The association of rat prevalence and composting in Thunder Bay’s urban neighbourhoods
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Landfilling is the most common municipal solid and urban organic waste disposal method in North America and comes with numerous negative environmental side effects. Encouraging greater participation in community composting could help to minimize or mitigate these effects while also improving social and economic conditions within communities. However, there is still relatively low participation in the practice and apprehension of urban pests may be a significant contributing factor. In Thunder Bay, ON, the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) is a common pest that may be contributing to the community’s hesitancy to embrace household composting as an alternative waste management strategy. To determine if composting is associated with rat presence and if apprehension of rats is a significant deterrent to household composting within the city, residents of Thunder Bay’s urban neighbourhoods were asked to participate in a survey examining their waste disposal habits and subsequent experience with rats. The survey found that there was no relationship between composting frequency and rat abundance. A significant number of non-composting residents associated their decision not to compost with the fear of attracting rats to their property. Despite these fears, participants that were not composting more frequently experienced rats on or around their property than those who were composting. Other contributing factors to the relatively low numbers of urbanites composting were a lack of education on how to compost properly and a lack of accessibility to composting services for those with too little time or little desire to compost out of their own homes.
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