It is estimated that half of all food produced worldwide, is wasted. When food waste is thrown in the garbage, it goes on to decompose in landfills, producing over 20 per cent of Canada’s methane gas emissions. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas partly responsible for climate change. Organic waste collection services have been put in place throughout many cities in the Lower Mainland. However, Metro Vancouver, which is responsible for all of the Lower Mainland’s garbage, reports many people are still throwing their leftover food in the garbage, unwilling to try the new system. Moreover, many restaurants and grocery stores, which throw hundreds of pounds of food waste in landfills weekly, have yet to obtain affordable private pick-up for their food scraps to contribute to landfill diversion. However, by 2015, all businesses and residents will be banned from throwing organic waste, including food scraps, in the garbage.
The City of Vancouver says that “if every resident living in a house and duplex in Vancouver recycled food scraps for a whole year, we’d remove 2,800 trucks worth of food scraps from the landfill.” Preliminary testing of the organic waste pick-up system concluded that organic waste collection services can reduce household garbage output by as much as 90 to 95 per cent. This reduction enabled cities to change their garbage collection schedule to two-week intervals, instead of one. Reducing the pick-up by half also reduces the environmental impact of service trucks, by half. In fact, organic waste collection has become so effective that Progressive Waste Solutions’ collection trucks, which service the City of Surrey, are run exclusively on compressed natural gas, a by-product of organic waste.
Metro Vancouver says that about “40% of all food waste comes from businesses and institutions. This amounts to over 100,000 tones every year.” Obtaining private pick-up, or an on-site composting machine, is quite reasonably priced for private institutions. The industrial sized compost machines cost 10 to 25 thousand dollars, and produce high quality soil that can be resold or used for onsite gardens.
Organic waste, once it is collected from the participating cities and businesses, is transported to the Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre Facility, located in Richmond, B.C. The organic waste, including the paper bags that contain it, are placed in a composting pile. It is then transformed into high-quality soil and mulch, which is then distributed throughout B.C.
Immense progress is happening throughout Metro Vancouver, changing the impact of our garbage. The City of Surrey is in the process of developing its own organics biofuel facility. The facility will convert organic waste into a renewable biomethane. Biomethane is a renewable, pipeline quality, natural gas, which can be used as a substitute for conventional automobile gasoline. The gas created at the facility will be used to fuel the existing waste collection fleet. Any excess gas will be piped directly into the FortisBC gas utility.
Again, by 2015, all businesses and residents will be banned from throwing organic waste, including food scraps, in the garbage. This ban includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, health care facilities, offices, and shopping malls. Some options available to business owners include on-site composting (advanced, mess-free systems are available), food donation, or private organic waste pick-up services. One benefit of complying before the mandatory deadline, could be avoiding inflated costs for businesses.
The next time you are at home cleaning up after a meal, try taking the extra step to open your kitchen sized compost bin, instead of your waste bin, and watch your garbage output decrease greatly. To find out more, visit Metro Vancouver’s website http://www.metrovancouver.org, or contact your local municipality. If you aren’t on board already, it’s time to hop on.