Burnaby Board of Trade Pledge
Burnaby Board of Trade Pledge

Q and A on Metro Vancouver’s Organics Disposal Ban



The way we manage our  waste in changing. Together we are keeping food  out  of the  garbage. In 2015,  Metro Vancouver will introduce an organics disposal ban  to support this change. These  are some of the  more common questions businesses in the  region have  asked.

1. What does this mean?

It means we will no longer throw food  in the garbage. The ban is on disposal of the ‘organic’ waste.  In this case ‘organic’ refers to things  that can decay  into compost, specifically food  and yard waste.

Metro  Vancouver, the regional government, manages all of the garbage produced from 2.3 million residents and businesses in the region (geographic range from Lion’s Bay to Langley, in South  Western British Columbia).  Some businesses have been choosing to recycle their food  waste for many years. Putting  a disposal ban in place  is a tool to encourage further reducing and recycling the food  we waste

2. Who is impacted?

The organics disposal ban applies to all waste  generated in this region, whether that waste  is residential, commercial, or institutional. Everyone  needs to be separating food  from regular  garbage at home, work, school  and public places.

3. Are we the first place to do this?

No, while our region is seen as a leader in waste management for having a firm commitment to recycling more  of our garbage, we are not the first to put a disposal ban on organics. San Francisco,  Halifax, Nanaimo, Portland, Massachusetts as examples. The upcoming organics ban is the latest  change in the way we manage our waste,  and like blue  box recycling or cardboard-only bins, this practice will seem more  normal  over time.

4. What‘s wrong with  putting food in the garbage?

In our region, about 20% of the garbage going to landfill or waste-to-energy is food; that’s over 250,000 tonnes per year, and is similar to  global  numbers. When we throw away food  all the nutrients, soil, water, money  and energy that went into food  production is lost.  Further,  food decaying under the landfill, where  there is little oxygen, produces methane, a powerful  greenhouse gas that contributes to global  warming.  In the right conditions, food that is separated from the garbage for proper processing can decay  cleanly into compost or biofuel.  So instead of wasting  nutrients and producing greenhouse gasses, we can capture nutrients and produce soil to grow more  food in or a biofuel  to replace using fossil fuels.

5. What are examples of the types of food that are considered banned?

Food  is thrown away all along  the production line, from growing to processing, to retailing  and into restaurants and homes. Restaurant and retail businesses might  think of pre- consumer (in the kitchen before cooking)  and post-consumer (plate scrapings and leftovers) foods.  The disposal ban also includes packaged and frozen food, bakery, delis and cafes – any food  you can think of.

6. How will my business separate food from regular garbage?

You’re not creating more  garbage, but separating the same garbage into different containers. You need to assess how you currently manage your garbage; including ordering, storage, kitchen preparation, staff rooms,  bins and contracts. Metro  Vancouver has a guide to getting started for restaurants. Visit metrovancouver.org and search

‘Closing the Loop’. City websites have tips for residents, including apartments.

7. Is this going to cost me more  money?

For many businesses, separating food  from regular garbage significantly reduces the volume and service required for regular  garbage. It also prompts us all to recognize and reduce waste.  Some  businesses already separating food  from regular  garbage find it cost-neutral, while others see  slight decrease or increase in costs, depending on their bin sizes and hauling  service contracts. In 2014 Metro  Vancouver is working with small businesses to record and share  examples and costs  to separating food from regular  garbage. Results will be shared by end  of 2014.

8. Do I have to commit space and provide different access  to store  or haul away a separate bin for food?

You will need space for the food  bin(s). Your garbage hauler  may have solutions. You may be able  to share  a food bin with a neighbouring business or start to use smaller garbage bins.

9. Are there companies that provide services like hauling food to a compost facility, that can help me get started, or de-package food if required?

As more  businesses start separating waste,  more  services are becoming available. The Recycling Council of BC Hotline at 604-REC-YCLE (604-732-9253) maintains a current list of service providers. Many hauling  businesses that collect your regular  garbage can also collect food  waste. Other businesses only collect recycling.

10. Can I line  the collection bins with  plastic bags?

Nuisances like odour need to be managed in order to keep them  from becoming a problem. Bins can be cleaned on the spot, or switched for cleaned bins at collection.

The facilities in our region make high-quality compost, and end  users of that compost don’t want product with plastics in it. Often  plastic-looking bags labelled ‘compostable’,

‘biodegradable’ or similar often  require very specific conditions to work.  Also, it is difficult for employees to identify the bag  type  in large  mixed waste  piles. For these reasons plastic bag  liners are generally not accepted. There  are some exceptions for commercial waste,  which is high volume compared to residential waste.  You need to clarify your options with your landlord or service provider. For home collection use a newsprint to line your bins, or tip and rinse regularly. In addition to plastic, examples of other contaminants to avoid are labels,  wrapping, elastics,  meat trays, plastic cutlery, and aluminum  foil.

11. How will the ban be enforced and will there be fines once the disposal ban is in place?

Metro  Vancouver has disposal bans  on many other recyclable items like cardboard, paper and hard plastics. Enforcement is done when garbage loads  are delivered to a disposal facility. There  are fines associated with all disposal bans.  Our priority is to keep food  out of the landfill, not to develop an extensive fining process.

12. When does this start?

The organics disposal ban will come into effect in 2015. Initial enforcement will include  warnings  and information, and after a grace period surcharges will apply. Many households and businesses are separating food  waste  from regular  garbage already.


Need more  information? Visit Metro Vancouver.org and search  ‘Organic Disposal Ban’


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