BioCycle October 2011, Vol. 52, No. 10, p. 32
New solid waste plan sets diversion goals of 70 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020, with food scraps collection as the golden ticket.
METRO Vancouver (Metro) is a regional government in British Columbia made up of 22 municipalities (including the city of Vancouver), and is responsible for managing the solid waste produced by 2.3 million residents and businesses. With several new source separated organics (SSO) programs being initiated, and a variety of legislative and economic tools, Metro hopes to meet the goal of 70 percent diversion (from landfills and waste-to-energy facilities) by 2015. Once fully developed, these SSO programs will help Metro push diversion up to 80 percent by 2020.
“We are at about 57 percent diversion right now,” says Andrew Marr, Senior Engineer of Metro Vancouver’s Solid Waste Department. “If you look at the numbers, this means we need to capture an additional 292,000 tons per year of organics, delivering it to composting and/or biofuel facilities instead of landfills. This 292,000 tons is a little more than half of the organics that we estimate are still being disposed of annually, and is our initial target.” A breakdown of these organic waste tonnages is in Table 1.
Half of the targeted organics are estimated to be commercial food waste; another 88,000 tons are from single family residences, and 66,000 tons from multifamily residences (Figure 1). “Virtually all single family residences already had yard trimmings collection, so it was straightforward to start there,” explains Marr. “We could simply cocollect food scraps and yard trimmings, without a large increase in infrastructure – it didn’t require many new carts or trucks, mostly just education.” Ten out of the 22 municipalities already collect some types of food scraps from single-family homes, reaching 56 percent (805,000) of the total single-family residences in the region.
Port Coquitlam was the first to collect all food scraps, including meats, whereas some other municipalities, like the city of Vancouver, are phasing in collection by allowing just fruits and vegetables initially. The city of Vancouver is running an expanded food scraps recycling pilot for approximately 2,000 households, allowing all food scraps to be recycled through weekly curbside collection. The pilot will help the city determine how best to roll out the expanded program citywide sometime in the future (see sidebar).
In Metro Vancouver, municipalities and their contractors provide single-family residences garbage collection, whereas the private sector typically operates multifamily residences and commercial waste collection. To divert organic waste from those sectors, therefore, Metro is introducing regulatory and economic incentives. “We expect to put a landfill ban on single family organics at the end of 2012,” says Marr. “This will include food scraps, soiled papers and yard trimmings. We plan to introduce a ban on commercial and multifamily organics in phases, so that it’s in full effect by 2015.” The reason for a phased ban on commercial and multifamily organics is that the infrastructure is not fully developed, both for collection and processing, and will need more time to be implemented.
Two composting facilities in Metro are accepting food waste; several organics processing facilities are in various stages of permitting and construction, including two anaerobic digesters. “The groundwork has been laid, but we have a lot of inertia to overcome,” notes Marr. “There’s a hesitancy in the private sector to invest until they know feedstock is coming, so it has been a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. We hope the bans on organics will encourage investment, since they provide a guaranteed date when feedstocks will be widely available.”
ENFORCING DISPOSAL BANS
Metro already has landfill bans on corrugated cardboard, recyclable paper, green waste, containers made of glass, metal or banned recyclable plastic (1, 2, 4, & 5), and beverage containers (excepting milk cartons). Metro does not simply refuse loads containing those banned materials, fearing that the waste will just be hauled to a different region, or to the U.S. Instead, the bans are set up as a surcharge. “For instance, we already have bans on corrugated cardboard and mixed paper, so if your load has more than 5 percent by volume of banned materials, you are hit with a 50 percent surcharge on top of the tipping fee,” says Marr. “This is done by random inspection. When it comes to organics banned from MSW, loads from single-family homes should be identified quickly because they are on separate trucks.”
It will be slightly more complicated for commercial organics and the details have yet to be worked out. The proposal is to either phase in the surcharge (starting it low and raising it to 50 percent), or phase out the tolerance to organics (starting it at 50 percent tolerance and reducing it to the standard 5 percent). “What is appealing about the second method is that you don’t penalize everybody at once,” explains Marr. “If the tolerance for organics is initially set at 50 percent, only loads from supermarkets, food processors, etc. would be hit with a surcharge, essentially giving the hauling industry encouragement to work with the worst offenders first, and then work with smaller generators later.”
Metro has identified another limitation to commercial waste diversion: space. For both recyclables and organics, there is limited space in most multifamily and commercial buildings for collection containers, and it’s often difficult to retrofit. To overcome this, Metro is working on a template bylaw for municipalities that would require minimum space requirements and specifications for collection containers at multifamily and commercial buildings. This would apply to new construction as well as major renovations.
But economics will ultimately be the largest driver. Landfill tipping fees in Metro are currently $88/ton, but in 2012 they are expected to increase to $99/ton. Regional tipping fees at composting facilities are about 50 percent less, although Marr notes that hauling distance can impact the economics (since there are only two composting facilities taking food waste presently, both located southwest of the region near the city of Vancouver). Still, with the surcharge, haulers bringing banned organics to the landfill next year will be charged $148/ton, so their economic incentive will be significant.
Three organics processing facilities are in development in the eastern side of the region, which will shorten hauling distances. Two are private composting facilities, and the municipality of Surrey (the second largest city in the region) wants to build an AD facility and use the biomethane to fuel its fleet of garbage trucks. Harvest Power, which owns the Fraser Richmond composting facility in the southwestern part of the region, has begun construction on its AD facility, which will likely process organics from Richmond, the city of Vancouver, and surrounding municipalities. “Anaerobic digestion of food scraps and other biofuel technologies have been just short of being economically viable for awhile, but we are on the cusp of it becoming truly affordable, with the price of disposal and cost of energy going up,” says Marr. “That is a promising sign.”
Rhodes Yepsen is an environmental writer and organics recycling consultant; email@example.com.
Vancouver Pilot Collects All Food Scraps
BioCycle Web Extra:
Greenest City Draft Action Plan Introductory Video
IN April 2010 the city of Vancouver began allowing raw fruit and vegetables in its green yard trimmings cart program, with biweekly curbside collection offered to 100,000 single-family customers. Vancouver’s recently released Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (July 2011) mirrors Metro Vancouver’s diversion goal of 80 percent by 2020, with an end goal of zero waste. The plan includes other important targets, like eliminating dependence on fossil fuels, leading the world in green building design and construction, making walking, cycling and public transit the preferred transportation options; etc.
Starting in September 2011, the city introduced an expanded food scraps recycling pilot for approximately 2,000 households, encouraging participants to recycle all food scraps, including raw and cooked fruits and vegetables; teabags and coffee grounds; meat, fish, and bones; pasta, grains, and bread; dairy products; and food-soiled paper such as used pizza boxes, paper towels and napkins. The six-month pilot will help the city determine how best to roll out the expanded program citywide sometime in the future.
Pilot households are in two neighborhoods, Riley Park and Sunset, and divided into a total of four quadrants in order to test different variables. These include education, communications and community-based social marketing (CBSM) tools to assist pilot participants in making behavior changes, drive proper participation, and determine the most effective communication approaches.
“For example, only half of the pilot participants (two quadrants) will be given kitchen containers,” explains Bob McLennan, a Collections Engineer with the city of Vancouver. “One quadrant will just have a kitchen container delivered to the home along with program materials, while another will have the container delivered to the door by a trained volunteer who will provide program information, and address questions and concerns. Of the quadrants not receiving a kitchen container, one will serve as the control, receiving only program information in the mail, whereas the other quadrant will receive program information at the door by a trained volunteer. Some households will receive compostable paper bags, whereas others will not.”
During the pilot, collection frequency for organics and garbage will be switched, with organics increased to weekly collection and garbage decreased to every other week collection. The city has a pay-as-you-throw pricing structure, with five sizes of garbage carts and four sizes of organics carts. Fraser Richmond will compost the organics.
October 19, 2011 | General
Metro Vancouver Zeros In On Food Scraps Collection
BioCycle October 2011, Vol. 52, No. 10, p. 32