In 2015, Metro Vancouver will be banning all organics from the landfills. With the launch of this epic challenge being only a month away, I figured it’s time we chat about what it will mean. First off, although every municipality has a different food waste management system, this is a region-wide ban with region-wide restrictions and sanctions. The reasons for the ban include:
- To drastically reduce our methane gas production (a nasty greenhouse gas)
- To create much needed space in our overflowing landfills
- To produce quality compost and bioenergy from food scraps for the region
- To generate potential cost savings. This added bonus comes in the form of a decreased need for garbage pick-up services
The question on everyone’s mind is how will this be enforced?
Metro Vancouver has come up with a graduated program beginning January 1, 2015. The ban will begin with a six-month public engagement and education period. As of July 2015, if your waste is assessed at having greater than 25% food waste, you will receive a surcharge of 50% of your tipping fee. This 25% allowance will decrease over the following two years. The idea is to give lots of time for waste producers to set up organics programs. Given that the surcharge is based on organics volume, it makes sense that the commercial sector, particularly large waste producers, will need to be the most proactive in preparing for the ban.
Organics Disposal Ban Phased Implementation Timeline
So how can you prepare for the organics ban? Well it really depends on who’s asking.
For single-family home residents (i.e. you live in a house with curbside waste pick-up):
Make use of the Green Can program available to you. This program allows you to add food scraps (raw, cooked, meat and bones) and soiled paper products (including soiled napkins and pizza boxes) to your yard trimmings bin. Green Can is meant to supplement any personal composting that you are already doing – if you put your egg shells, tea bags, and raw veggies in your backyard, please keep doing so! Note, your Green Can is now being picked up every week, while your garbage is on a two week schedule.
For multi-family building residents (i.e. you live in a building with greater than 4 units):
Talk to your property or strata manager about getting an organics programs set up (for tips check out this link). To get you started, North Shore Recycling offers a free site visit program, which includes customized guidance and a presentation for your building. Sign up online!
I realize that having to set up your own program isn’t ideal, but the problem is that in North Van the apartment building pick-up is done privately, making it difficult to set up a cohesive program. That said, there is a pilot program currently running to see how feasible a citywide program would be. The hope is to establish a contract-based organics service like the one that exists for recycling. This idea is being taken to council in the new-year, though I don’t know the exact recommendations that are being made at this time.
For business owners:
Set up an organics pick-up program for your business. This will require some behavior change on the part of employees, as well as strategically placing organics bins in areas that they are likely to be used. Luckily, Metro Vancouver does offer support for businesses wanting to make the change, and you can always contact North Shore Recycling for advice. You can contact the Recycling Council of BC Hotline at 604-REC-YCLE in order to learn more about available haulers. The North Shore Table Matters Network is also providing workshops for businesses, and there is a lot of work being put in to scaling up the ability for the commercial sector to donate their edible food waste to recovery programs.
If you have any further questions about the upcoming ban, make sure to contact Metro Vancouver or the North Shore Recycling Program. There’s a wealth of information on both websites, and the staff are always willing to help out.
Melanie is a vibrant North Shore local raised on a mountainside playground. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a passion for justice, she dashes between jobs tackling sustainability and poverty reduction issues. She has written for several local e-zines, predominantly focusing on arts and cultural activities in Vancouver. Also, she enjoys caffeine and yoga.
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