Grand Forks area began putting food scraps in curbside green bins every week in 2012 and reduced their annual garbage sent to disposal by 55 percent. (Photo courtesy of the RDKB).

Grand Forks area began putting food scraps in curbside green bins every week in 2012 and reduced their annual garbage sent to disposal by 55 percent. (Photo courtesy of the RDKB).

Greater Trail municipalities weigh in on organic waste pickup

RDKB partners with RDCK to collect organic waste at residents’ homes and transfer to Salmo facility

Curbside pickup of organic refuse in Greater Trail is slowly becoming a reality.

Collecting and repurposing organic waste has been part of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) Solid Waste Management Plan for well over a decade. While it took a long time to gain traction, the district’s solid waste steering committee recently created the East End Curbside Collection Working Group to canvas Greater Trail municipalities and get a better idea of how to implement the project.

“Waste minimization and specifically organics diversion from landfill has been a key initiative in the RDKB’s Solid Waste Management Plan dating back to before 2005,” said Rossland Coun. Andy Morel, group chair.

“Maximizing the working life of the McKelvey Creek Landfill and reducing the environmental impacts of the site are important goals that motivated the RDKB East End Directors and staff to research the implementation of a curbside organics pickup program for our communities.”

RDKB is partnering with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) in devising a strategy to collect organic waste at residents’ homes, take it to the Trail landfill for holding, before transferring to a new organics processing facility in Salmo that is slated for completion by early 2022.

The provincial and federal governments provided matching funds through a program grant that will cover up to two-thirds of the costs for organic waste processing infrastructure.

“It’s basically free money, $2.2 million,” said Trail Coun. Robert Cacchioni, a working group member. “On top of that we used the reserve from the (RDKB) sale of the airport, that’s another $1.2 million so in actual fact if it’s going to cost the taxpayer any money, it’s going to be very little, almost nothing.”

The RDKB sent out a request for quotes for upgrades to the Trail landfill last month and in 2019 purchased a 137-acre parcel north of the existing landfill boundary to ensure room for an organics transfer station.

The working group is made up of elected representatives from Fruitvale, Montrose, Warfield, Trail, Rossland and Areas A and B.

The group sent a survey to the respective municipalities seeking information to better understand the existing garbage/yard waste collection programs, funding models, as well as input on the future approach to eliminate residential organic waste from the landfill.

“Historical feedback received from residents surrounding the potential implementation of curbside organics collection programs has been very positive. Some concerns have been expressed regarding bear attraction and questions raised on how the program would be implemented.”

According to Morel, there are a variety of models used across the province, so consulting municipalities and forming a cohesive regional approach would be more efficient and offer economic advantages.

“Ideally, when implementing new services or programs across multiple jurisdictions, consistency is best, where possible. When curbside organics programs are initiated, it will be very important to educate residents on what can and what cannot go in the bin.”

While municipalities haven’t always found success in collective initiatives, Cacchioni is confident the City of Trail will be on board, it’s just a matter of determining how.

“I think this is going to be pretty hard to turn down,” said Cacchioni. “When you have virtually 90 percent of the people in favour of it. Some areas it’s even higher, I mean people are clamouring for it.”

From a strictly environmental perspective, curbside pickup of organics is long past due.

B.C. municipalities have been repurposing organics into useable soil products for several years, and RDKB communities like Grand Forks and Christina Lake adopted curbside green-bin pickup of food waste back in 2012.

According to RDCK’s ‘Organic Waste Diversion Strategy’, prior to implementing the green bin program, Grand Forks collected an average of 264 kg of garbage per household per year. After implementation, curbside garbage collection decreased to 119 kg per household per year, a 55 per cent reduction in waste sent to disposal.

With the collection of 123 kg of food waste per household annually, the overall residential diversion rate increased from 18 percent with recycling to 62 percent with recycling plus food waste collection.

Some communities, like Metro Vancouver and Victoria, have banned organics in their landfills altogether.

Organic waste is any material that originates from a plant or animal and is biodegradable. This includes all food waste, yard and garden waste (leaves, grass clippings and small branches) and some soiled paper products.

“Salmo is the most economical thing to do,” said Cacchioni. “Eventually, you are going to be able to get rid of grass and branches up to two inches in diameter … It’s way cheaper to get rid of organics than the other stuff and you’re looking at probably extending the life of the (McKelvey Creek) dump another 50 years.”

The combined organic materials can make up 30-to-40 per cent of waste that is disposed of in landfills, added Cacchioni. Once buried in a landfill organic waste can breakdown to form methane and harmful leachate. Diverting organic waste from the Trail landfill will conserve space and prolong the lifespan of the facility, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce a valuable soil product at the Salmo facility.

“The intent of this program is to provide the RDCK with diverted organic materials that can be processed (composted) to make a marketable end product,” added Morel. “Consistency in programs provides for the easiest way to educate residents on the new program as well as potentially provide efficiencies in operational costs.”

Kootenay Boundary Regional District