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‘Time to start recycling food waste,’ say advocates

P 7 curbside food waste

A colourful pile of organic waste at Salish Soils, prior to the composting process. This material came from a grocery store, but Salish is hoping Sechelt will begin curbside collection of organic waste. Photo submitted

Representatives of Salish Soils and Net Zero Waste appeared as a delegation before Sechelt Council on Feb. 1 with a simple message: It’s time to start recycling food waste in Sechelt. A pilot project in Davis Bay, which wrapped up in 2015, was popular with residents and demonstrated that a larger program is feasible, according to proponents.

“We’re coming before you because we have a facility, you don’t have to wait for someone to build it for you,” said Mateo Ocejo, founder of Net Zero Waste Inc., which operates five BC composting facilities. Net Zero Waste partnered with Salish Soils to build the composting facility in Sechelt, which Ocejo described as “underutilized.”

“We spent in excess of $3.5 million to build the facility here. Most communities aren’t lucky enough to have this type of facility,” said Ocejo.

According to Aaron Joe of Salish Soils, 47 per cent of garbage that’s currently going into the landfill is compostable. Diverting this material to composting would save the District money in tipping fees, while creating local jobs and providing soil for farmers and gardeners.

Ocejo conducted a study for Powell River Regional District (PRRD) in 2012 which compared the costs of recycling food waste locally or exporting it to Metro Vancouver. Although exporting was slightly cheaper, the PRRD has decided that spin-off benefits of keeping organics on the coast made the program worthwhile.

“We’ve actually started accepting organic waste from PRRD at Salish Soils recently,” said Ocejo, noting that Gibsons is also looking at an organic diversion program.

“It would be really ironic if Sechelt wasn’t doing it, and Gibsons and Powell River were at a facility in Sechelt,” he said.

Councillor Doug Wright raised the issue of odour, which has been the subject of citizen complaints.

“That’s the number one issue for compost facilities,” agreed Ocejo, who blamed fish waste for the problem.  “When we receive the fish, until we can put it under the jacket there’s a period you can smell the fish,” he said. “Food and garden waste is better.”

Sechelt Council did not take any action as they have not yet received a staff report on the Davis Bay pilot project.

Gibsons Council, meanwhile, received a staff report Feb. 7 recommending that the Town prepare a Request for Proposal for an organics diversion program.

Gibsons sends about 575 tonnes of garbage to the landfill each year (252 kg per household), of which 42 per cent is foods scraps and kitchen waste. A Resource Recovery report prepared for the Town in 2015 estimated that an organics diversion program could save $15,000 to $29,000 per year in tipping fees, depending on the uptake by residents.

Although there would be start-up costs such as providing bins for households, the report said that the program should pay for itself within five years. And even larger savings (close to $100,000 per year) could be realized by collecting garbage only every other week.

Gibsons Council also received a staff report recommending they award their curbside garbage collection contract to Grayco Ventures, which was the hauler for the pilot organics program in Davis Bay. Grayco’s bid came in substantially lower than that of Direct Disposal, which has the current contract. The new contract starts March 1.

Donna McMahon

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