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Waste cherries put to good use

They’ve become key ingredient for composting experiment at Kelowna landfill.

By Judie Steeves R

ich, black topsoil that would make a farmer’s heart leap with joy, is piled in long, high heaps of varying degrees of dark colour at Kelowna’s landfill, where ground-up domestic yard waste — and crushed waste cherries — are turned regularly and heat up as they rot, converting the individual components into one enormous mass of healthy soil conditioner.

This is the fourth year of an experiment to turn waste cherries into good compost and in the process, prevent continued ideal habitat and an over-wintering site for such insect pests as Spotted Wing Drosophila, the newly-arrived vinegar fly that can devastate a crop of soft fruit if not controlled.

Gordon Light is Organics Supervisor for the City of Kelowna and looks out over the composting area at the Glenmore Landfill from his office. From this distance, what appear to be little toy pieces of heavy equipment are moving the dark compost around to ensure all piles reach interior temperatures that comply with the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. That requires windrows be turned at least five times at a temperature of not less than 55 C, maintained for at least 15 days, to ensure all material is exposed to safely high temperatures. Once treatment is complete the yard and cherry waste compost is sold bulk or in bags as a soil amendment called GlenGrow. No biosolids are used in its creation.

Growers interested in bulk purchases for use in replanting orchards or vineyards can request nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium analyses and arrange to pick up whatever amounts are required. For contact information for enquiries, rates and other details go to the city’s website at:


Gordon Light is in charge of the composting operation at the Glenmore landfill in Kelowna.

Light explains they were first asked to compost cherries to control SWD in 2013 and handled 63 tonnes that first part year. That rose to 368 tonnes the next year, then 305 tonnes last year. Those first years, during the pilot project, the cherries were handled separately from yard waste, but this year, Light says, they’ll be combined. This might alleviate some of the issues that made handling them separately difficult, such as the high liquid content of the fruit.

The yard waste compost by itself has a tendency to be too dry, so it’s expected to be a good fit. Currently, they process 30,000 tonnes of yard waste a year, using a $750,000 machine and at a cost of $9,000 a month for operation of the equipment.

Very little is charged for accepting the fruit, at $16 a tonne, but that could

change. The compost is not deemed mature until it’s been handled for several months to achieve all the requirements of organic handling regulations. It’s then screened to a half-inch and sold as GlenGrow after being tested for metals and pathogens. There are

problems with including cherries in the mix, but some of those can be alleviated by growers being more conscientious about the quality of waste product they deliver, and how they deliver it. For instance, some growers brought fruit that was dripping from the trailer or truck all over the roads. The entryway had to be washed down

with a fire hose afterwards. There are municipal fines for not sealing a load that can leak all over the roads, he noted.

Another difficulty was

contamination of the cherry waste with the plastic liner from the bins, and with other plastics, glass, wood and metal. Glass especially is a serious problem in the finished compost product.

Light is confident composting cherry waste is possible, but admits he’s concerned there might be a year when thousands of tonnes of fruit arrive at the gates. He says they’re not ready to deal with such quantities.

Two years ago, the Regional District of the South Okanagan also composted cherry waste, but Solid Waste Facilities Supervisor Don Hamilton says they didn’t handle any last year.

They also sold the resulting compost, British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016

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