Salmon Arm residents are thinking inside the blue box – or bag – when it comes to recycling.
“In general, the curbside program has been very successful,” says Ben Van Nostrand with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s environmental health services.
“I’m happy, too, the contamination level is very low, one of the lowest in the province, he says, explaining that other municipalities, particularly large ones, are struggling with people putting things that can’t be accepted curbside – such as glass, non-program plastics like plastic laundry baskets or mats, and hardcover books – by the curb.
The next step, he told Salmon Arm council during a recent presentation, is to add food waste to the recycling program.
He noted that, currently, 66 per cent of the province’s population lives in regional districts with an organics disposal ban in place. Those are mainly on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland.
If the rate of disposal to the landfill continues as is, it will be full and have to close in 2045. Currently, about 30 per cent of waste is diverted to recycling, Van Nostrand estimates. If the amount diverted is increased to 60 per cent, the landfill could remain open to 2064.
“It’s difficult for the public…, you don’t really see how fast it’s filling up,” he says.
Diverting food waste would add another 24 per cent to what’s recycled, bringing it close to 60 per cent.
“In the next five years, the feedback we collected through the review of the plan in 2014, we should be looking at getting organics out of the landfill… Developing a curbside collection program and a food waste ban on disposal.”
Coun. Chad Eliason recounted how a recent visitor from Germany asked him what he does with organics. He told him he composts them. The visitor explained that in Germany, they’re recycled.
Eliason emphasized the need for Salmon Arm to proceed, noting the city doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
“I think Salmon Arm as the biggest city in the regional district should be a leader in this.”
Coun. Alan Harrison said he admires Eliason’s enthusiasm, and he is enthusiastic too, but he thinks education will be necessary first.
Coun. Wallace-Richmond also pointed to education and the three Rs – recycling, reusing and reducing.
Regarding a food waste ban, Van Ostrand said consultants have recommended starting with the commercial sector such as restaurant operators.
“The initial feedback we got from the consultant was that a commercial ban could start mid-next year and a pilot project in 2017.”
Coun. Ken Jamieson asked about Bill’s Bottle Depot, noting “there are days when it’s filled to the gunnels.”
Van Nostrand said it wasn’t known how the program would go when the switch to individual sorting bins and specific hours of operation was introduced on Jan. 1.
“I think Bill’s has been a really good partner,” he said, noting how they’ve stepped up.
“They found this summer they were overwhelmed; they had storage and staffing issues.”
He said they will be meeting with Green By Nature next week, the contractor for MMBC (Multi-Material BC), to work out ways to make it easier to handle the volume.