The next scheduled item to be banned from Metro Vancouver landfills, will be organics. If commitments to this policy are kept, as of 2015 all loads dumped that contain excessive organic content will be hit with a hefty surcharge. This means that businesses, single-family and multi-family dwellings will have to focus on getting their organics out of the garbage. Metro Vancouver has had a 20 year history of prioritizing diversion by banning materials from landfill (paper, beverage containers, electronics etc.), focusing on public engagement, and proactively enforcing recycling rules at garbage transfer stations, disposal facilities and even licensed recycling facilities, all in the interest of diverting garbage from disposal. Current diversion results from the region vary by sector, but cumulate to approximately 57% in the region.
Back to organics. Organics are without a doubt a tough commodity to get out of the waste stream: residents worry about odours and pests that might be attracted to accumulating organic matter; business owners worry about the space that the receptacles will take up and the costs to remove this material. All legitimate concerns.
The reality is that we have a wasteful world, and the true cost of a product is not just the purchase price but also its cost to recycle or dispose of. The same is true of organic matter: that orange that you ate will produce a peel that needs to be diverted from landfill to reduce methane gas and overfilling garbage dumps. Successfully getting the organics out will likely drive our region’s diversion results 15% to 25% higher. With the Metro-wide roll-out of curbside of organics collection – and a commitment by residents to enthusiastically use the service – we will likely be close to or exceed our 70% diversion goal by 2015.
Many municipalities around the Lower Mainland including Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver, have successfully implemented single-family collection for organics already; New Westminster and others have, or are in the process of doing the same for multi-family residences as well. As residents learn about and get comfortable with these new services, we will start to see municipal diversion results over 70%. It’s really incredible and should be applauded. These efforts are significant in terms of resources, staff time, education and implementation.
As a region we should be proud of what we have accomplished so far! We are well on our way to 70% diversion by 2015 and will only have 10% more to go to achieve our goal of 80% by 2020. When I started Urban Impact over two decades ago, garbage and diversion were not topics of public interest, recycling was brand new, and environmental sensitivity was considered almost radical. How far we have come!
We need to celebrate what we have achieved as a region, and we need to celebrate doing the right thing: prioritizing waste diversion and environmental sensitivity over disposal and wastefulness. BC you are getting it right! Here is a toast to making the environment a priority!