The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is looking at a local solution for processing food and yard waste in a curbside composting program.
The ACRD’s solid waste management committee had originally looked at shipping any food and yard waste to the Nanaimo Organic Waste (NOW) facility, but have hit a snag, says Carey McIver of Carey McIver & Associates Ltd.
The problem is that Port Alberni wants to collect food and yard waste together, but the Nanaimo facility will only accept each separately.
“I did get confirmed from Nanaimo Organic Waste (NOW) that they need food waste and yard waste separately and [the city of Port Alberni] confirmed they were looking at food and yard waste together, so [NOW] wouldn’t accept it,” said McIver, the consultant hired by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to help implement the Alberni Valley Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP).
Shipping organic waste collected through a curbside kitchen and yard waste collection to the NOW facility at Duke Point “was a thought we first had years ago when we first started discussing organics collection in the Valley,”city engineer Guy Cicon said.
Part of the logistics yet to be ironed out is the cost of organics collection; a possible option for that is reducing to biweekly residential garbage collection to save on operating costs. Organics collection would cost the city $250,000 per year, while reducing to biweekly garbage pickup would save it $150,000.
If the Alberni Valley initiated its own composting program, it wouldn’t be the only region on Vancouver Island to do so.
Regional districts from Cowichan to Nanaimo have banned food and yard waste from their landfills.
“Why’s everyone doing this? Because there really are a lot of benefits to organics diversion,” McIver said. “It reduces greenhouse gas emission. When food waste, yard waste, wood waste decomposes in the landfill, it produces methane… that’s bad, it’s potent.”
Diverting organics from the landfill also allows for the landfill to operate for longer, reduces the amount of leachate-liquid with harmful substances dissolved in it and produces a marketable product—compost.
McIver and fellow consultant Maura Walker looked at local opportunities for reduction, collection, processing and markets. Of the almost 17,000 tonnes of waste that went into the Alberni Valley landfill last year, about 7,000 tonnes were compostable waste. Of that, 5,100 tonnes were food waste, 1,190 were yard waste and 680 were compostable paper. If the amount of yard waste seems low, McIver said, it’s because much of the yard waste in the Valley ends up in backyard burn piles instead of the landfill.
At an estimated 50 per cent recovery rate, that’s 3,500 tonnes of compostable materials that could potentially be diverted from the landfill.
However, the ratio of food to yard, wood or paper waste needed for composting is 1:1, meaning that an additional 1,600 tonnes of yard, wood and paper waste is needed annually.
Some of that waste will come from the 632 tonnes of commercial land clearing and yard waste dropped off at the landfill in 2014.
For the last 1,000 tonnes of yard and wood waste needed, McIver said that some of the construction demolition waste produced in the Valley might be suitable.
“How much of that is clean wood waste? This is an issue to look at.”
But despite the problems that still need to be ironed out, McIver is optimistic about curbside organics collection.
“It’s doable and it’s worth continuing with.”