RDN proposing mandatory food waste diversion for commercial and multi-family collection

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 7 2017

The Regional District of Nanaimo is considering making it mandatory for commercial and multi-family dwellings to have separate food waste and recycling bins, to further divert waste from going into the RDN landfill.

Larry Gardner and Meghan Lawson with the RDN’s Solid Waste and Recycling Department have been hosting consultation meetings throughout the RDN Electoral Areas over the past month.

The October 11 meeting on Gabriola was sparsely attended with only five or six islanders. Gardner said those present “were very engaged. Which is consistent with the meetings we’ve had in other areas.

He said there is a sentiment from ratepayers that we (as a society) use a lot of resources.

“There’s a high level of consensus of consumerism.

“Consumerism, and the subsequent waste disposal, is something that will have negative consequences for society and humanity if our current practices continue.”

Gardner said people are proud of what the RDN has achieved in terms of diverting waste from the landfill, “but there is a sentiment we can do much better.”

The goal for diversion is 90 per cent. Currently, the RDN is diverting 68 per cent of waste from the landfill - thanks in large part to the food waste disposal program put in place by the RDN in 2011. 

Gardner said if the RDN made commercial food waste and recycling diversion mandatory, and put a new waste hauler licensing program in place, that would achieve another 10 per cent.

Commercial diversion is not required - but the RDN could make it mandatory that everyone has to have multiple bins: garbage, food and recycling.

Haarsma Waste Innovations Inc. is a company which services ten locations on Gabriola with commercial waste bins. Two of those locations are currently putting food waste through the Haarsma system.

Derek Haarsma, President of Haarsma Waste, said there is a food waste bin at the Gabriola Elementary School, and another client which brings its organic waste to the Haarsma yard in their own vehicle. Haarsma said to be able to safely transport the organics, the one client first freezes them before loading them up for transport.

He said he has tried to set up a food waste collection with his clients on Gabriola, but because the businesses weren’t forced to do it, there wasn’t a big uptake on the service. “If it were made mandatory, we’d do it, and send a truck over to Gabriola on a weekly basis.”

Commercial and multi-family collection is different logistically than for single-family dwellings. As homeowners can attest to, food waste is heavy, and has a certain “ooze” to it - which Haarsma said which must not be leaked onto the road or the ferry. Part of the RDN’s success with the food waste pickup was the purchase of split-trucks for residential pickup. Food waste goes in one side of the truck every week, and the recycling or garbage goes in the other side depending on what is in the rotation. At a commercial or multi-family level, the bins are much larger - sometimes weighing up to 300 pounds - and the trucks for collecting the waste are single chamber with seals to prevent leakage of the inevitable ooze.

Gardner said that at this point, he couldn’t say how much more it would cost the commercial and multi-family owners to have a mandatory bin system.

Bringing in a new licensing system for waste haulers is one way he sees that costs could be lowered for operators, and in turn lower cost for consumers. Gardener said haulers want to maximize profits, so incentives will be put in place so that haulers who divert waste out of the landfill will get a lower tipping fee at the landfill.

“We want the waste to flow to the industry before it comes to us [the RDN landfill]. If all we did is reduce the cost, they’d just bring us bigger loads of garbage.”

Those haulers who divert their waste to the food waste composters or recycling facilities will see a proposed $25 per tonne reduction in their tipping fee.

“If they are more profitable to divert than dispose, that might change the services they provide to their clients.

“It would be up to them to encourage the customer to sort it for them - help the customer to do a better job - lower cost to hire the guy; they still make more money.”