Room to grow with recycling kitchen waste

When helping the environment through recycling, it usually comes down to good habits by individuals willing to do their part.

Barry Thompson

Barry Thompson

When helping the environment through recycling, it usually comes down to good habits by individuals willing to do their part.

Recycling programs through the City of Nanaimo, Regional District of Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange and other private businesses have seen thousands of tonnes of waste diverted from the Cedar landfill.

One of the more successful initiatives is food waste recycling through the city’s and RDN’s green bin residential programs and the commercial food waste ban at the landfill.

A ban on residential food waste at the landfill is something the RDN is looking at down the road, but there is still work to be done before that can take place.

Sharon Horsburgh, RDN senior zero-waste coordinator, says the reason for targeting food waste is three-fold.

“We’re saving landfill space, reducing greenhouse gases and by removing organics from the waste stream you can produce compost that can be used to create healthy soils,” she said. “It really is coming full circle and you can close that loop by being pro-active.”

The green bin partnership between Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum and the RDN began in 2010 and private haulers have been collecting commercial and institutional food waste since 2005.

But while those efforts have been successful, multi-family units including condominiums, townhouses and apartments have yet to come fully on stream.

“Many of the townhomes are able to replicate the service levels of single-family homeowners, whereas highrises like condos and apartments present a different set of challenges,” said Horsburgh. “Those types of units are generally serviced by private haulers and it’s not something we would get into.”

If a multi-family complex is interested in food waste collection, Horsburgh suggests the strata council get in touch with its hauler that already handles garbage and recycling service.

BFI Canada collects food waste in the regional district and Neil Sadauskas,  operations manager, says they are starting to see more interest from multi-family units.

“It is a bit of a tough sell given the fact it’s not mandatory, but people are a lot more environmentally conscious now than they were even five or 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting used to it. Just the same as we all got used to recycling.”

Glen Tulloch, District operations manager for Waste Management – Nanaimo, says food waste collection at multi-family units is going to be the way of the future.

“We have some small complexes onboard and it’s not a difficult process, though there is more to set up with stratas,” he said. “What we’ve said is just get it in place and people will use it.”

But Debbie Fraess, a Nanaimo representative with the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, said she has not heard of a great deal of interest for multi-family kitchen waste recycling in Nanaimo and across the Island.

The topic came up at her Millstone Creek condominium in Nanaimo last year and it was voted down, though she admits she is a fence sitter when it comes to the idea.

“My husband and son work for disposal companies and my son does food waste hauling for restaurants and he says it’s the only way to go,” she said. “But we have a lot of retired people or couples whose families have grown and they don’t have a lot of waste because they recycle and they have a garberator. Why would they put more money out when they literally generate one bag of garbage?”

Fraess said other issues include extra space for a food waste container and traffic congestion.

Sadauskas said most companies use 246-litre totes that can be wheeled out on collection day and don’t take up an extra parking space.

Horsburgh said the RDN is available, if invited to help, to provide strata complexes with information on how to deal with issues.

“They’re not insurmountable and through education, you can put systems into place. It’s all about habits,” she said. “People embraced the green bin program from the get-go because we spent a lot of time educating people on how to incorporate separation into their daily routines.”

She said multi-family lifestyle is one reason the RDN does not have residential food waste ban at the landfill.

“Multi-family units don’t have the one-can garbage limit like single-family homes and that doesn’t provide enough incentive for extra recycling,” said Horsburgh. “But there’s this level of expectation that recycling is mainstream and we’re seeing that level evolve with food waste.

“When more people have access to that service level, then we will look at the merits of banning residential food waste from the landfill. But I have to stress we’re not there yet.”