato plants at the beginning of the season. You know what I remember just in terms of you know the calcium so and so you're digging it in a little bit so that might be an option too. I have certainly done that and I have gotten those eggshells under my fingertips. I've also used them to keep slugs away because they're sharp and I've been told or I've read some wives tale who knows that that deters them.

Okay let's switch gears again with a couple of garburator questions. Is the garburator the same as a garbage disposal and won't garburators stress the sewer system load especially the cast iron pipes? Now I'll say garburators are potentially a hotly contested debate and that's the benefit of a panel. So I'm sure there's a couple of different perspectives. Nichole why don't we start with you around what a garburator is how it works and what the City's current stance on it is and then we can talk about why there might be benefits and what the risks are including to our sewer system.

Absolutely so I think first and foremost, garburators would be that essentially the grinding machine that's built in under your sink. The City of Ottawa, I don't remember exactly when it dates back to but we do have a bylaw prohibiting the use of garburators within the City of Ottawa for just that purpose. Now I'm not sure if Mike wants to jump in as part of this but you know it's definitely a topic that we've at least been having internal conversations including our colleagues in our wastewater facility groups and looking at the potential to pilot something in the future building off of some you know research that we've seen out of Vancouver out of New York city most recently too and especially you know are there unique opportunities for our multi-residential facilities as an example and potentially even new build facilities you know it really is a huge challenge continues to be a huge challenge when you look at participation of getting residents participate in the green bin in multi-residential facilities so you only have about 17 percent diversion right in the multi-residential sector so there's a lot of work to be done but of course that doesn't come without challenges but there's unique opportunities. I had the opportunity to visit Malmo Sweden actually with Mike a few years back and one interesting they, I mean they only had I think it was one multi-residential tower within the downtown or the main downtown core that we had visited but you know they had instead of having it go through the wastewater treatment center they actually had a capture system built in within the facility so all the organic waste was ground up within that in-unit disposal captured in that essential that tank and then they actually they trucked it over to their wastewater treatment plant so there's definitely opportunities, but Mike I'll let you touch on that.

Yeah I mean what's the drive the driver for us comes from the climate plan. Everything's pretty tough in the climate plan and you know diverting organics is included in that in that toughness so the 100 ghg reduction model calls for 98 diversion of organics by 2024 and whether we hit that or not it's another question but it forces you to start thinking about everything you can do. So although garburators would be an understatement to say they would present some challenges to wastewater collection they could offer some opportunities in terms of upper upping the diversion rate and this you know Nichole was alluding to helping to do that especially in high density multi-res buildings so that's what we're thinking through right now.

I'll jump in and say some cases where the garburator is okay because the sewage treatment plant is under loaded are not up at full capacity and as a former wastewater treatment engineer like I understand how the tanks work and how the digesters work and if you've an underloaded system the bugs aren't happy basically they don't have enough to eat so sometimes like in Los Angeles or San Francisco when all the canneries closed you know they were they had under loaded sewage treatment plants so they had to, that in that case they put the organics down through the system but if you've got a fairly fully loaded system then it depends how much food waste goes through the garburators. They don't cause problems in the pipes usually to answer the question it's more you have to do an assessment at the wastewater treatment. Can our digesters and our aeration tanks and all of all of the components of the system are they able to handle that particular load. I was just talking to Mike and Andrea and the team yesterday saying I personally don't like them. I can see that they do make sense for multi-family actually because just getting organics out of multi-family is really problematic because of inconvenience and a host of reasons so there may be an application but it wouldn't really cause a problem in the cast iron pipe it might be more likely to cause a problem at the sewage treatment plant but you'd have to do all the loading calculations to see whether it can cope with the load basically.

Thanks Maria. Building on that notion, it's not, it's not like a composting question but it does have impacts for our sewer loads how important is that recyclable materials are rinsed out before they are put into bins?

Well I can start off there of course you want them clean because of the workers you know the workers and the MRF are not expecting to be dealing with dirty stuff so you should, you should rinse it out, but a buddy of mine from way back and an economist Peter Victor he said we really should count up all the inputs to that the time it takes and all the water and is this really a good idea in the first place but just from a health and safety point of view for the workers. You should absolutely rinse everything out but that's the reason why you do it it's because someone has to then handle that material later and it should be clean for them to handle.

Nicole do you want to add anything to that? I was going to say Maria touched on it really well and I think one thing you'd be surprised. I think we recently Meike, we did a video that's available on the of a tour of our materials recovery facility and it's still to Maria's point, super manual intensive process so there's a lot of innovative technologies that they use to be able to process the materials but there still are a lot of people working on those lines and absolutely it's you can see a huge difference between you know those materials are that are being rinsed off and cleaned as opposed to you know and you can just imagine some of that when you're getting that material that's not clean you know the impacts that that has on the physical processing as well.

Okay thanks, well we touched a little bit on multi-residential buildings Nichole maybe first to you and then maybe more broadly Maria you could answer this question. Have we seen greater composting rates when the building has a diversified garbage chute, could it be mandated in new buildings?

Nichole you want to start with that? Sure I often look to there's one there's a few shining examples in this city we brought together a multi-residential stakeholder working group about two years ago and we've actually had one of the buildings in particular that's the property management took it upon himself to make arrangements to close the chute. Tremendous amount of outreach within that building, tremendous amount of communication education they even have as part of your welcome package and living in that multi-residential facilities you're signing almost like a green commitment so it's not only your waste management habits but they've kind of ingrained this culture in terms of you know you're living in this building this is the type of community we're trying to build in here environmentally conscious. They have upwards of almost 80 percent diversion within that building which is probably the highest rate we've seen in any multi-residential facility in the in the city so you know it does work. There's actually some work we're working very closely with Andrea and the broader team in planning who's looking at developing new high-performance development standards for new facilities moving forward. So there is a waste component to that so we're looking at opportunities, new opportunities for what will be mandated within facilities and then also what might be the more higher level green standards that certain buildings can aspire to and that's definitely something we're contemplating is we need to increase accessibility we need to increase make it less inconvenient for individuals to participate in the program so instead of having that one convenient garbage chute it is having a chute for every single stream of waste that we manage as the city because that is the number one barrier from multi-residential residents is the inconvenience.

Maria is there anything you want to add to that? I live in Toronto and so you can't build a, you have to meet the green building standard here. You have to have either a tri-sorter which is you know three buttons and the thing goes around and into three different bins in the basement or three different chutes so you don't have an option you have to make recycling convenient and you have to have big enough turning circles down in the basement so that the trucks can kind of get in and out and service the three different bins so in the city where I live that's the way it's handled so of course if it's my you know there's a host of reasons why multi-family diversion is more complicated people have less space in their apartments to store stuff and in some older buildings you have to kind of go down to the basement women don't want to be doing it late at night when it's dark you know and so we've tested I did a huge amount of work with Toronto Community Housing testing different ways of getting higher diversion rates and older buildings so Toronto has done a huge amount of work and so some buildings are great best practice examples to look at. So they do exist like Nichole said but it's always a constant challenge with multi-res but you can mandate it in when a new building is built. The problem is it's an old trying to retrofit an old building is complicated. Yeah that's a good point Maria too and about 70 percent of all high-rise multi-residential facilities in the City of Ottawa were built prior to 1980. So when you look at the large we have a we have great opportunity with all of the new builds in the future and especially looking at the city's intensification policies over the next number of years that's going to be something very important for us to focus on too but then there's a whole host of challenges with you know a lot of these buildings that were built pre-existence of recycling as well.

Yeah I mean we even tested it was one of my clients ideas what about the moving room and all these buildings it's used for about four days every month could you use that for recycling so we actually tested that idea out it had mixed success for different reasons so people have thought of everything but I think that it's the older buildings you have to figure out because the newer buildings you could you can make you can build them right in the first place.

Yeah and we haven't touched, about touched on the other aspects of climate change but as one of the other 20 projects in Energy Evolution we are working on high performance development standards modeling to some extent after the Toronto green standard, working with Nichole's group on some of the waste aspects within that.

So we only have a few minutes left so we'll we are not going to get to all of the questions. Nichole I'm going to direct the next one to you and as part of your answer I wonder if you could tell up tell folks where to find more information. So I guess two questions, the first is where can folks find more information about where to dispose of what sort of that message again for all of the little things like baby wipes and cat litter and coffee cups and pizza boxes that's come up tonight where can they go to find more information on this? Sure we can do that it's all available on and I was like Meike’s already on it. There's also so what she's done is she's put the link inside the chat and that'll give you the easy opportunity just to type in all those questions in terms of what materials you're looking to dispose the same sort of thing as well is downloading the waste explorer app, application is fantastic as well and Meike and her team have just recently worked on some integration so that you have built right into that app that ability to quickly check from the comfort of your own smartphone as well and to identify what goes where.

Great. Maybe Meike you could pop in the link again to where folks can pick up some of that potting soil while supplies last and Nichole can you talk about whether or not the City could make the green bin compost available to residents? I think you mentioned in your presentation that it's currently only available to the agricultural community. So it's actually it is within the purview of the contract it's not available it's actually technically owned by Convertus so the company that does, processes the organic material and that was part of the original agreement that they would find the appropriate end markets for that so at this point it is just sold to the farming industry but there might be future opportunities I think beyond especially our existing contract to look at opportunities in the future.

Right and then last question, we're going to put to everybody on the panel. Is there one habit that could be improved that would have a really big impact to improve the success of the green bin program? I have learned that removing stickers from banana peels might be one thing that I need to do but I want you to convince me what's bigger than that. What do I need to do, what do we all need to do as a big, a big habit?

Nichole do you want to start with you? Good question I should have prepared for this before. One thing actually before I do that Andrea. My wonderful colleague Anthony who oversees our green bin program who's on he wanted me to note too there's actually very strict regulatory requirements in terms of handling which limit our ability to sell that compost directly to residents. But one main thing I think it's finding an opportunity to make it convenient throughout your home and finding the opportunity something that's unique to you within your own household. So for example I’ve bought the IKEA pull-out shelves for from underneath my sink but I know that's not you know not the greatest opportunity for everyone I think to having bins where appropriate located throughout your house because one thing we notice as well not only with recycling but you know that that lint from dryer lint that's typically making its way into the garbage where that's something that can be put in the green bin so it's for some of those materials that can be put in the in the green bin having a place that's really convenient throughout your household to quickly be able to put that green waste into as opposed to it being an afterthought. So I think to me that's the biggest opportunity is try to find those ways to make it convenient as possible for each individual in their own household.

I love it well convenience for me was just learning that all those big paper bags that we're getting are great liners for the type of bin and I have under my sink so convenience for me was making it easy to clean.

Good suggestion. Maria what do you think it's our big opportunity. It's all about convenience because it's a real pain in the rear end keeping going with a green bin 14 years on even though I was part of the original planning for the Toronto green bin in 2007. 14 years on it's still a drag you know recycling is easy and organics is hard and I think if you recognize that from day one in our household every year we think of something new so we have one container on top of the countertop for the backyard composter we have a separate container for tea bags because they're kind of wet and we like to kind of make them dry before they go into the green bin and then we have a bag in the fridge where all the food waste goes with the green bin so we've gotten to the maximum convenience. To the extent that we can and every so often we think of something different we could do but it just you have to recognize that the organics part of waste management is tough and you have to just keep working at making it easy easier so yeah that's my suggestion absolutely I mean the fridge reminds me in the you know in the summer I want my green bin in the freezer. I don't like those fruit flies care how do we manage those so yep convenience so shove it in the fridge other we do shove it in the freezer quite often too yeah whatever works you know whatever it takes but it's work I mean I think don't be telling people it's nothing it's an effort but there's an effort they should be making because it's good for the environment it sees land capacity and it reduces greenhouse gases and it gives you soil health like Susan was talking about.

So okay Susan one habit that could improve and make an impact on our green bin program. Well you know I, first of all anyone that's come to this session congratulations you care you obviously care and you're probably maxing out right now in terms of what you're doing but I think Nichole mentioned up front that there's more to be done and for me I hear the issue about inconvenience but I’m living organics recycling every day and I see all the benefits and I quite honestly I’m quite anxious about leaving our world a better place and composting I hate the word the industry uses this word yuck I find it joyful to know that there's a way to recycle organics and that's your choice right backyard green bin hopefully we can expand it to other parts that aren't doing it right now because it's so easy there's a home run of benefits so quite honestly I it pains me when I hear that it's it it's we have to buy religion right you have to buy it and on an Earth Day to understand that we have a legacy to leave and we need to create this marvelous vibrancy and let it continue. If there is a bit of inconvenience well what is that cost relative to your actions to make the world better and I for me I just I think it's a it's a it's just a such a it we're in 2021, bravo to the City of Ottawa for what they've done and but know that there's more to be done and so I don't buy into the inconvenience anymore because I found religion.

Well with that we'll turn it over to Mike he's got his mic unmuted so I suspect he has something he's got as a habit. Yeah I would say it's almost picking up from what Susan's saying would just be influence others. So you know we need to get we need to get the diversion up so whatever that looks like just being good example. Kindly mentioning it. COVID will eventually be over you know every 20 minutes at a cocktail party there's a lull and that's your opportunity to bring this up. Okay maybe a bad example but the idea of the party yeah um you get you get the idea just let's try and influence everybody else and keep pushing this forward that without the example of the multi-res building that's doing 80 of you know diversion that Nichole mentions a great example and things along that line let's work that all we can well and lots of comments throughout in the chat about not seeing neighbors doing it obviously working with young kids with family members and using those fears of influence to have these kinds of conversations.

So with that I'd like to thank all of the panelists both for their presentations and for all of the responses they've given in the q and a portion. I'd like to thank all of the participants for signing up committing your evening to us tonight celebrating Earth Day with us and talking about the important relationship between the green bin and climate change and we want to keep the conversation going and so there's a list of ways that you can connect with us on the green bin and solid waste side there's more information you can find on about the green bin. If you want to get engaged more broadly on the solid waste master plan which Nichole is working on and bringing an update to committee next month and if you want to can stay engaged in the ongoing development of that then sign up to their e-newsletter and check out their engage ottawa page you can find that information at or you can email them directly. So if we haven't answered your questions and you can't find it on a waste explorer or you're looking for other resources then email the solid waste team at They'll shepherd you in the right direction and then climate change more broadly I have to say that we've done probably a dozen presentations like this over the last few months and this is the first one that we've really honed in on a single topic and limited it to the green bin and organics or solid waste primarily and it's been a wonderful conversation because it was focused so over the coming months we intend to bring it down to a more specific thing instead of everything to do with climate change, everything with transportation, buildings, electricity, solid waste you know the list goes on so if you're interested in learning more about what we're doing, getting notified about upcoming public events or opportunities for public input please sign up to our re newsletter at and you can email us with other questions or visit our website to learn more about what we're doing. so on that we are at 8:30. I wish you a wonderful Earth Day and the rest of your evening and we hope to hear from you or see you again in other presentations like this in the future. Thanks a lot. Bye, bye, bye, thank you everyone

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