Going green is becoming an expensive venture for the City of Vancouver as it ramps up its curbside food-scrap collection program to single-family homes and duplexes.
A staff report going before city council Wednesday recommends politicians approve up to $10.4 million for operating and capital costs associated to the program, which aims to cut organic waste to the landfill by 40 per cent.
The report says “annual cost implications will be refined” once the program is fully underway in 2013. The current estimate is the program will translate to a $25 to $28 increase for the average homeowner over 10 years.
That increase is expected to be cut in half to about $15 per year after the city pays off the $10.4 million over that 10-year span.
“Garbage collection in Vancouver is a big operation and any time you make a change—whether it’s to automated trucks or providing recycling or organics—there are one-time costs associated with making that change,” said Peter Judd, the city’s chief engineer. “And, ultimately, you’ve got to compare those against the cost of continuing to do what we’re doing, which is filling up the landfill with materials that can be recycled and used for a more beneficial purpose.”
The biggest drivers of the $5.4 million in operating costs are $830,000 in more curbside carts, $720,000 in kitchen top containers for the organics and an $800,000 public relations campaign to get all residents to buy in to the program.
In September, the city announced the expansion of its food scraps recycling program to approximately 90,000 single-family homes and duplexes.
The program is voluntary but Judd noted Metro Vancouver’s solid waste management plan—approved by the provincial government—says all organic material from houses, apartments, businesses and institutions must be diverted from the landfill by 2015.
“Organics are a big part of the methane that’s produced at the landfill and even the best gas collection systems don’t collect all of it and that means a lot of it is going into the atmosphere,” Judd said.
An increase in organic waste is why city staff says $5 million is needed to expand the size of the city’s transfer station in south Vancouver. The city-wide collection means potentially doubling the current 25,000 tonnage of organic waste.
Residents can expect their organic waste to be collected weekly while regular garbage collection will be cut back to every other week.
This schedule has been implemented in other municipalities and city staff see it as motivation for residents to place their scraps in a green bin, instead of letting the waste sit for two weeks.
Many residents, however, haven’t waited for the city’s program and are already keeping fruit and vegetable scraps out of the landfill. The city estimates there are 50,000 backyard composters in Vancouver, resulting in a diversion of approximately 6,000 tonnes of food scraps annually.