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City's food scrap pick-up and composting program to begin on Earth Day

City of Vancouver landfill in Delta, B.C.

 “Last year I bought a composter from the City, and set it up in the back corner of the yard,” Chris, a Kitsilano resident, who asked that his last name not be used for this article, reported.  “A couple weeks later, the landlord came by and told me I had one week to get rid of it.” The landlord said he feared the compost would attract rats.

A new city program is going to make it easy for Chris to have his way in the backyard.  In an ongoing strategy to reduce the massive amount of garbage Vancouverites throw "away" every day, the City has added food scraps to the list  of compostable materials qualifying for municipal garbage pickup.

“I'm excited about the curbside composting program – can't wait for it to get under way,” Chris told the Vancouver Observer, “And my landlord can't stop it.”

The plan, approved by City Council on March 4, 2010, will begin on Earth day on April 22. The first phase of the program, according to the City of Vancouver's website, will include the collection of coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetables, fruits, and filters. The next phase, which will begin in early 2011, will expand to the collection of dairy, meat, bread, fish and cereal.

Table scraps will be collected with yard waste bi-weekly during the first phase. Once the project moves into its second phases there will be weekly pickups to take care of one of the problems Chris's landlord feared and avoid bad smells.

In trying to work out the best strategy for food scrap collection, Vancouver city staff looked to Port Moody’s composting program as a model. Beginning in January, the city employees  examined household garbage cans and food waste bins of volunteers in Port Moody. 

Port Moody introduced its program for disposal and composting food waste   at the end of last year. The Port Moody program includes curbside pickup of  vegetables, fruits, meats, bones, pasta and dairy.

Food waste, according to the City of Vancouver's website, makes up an estimated 35 percent of household garbage. Up until now, the dregs of Vancouverite's meals have been trucked to the city's landfill in Delta.

“I think ultimately, if we're simply removing another form of waste, then great, we've organized our waste,” said Vancouver resident Jason Morden, “But we've really done little else. Taking it away and transporting it to some place out of sight and out of mind will do little to appease the rate of waste we produce.”

The City of Vancouver has ben picking up  yard-waste for some time and transporting it to the landfill where it is recycled into quality compost, which can be purchased from the landfill for $20 a tonne.

Currently, most local municipalities will only pick up grass clippings, leaves, tree branches, weeds and plants curbside with the exception of Port Moody, and the Township of Langley. Langley was the first Metro Vancouver township to create a food waste composting program.

According to Robert Costanzo, Deputy Operations Manager for Surrey’s engineering department, Surrey will soon be piloting a food waste collection program as well.

“Our goal is to implement a full city-wide program with weekly household collection commencing July 1st, 2012,” Costanzo said. He noted that the city of Surrey doesn’t currently have pick-up or drop-off locations for food waste.

“We haven’t had any demand for food waste drop off facilities from the public,” Costanzo said who expects demands to change after a regional and citywide ramp-up on food waste.

“The ultimate goal is to divert food waste from landfill in an effort to increase waste diversion (regionally) from the current diversion rate of 55% to 70% by the year 2015,” Costanzo said.

According to Costanzo, region-wide participation with food waste composting programs will be one of the major components of making this goal possible.

Gary Lee has been composting for years in his backyard and he has never experienced problem with pests or smells.

"I used to keep all my lawn mowings in plastic bags stored aside. Then as my organic food scraps accumlate in another plastic bag I begin mixing the other bag's contents in layers -gradually and mixing thoroughly with the grass cuttings,coffee grounds, leaves, egg shells, etc and let... See More it rest in the bags for a while. After a period the 'mixed' bags are disgorged onto my compost pile in the yard and thoroughly mixed with a pitch firk - no odor no pests."  

Georgina, who also asked that her last name not be used for privacy issues, explained that in Port Coquitlam, where she lives, regular recycling and composting  has led to a diminishing need for "garbage" pick up, perhaps a redefinition of garbage itself. "Each home receives three extra-large garbage bins with for each of the following categories... Waste/Recycling AND COMPOST. In turn we (Georgina's family) have found that garbage needs to be picked up only once every 3 weeks and RECYCLING needs to be picked up more."

She went on to say, "I hope this town serves as inspiration for the greater mass. I've been so happy with the garbage paradigm shift that I was so excited to tell you because your researching and writng about it can really make a difference for other communties."

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