The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District still has a long process to go though before a regional composting program is put in place.
During a board meeting on Wednesday, April 24, ACRD directors told staff to investigate potential service scenarios for organics diversion collection and processing, as well as a potential organics disposal ban.
As ACRD staff explained, the amount of waste going into the Alberni Valley Landfill needs to be reduced, or else taxpayers will face the price tag for a methane gas capture system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While the City of Port Alberni already has split body garbage trucks, meaning the collection of kitchen waste could begin immediately, the regional district has no way to process this organic waste.
The ACRD received $6 million in federal funding in 2018, which will cover the creation of an organics processing facility. But the ACRD is subject to the timeline of the grant, which has a deadline of December 2020.
Beaver Creek director John McNabb wanted to know why the process was taking so long.
“We could be moving forward with [industrial, commercial and institutional waste] collection and finding some process to handle it, even if it includes shipping it to another facility,” he said. He recommended using a “test facility” or “test location” for processing until the ACRD builds its own processing facility.
“If we don’t go down this path, the thing that we will have to pay for is gas extraction,” McNabb added. “We’re going to have about a $5 million bill sitting on our desk that we don’t have a grant for. We need to move forward on this, and the quicker the better.”
ACRD CAO Doug Holmes pointed out that the regional district’s $6 million grant will cover capital installment, and it would be difficult to use an “interim” facility, with contracts and agreements, only to choose something different in the long run.
“If the board ultimately decides that they want to build something…interim contracts would have to be considered,” he said. “The fastest way is to go a little bit slower, figure out what the board wants to do in the long run—having engaged the public—and head in that direction.”
Sproat Lake director Penny Cote admitted that she had some “reservations” about rural areas paying for a collection system, as many Sproat Lake residents do their own backyard composting and have private garbage pickup.
“The rural areas have different needs than the municipalities,” said Cote. “Although I agree about organics diversion, the collection system may not work for the rural areas. I’m not so sure that my community would be interested in the ‘full-meal deal.'”
Board chair John Jack said that compost pickup is going to be one of the “most important factors” in changing how people behave in regards to their own waste. “I believe our regional district is one of the last on the Island to not really do organics diversion in a meaningful way,” he said. “I think it’s very important to contribute to the changing of the culture.”
Jack also pointed out that the Alberni Valley Landfill is located right next to Tseshaht First Nation.
“If we don’t do organics diversion as quickly as possible, as completely as possible, then that’s going to continue to affect the standard of living and potentially the quality of life for the Tseshaht First Nation,” he said. “This is something we can do, at a very minimum, to make things better.”
While the Alberni Valley still has a long road ahead for implementing a regional organics diversion program, the West Coast is already “one step ahead” and planning public engagement for an organics ban and curbside pickup.
Long Beach director Kel Roberts noted on Wednesday that Tofino, Ucluelet and Long Beach are in need of nutrient rich soil, which can be provided by a local organics processing facility.
“The West Coast in particular is really in need of organic material,” he said.