Composting in The City of Vancouver

Pretty much everyone I talk to thinks that composting is great. Just the fact that you are reading this blog probably means that you also think composting is great. I mean, at 35% (by weight) of our waste, why the heck wouldn’t you want to compost?

But the truth is that some people need a little extra help. They don’t have the space for a backyard compost,  or they need somewhere to compost meat scraps and cooked food, or maybe they would just rather pay for someone to take it all away instead of dealing with it themselves. That is why I support municipal composting pickup – not just the kind we have right now in Vancouver (fruit and veggie scraps every two weeks), but the kind that is being proposed in Vancouver tomorrow that will take meat and cooked food and dairy and bread, and paper takeout containers, and all that other stuff that might have a hard time in your backyard compost, and they’ll pick it up every single week!

Yup, the City of Vancouver is proposing to start a complete composting pilot that would be delivered to 2000 single family homes and even a few multi-family buildings.  This is a really important step. If the pilot goes well, then they could roll the program out to the rest of the city and everyone could be composting ALL their food scraps, not just their veggies! We’re talking about an extra 26,000 tonnes of food waste diverted from landfills every year. Read more about the pilot here.

I’m pretty confident that Council will agree with the recommendation for the composting pilot, but they can always use a little nudge. If you live in Vancouver and you think composting is important, please come to City Hall Council Chambers on Thurs July 14th at 9:30am and show your support. If you don’t have time to go down, send a quick note to one if the Councillors via email or even Twitter (@andreareimer @MayorGregor @VanRealDeal @SuzanneAnton)

Side note: Yes, I do think that backyard composting is still very very important, and we should all be backyard composting as a first option.

13 Comments

Filed under food waste

13 responses to “Composting in The City of Vancouver

  1. That is great to hear. I live in Toronto, and we have a composting program that accepts most things, including tissue, and paper towels. We have a backyard compost, but we would never put meat scraps in it, because they attract the rats and raccoons… being able to put all the compostable things we aren’t willing to have in our backyard into the compost bin at the curb is HUGE, and great.
    Hopefully the pilot goes well🙂

  2. I hope the program is successful. We’ve had a really rough go of it here in Denver. A few years back they chose my neighborhood as one to participate in a pilot municipal compost program. I eagerly signed up because I wanted to support it. Even though I compost most of my own kitchen and yard waste, with the sticks, weeds and other hard to compost stuff, along with a hefty amount of my neighbors’ waste salvaged from the dumpster, I was able to gather enough material to keep my bin full.

    The program was a rip roaring success in that it kept tons of compostable waste out of the landfill, but then the economy tanked – so instead of expanding the program, they decided to cancel it all together. A group of us lobbied the city and got them to at least keep the pilot program – but now they’re making people pay to participate. It really kills me because it totally sends the wrong message… that composting is a do-gooder thing done by guilty environmentalists who are willing to pay extra when everybody else is free to dump as much stuff as they want into the garbage. Sigh.

    I’m not participating anymore partly because it just didn’t make sense for me to pay to compost my neighbors’ waste, and also because it’s just the WRONG way to approach it. They keep sending out statistics that over 50% of the garbage collected is actually compostable material… so it seems to me that we could simply cut the garbage collection days in half and replace them with compost collection days. Not to mention the fact that the city has to pay for each ton we put in the landfill, yet we make money for each ton we sell to the compost company. I know it’s not that simple, but it just bugs me that the city sees this as an “extra” service instead of looking at the big picture.

    My kingdom for a sane garbage policy.

  3. Strathcona County in Alberta implemented this program last year, and it has been a great sucess. Garbage pickup costs a lot more though, so that is the rub. Everyone has to chip in to pay for it. But it really has changed the hearts and minds of all the people. People who would not dream of composting before now just do it because someone gave just them a bin and a process. It is amazing – everyone just does it and doesn’t dream of putting an apple core in the garbage.

    Here in Edmonton, there is no such program offered, but there is curbside recyclying pickup, and a massive facility in town that separates the actual garbage out and composts the rest in a huge composting facility. The goal is to get down to 90% of waste diverted from the landfill, it is at 60% right now.. Still – it is less carbon intensive to just use the backyard composter, which I do.🙂 http://www.edmonton.ca/for_residents/garbage_recycling/edmonton-composting-facility.aspx

    Good luck, I hope Vancouver passes it!

  4. Rella

    Li’l ol’ Nanaimo has also conducted a successful pilot and is rolling out the programme City-wide next month. Those of us in strata (garbage pick-up is private) are not included sadly. HOWEVER, a recent “WasteLine” newsletter indicated there will soon be a ban on “kitchen waste” at the landfill, which will force the private companies to work out a way to piggy-back onto the Regional District initiative. It is amazing the variety of materials which can be composted in this way; I am very much looking forward to this “Green Bin Project”!

  5. Hmm, I’ve been really considering having a compost recently, but I have an extreme fear of bugs. I’d still be willing to get one, for the sake of the landfills, but I NEED to ask. How much insects get into your compost? I’ve heard stories where the compost FILLS with larvae, and I’m not sure whether I can handle it or not!

    • Our compost is not “filled with larvae”, but we do have a few fruit flies because we don’t turn it as often as we should or diligently put a cover layer of browns (shredded newspaper or leaves) on top. If you layer your compost, adn turn it often, bugs should not be a problem. If you’re really really worried about bugs, consider an in-vessel system like the one at http://www.joracanada.ca/en/jk125.php. It doesn’t let any bugs in and maintains a high heat for quick decomposition, but it does cost a little more.

  6. Dave Steckard

    Metro Vancouver just released a pretty hilarious video to begin promoting this initiative.

  7. Bev at Urban Worm Wonders

    I live out here in Mission and we have had a street side pick up for compost for quite a while. the City has even started a Rot Pot collection to encourage composting as well. the Rot Pot takes all of your food waste and there is a cost but it is incorportated in your taxes.

    however I do agree that we should be composting at home first and have used red wigglers now for over 10 years to compost right inside my basement and the garage. the worm casting have been a great addition to my yard and I feel good that my curb side pick up is very little. I hope to encourage more people around me to do the same with worm composting.

    • Russ Chambers

      I have sold several composters to people who do worms. What they do is to pre compost the greens for their worms in a Jora composter and then let worms finish off the process. Robert and Sue at Earthworks in Chilliwack can explain what they do.
      http://Www.joracanada.ca

  8. Russ Chambers

    Would it not be wiser to compost at source. By using a Jora composter this can happen. The units are rodent proof and the ones I have in use in Kamloops have not been bothered by bears. By doing your own composting you know what goes into it.

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