Recycling takes a new turn in Victoria

Kitchen waste composting program up and running in city

Avid recycler Diane Lade lays a piece of plastic wrap to dry after washing it in the kitchen of her home in Fernwood. Lade separates her recycling in baskets that she leaves in her kitchen cupboards.

Diane Lade opens the lower cupboards in her kitchen one-by-one, revealing a meticulous sorting station for plastics, cardboard, bottles and composting.

Although she’s been minimizing her landfill-destined garbage for more than 20 years, Lade applauds the City of Victoria for its new kitchen scraps program.

“I really think about how everything that comes out of our household goes somewhere,” said the Fernwood co-op resident. “The chemicals go down the drain … there’s so much plastic out there in the ocean. We’re just happy the city has created the program and we can put more stuff into the compost now.”

The program, which officially started Monday with dual waste pickups by city sanitation crews, is projected to divert about 1,500 tonnes of waste from the Hartland landfill each year.

And it goes beyond the raw vegetables, fruit and eggshells used in backyard composting.

Raw and cooked meat, fish, bones, bread, pizza – even soiled paper products such as napkins and paper towels – will be accepted in the new green bins now in place at more than 14,000 Victoria homes.

Ed Robertson, assistant director of public works, expects a few hiccups in the early weeks of the program, as crews familiarize themselves with new trucks, routes and schedules.

“You can plan this for years, but until you actually flip the switch, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

The city will also need to figure out how it’s going to separate food scraps from the hundreds of public street bins before the Capital Regional District begins penalizing haulers for such waste in January 2014.

“That’s a phase we haven’t talked about yet,” Robertson said.

The majority of businesses and apartment dwellers that rely on private haulers will need to comply with CRD guidelines as well.

“A year from now, if the garbage we pick up has food, we will be fined by the CRD and we’ll have to pass that on to our customers,” said Ann Chabert, manager with Waste Management.

The company’s single organic waste truck hauls to Foundation Organics and Vantreight Farms in Saanich, but increasing demand means more processing facilities will need to be found, she said.

ReFUSE owner Jason Adams has been providing organic waste pick-up to businesses such as the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Royal Roads University since 2002.

He isn’t worried about losing customers to the city’s kitchen scraps program, as ReFUSE provides added services such as bin cleaning and more frequent pick-up.

“That’s been pretty important for the success at the restaurants, where health and safety is a big thing,” he said.

Residents with green bins will be given a grace period to get it right, after which the city will begin issuing warnings if kitchen scraps are discovered in garbage bins.

View Royal already operates a full kitchen scraps program through a private company. Saanich, which ran a three-month pilot program last year, is moving toward full organics recycling, while Oak Bay continues to run a limited pilot program.

All Capital Region municipalities must implement a kitchen scraps recycling program by January 2015 to meet the CRD’s overall goal of diverting 70 per cent of waste from Hartland landfill.

City of Victoria workers will no longer return empty bins to backyards, but will continue to provide its “Helping Hand” service for people with mobility challenges. Call 250-361-0448 for more information.

For more details about the kitchen waste program, visit victoria.ca/greenbin.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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