Food scraps collection could be mandatory

Tracey Tobin with a kitchen scrap recycling container. The city is considering making the program mandatory, similar to what was done in 2011 with recycling. - Mario Bartel/NewsLeader File
Tracey Tobin with a kitchen scrap recycling container. The city is considering making the program mandatory, similar to what was done in 2011 with recycling.
— image credit: Mario Bartel/NewsLeader File

Burnaby city hall is considering making food scraps separation and pickup mandatory across the city, to meet its waste diversion targets.

Multi-family complexes that contract with the city for garbage disposal are already eligible for the food scraps program, but not those that use private contractors, said Tracey Tobin, Burnaby environmental services officer.

If Burnaby goes ahead with mandating the program, it will apply no matter who provides garbage collection service, similar to the bylaw that came into effect in January 2011 that mandated recycling at multi-family buildings.

"That's mostly because we're anticipating Metro Vancouver's 2015 food waste ban from residential properties," Tobin said. That's when garbage disposal facilities will no longer accept food scraps mixed in with the rest of the trash.

And it's a deadline that's not that far away.

"That's why we're really eager to try and get the word out that we have this program."

It's all part of the region's goal of diverting 70 per cent of its garbage from landfills and the incinerator by 2015.

A year after Burnaby completed a pilot project to collect food scraps in multi-family complexes, the program is being implemented city-wide at a steady pace.

There are now more than 40 multi-family buildings participating in the city, representing about 3,000 housing units, said Tobin.

"It takes a bit longer than single-family programs just because there's a lot more players involved, with all the residents, the caretakers, the stratas, that kind of stuff," Tobin said.

Nevertheless, she's got "quite a long list" of buildings waiting for the program that she hopes to get to in the new year.

"It's been really fantastic, actually," she said of the response. "It's been better than I ever imagined.

"We have seen some complexes asking for smaller garbage dumpsters because it's starting to reflect how much they're diverting [from the garbage headed for the landfill and incineration]."

By comparison, the program in single-family homes, "we've still got a lot of work to do to get the news out."

That program has been in place for two years and there's been an education campaign, but "we'd still like to see a lot more residents join in the program."

Tobin said she always suggests people start with fruit and vegetable trimmings and waste, and slowly add in other foods as they're comfortable.

In Burnaby, all food scraps, including meat, bones and cooked foods, can be placed in the yard trimmings bin for pickup once a week to be composted at a facility in Richmond. Multi-family complexes do the same only they're given more bins to accommodate the greater number of residents involved. Regular garbage continues to be collected weekly.

In many cases, residents in condos have downsized but still want the same sort of services they received when they lived in houses.

Separating out their food scraps often means they don't have to take out the rest of their garbage as much since they take out the smellier, organic waste more often in their compost pails, she said.

As for the success of Burnaby's food scraps program, city hall has preliminary plans to do a study in 2013 to assess the participation rate and gauge the need for additional outreach and education.

Tobin said she was quite pleased that they've seen a "huge improvement" after reminding people there are no plastics, not even biodegradable bags, allowed in with the food scraps and yard trimmings.

"It's a pretty easy program to be a part of. You're really just taking your food scraps from your garbage bin and transferring them to your yard waste bin. That's the only difference."

For more information on the multi-family food scraps program, call Tracey Tobin at 604-294-7053. For general information, call 604-294-7972 or visit

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