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Johanne LabelleProfile: Johanne Labelle

Using horsepower to transform paper waste

Being an effective public servant is about finding creative and innovative solutions to help Canada and Canadians. Johanne Labelle, a senior advisor for strategic infrastructure at the Canada Public Service Agency, put her mind to the issue of reducing waste and developed a novel way to reuse pulverized paper.

Every year, the four government departments housed at Ottawa’s L’Esplanade Laurier—the Canada Public Service Agency, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Department of Finance Canada and the Public Service Commission—shred around 100 tonnes of classified documents. With fibres too small to be recycled, the paper waste is usually pulverized, placed in plastic bags and sent to landfills, where it becomes sludge that takes years to decompose.

A galloping success

”Hopefully, my efforts
have sparked something
much bigger.”

Johanne was sure the pulverized paper could be put to better use. How? As bedding for horses.

She approached her daughter’s riding academy as well as the RCMP’s popular Musical Ride, and invited them to take part in a pilot project with the four departments. Under the program, each department would send a portion of its shredded and pulverized paper waste to the two riding stables, where it would be used as horse bedding.

The project was a galloping success. Using pulverized paper as bedding actually helped to improve the horses’ health. Straw—the traditional material used for bedding—can pose health risks for some horses. It’s usually soaked in water before being laid in stalls, and therefore produces and holds high levels of humidity, which can be a factor in premature arthritis. Straw can also cause asthma in horses because of dust residue.

As well, it turns out that once the pulverized paper mixes with manure and urine, it forms a nutrient-rich compost. Introducing the non-agricultural pulverized paper helps to eliminate odour problems and to generate revenue as a soil fertilizer.

Passing with flying colours

“We are still doing extensive research on this project, but so far we have passed through each phase with flying colours,” says Johanne. “Our major goal is to stop this paper from going to landfills completely.”

Johanne’s inspiring efforts show that one person can make a difference. Her paper waste project offers measurable benefits to the environment and to farmers. She has set an example for others in the Public Service to follow.

“Initiating this project has been a very gratifying experience,” says Johanne. “It has been rewarding to know not only that less waste is going to landfills, but also that the pulverized paper could have a positive impact on the health of horses. Hopefully, my efforts have sparked something much bigger.”

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