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’