New Westminster votes to expand food scraps program

New Westminster residents are changing the way they dispose of their waste.

On Monday, city council approved a motion that would see the city’s existing food scraps program expand to apartments and townhouses by July 1, making New Westminster the first in the region to offer organic waste collection for both single- and multi-family units.

“New Westminster has definitely made a lot of progress with respect to recycling over the past number of years and really become a leader in Metro Vancouver,” said Coun. Jonathan Cote. “Although a lot of our programs that we’ve implemented so far have targeted single-family neighbourhoods, a large number of residents in New Westminster live in multi-family units and this is obviously the next big opportunity for New Westminster to pursue.”

Adoption of the multi-family food scraps program follows a six-month pilot project involving six buildings located throughout the city.

Brochures about recycling and composting were distributed to building residents and food scraps receptacles were placed alongside garbage bins.

According to a city report, “Every participating building … requested additional totes to facilitate increased recycling demands,” with a 25 per cent reduction in waste being diverted from the landfill during the pilot project. One building cut its waste in half.

Council also discussed the possibility of expanding the city’s waste collection services to multi-family units, which are currently serviced almost exclusively by private firms.

“It’s something we should maybe look at … whether or not there’s a cost benefit for the city to do it rather than contracting it out,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “We do service the entire residential component of the city but we don’t service [multi-family units].”

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr pointed out that expanding the city’s waste collection service to include apartments and townhomes could be both financially and environmentally sound.

“Having all these different firms picking up garbage, we may have two or three trucks a day going to different buildings when we could have one vehicle going to all of the buildings,” he said. “I’m wondering if there’s a way we can coordinate or provide a service that has a smaller carbon footprint by virtue of the trucks that are needed so the wear and tear on our road infrastructure [is minimized].”

Puchmayr also floated the idea of developing improved recycling and food waste programs for the commercial properties serviced by the city.

With 40 per cent or more of Metro Vancouver’s waste stream attributed to organic waste, New Westminster’s food scraps programs aim to significantly reduce the amount being taken to landfills.

Since the program debuted last year, waste diversion rates for single-family units have increased dramatically to 59 per cent, compared with 40 per cent in 2010 and 31 per cent in 2009. The amount left at the city’s recycling depot has dropped by nearly 1,000 metric tonnes.

The target set out under Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge is to reach a minimum of 70 per cent waste diversion by 2015.