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City of Vancouver celebrates Earth Day with launch of residential food scraps collection

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"I'm speaking on behalf of the community," Spiegelman said. "I've been a community activist with an interest in waste issues for a lot of years and this is one of the happiest days of my life.  We're going to deliver the program for the city."

"The context for all of this is visible in this freaky weather.  The big overarching problem on the planet is the climate.  This is the quickest, easiest, funnest way to deal with climate change.  We're talking about every scrap in our food we put in our garbage puts a little bit of evil smelling, potent gas into the atmosphere.  Every scrap we put into composting slows down climate change a little bit.  This is why we see this as the quickest way to reduce waste and slow climate change."

Educating Children about Sustainability

Johnston then introduced Kevin Millsip, Vancouver School Board (VSB) Sustainability Coordinator, saying,  "...this all starts at school, with our kids."

"It's incumbent upon us to put the systems in place to enable people to do what they want to do to be environmental champions," Millsip said. "At schools there's incredible interest in making connections between what we grow and what we eat, in making gardens and (in thinking about) the impact of that on the planet.  One of the things we're talking about at the VSB is re-framing how we think about waste. 

"As we tackle climate change, we have to get rid of the concept that there's an 'away.'  Whatever I throw away goes into someone else's backyard.  We have to re-educate ourselves that we can't operate that way anymore.  There's a lot of pressure coming from students to do something about sustainability."

Millsip pointed to VSB's current programs as examples of what can be done to bridge environmental efforts at home and at school: a districtwide sustainability program, three composters in schools and gardens.

"This reinforces the message that what we can do at home, we can do at school and there isn't a separation between how we think of the environment.  That it's part of a continuum.  This is an amazing opportunity to shift our thinking in terms of what's possible around sustainability.  To think about how we take our environmental challenges and re-frame them as opportunities," Millsip said.

Kevin Millsip, VSB Sustainability Coordinator

Andrea Carlson, executive chef, Bishops Restaurant, spoke about the significance of the program...

Then, along with Robertson...

...she gave a demonstration of what food waste belonged to this phase of the program. 

Only these food items will be collected for now. You may put in with your yard trimmings cart:

  • uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps
  • coffee grounds and filters
  • teabags
  • eggshells

A second phase of food scraps collection will be introduced in 2011 where all food scraps (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, bread, cereal products and food-soiled paper) will be allowed.

Carlson and the mayor carried examples of the phase one food scraps to a bin...

...and dumped them out...

It may have been the most photographed waste dump in Vancouver history.

And, as city officials lauded the new composting program, a sign announced the presence of the vegetable garden that was established last year.

More from Mayor Robertson's speech:

"Almost 35 percent of garbage from single family residents can be made up of food scraps," Robertson said. "There's a clear environmental win that can happen at a household level.  This is a really clear way that people in their homes and in their daily lives can make a difference in the green agenda.  Also, the city saves money with this program.  We divert garbage from our landfill and are able to use that for our soil.  Our taxpayers benefit because we get an extra service here, without additional utility fees.  Backyard composting is the number one choice in terms of energy use and the city is amping up support for that backyard composting program.  Some people will prefer to put their waste in the bin that is now for yard trimmings.  Starting tomorrow is just the beginning of this program..."

City of Vancouver website contains extensive information about how to participate and what to do. And here's how to get started.

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