Composting program continues in Powell River

Efforts encouraged to reduce solid waste stream

City of Powell River’s composting pilot project has resumed and it’s all part of the strategy to keep as much material as possible out of the solid waste stream.

Manager of operations Rod Fraser said 400 local households are again participating in the project, which was suspended when COVID-19 arrived. Collection has resumed, with 70 to 90 households in each of the five city garbage collection routes designated for the pilot project.

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Compostable material is picked up every week, using the same trucks that pick up the garbage. These are automated vehicles with hydraulic arms designed to pick up the composting bins, lift them to the truck and tip the contents.

The bins, which are large in size, do not have to be handled by people because of the mechanized vehicles. Workplace injuries are greatly reduced by automated collection systems, said Fraser.

Fraser added that the bin itself is on the larger side and the city does get the occasional remark about the size, he added.

“It’s a big size and we get the occasional comment that they might be on the big side for compost,” said Fraser.

He said a big component of solid waste is that compost typically contains the heaviest components.

“If we can separate it and get it out of the waste stream, it’s a big benefit to everybody,” said Fraser.

The composting pilot project can facilitate all kinds of refuse, ranging from kitchen waste to yard waste. Fraser said there is information on the city’s website that shows not only recycling for compost, but solid recycling items that are picked up at the curb.

“That’s part of pulling recycling out of the waste stream as well,” said Fraser.

While the city’s recycling at curbside, as part of the Recycle BC program, only allows for certain items to be collected, Fraser said recycling centres allow for expanded recycling offerings for people who want to recycle even more of their waste stream.

“Hopefully people will be able to maximize what they are recycling, and in the case of the pilot project, composting and minimizing the trash,” he added. “There is a benefit in that. The less trash we put out the better the environmental footprint for everybody.”

There are also cost savings.

The composting pilot project has been going on since 2017 and right now, there is no prospect of expanding it to full coverage in Powell River because collected compostable items are transported to the Sechelt Peninsula. Being able to process these items in the immediate area would be the best solution, cost-wise, so the city does not have to truck the items.

“The moment you start trucking things, you are paying for that trucking, you’re using fuel and you’re part of that environmental footprint,” said Fraser. “We don’t have a solution right close by that we can use for it. That’s kind of our limiting factor.”

Fraser said if a composting establishment was set up in the Powell River area, the city could look at expanding the compostable program. However, the pilot project has been useful in helping the city to collect data.

“It definitely pulls weight out of the waste stream,” said Fraser. “We get about four and a half tonnes per week that we pull out of the waste stream and into the compost. I’m hoping everybody is on the same page to reduce the waste at the curb and to maximize the recycling opportunities.”

Fraser said in future, the city would be looking at the prospect of automation of trash, using bins that can be picked up by the automated trucks.

“Quite a few municipalities are moving toward automated systems for garbage,” said Fraser. “It’s nice and simple. You have your bin, which has wheels, and they are pretty tough. You put your garbage in the bin every week and the truck comes along, grabs it and dumps it.”

The system means garbage truck operators do not have to manually handle the garbage.

Fraser said in order to do that, some logistics need to be set up for the community, such as getting grants and purchasing bins. Funding models also have to be developed.

“We are hoping to put together some options,” said Fraser, “and a report in the late fall to start moving towards some of these initiatives.”


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