City Staff Optimistic After Mid-Point Review of Curbside Organics Collection Pilot Program

May 4, 2022 - Seven months into the Curbside Organic Waste Collection Pilot Program, City staff are feeling optimistic about the success of a future community-wide organics program should Council approve an expanded program.

The pilot program began in September 2021, and since then, two surveys for residents on pilot routes have been administered. The mid-point survey, which was completed in March 2022, provided staff important indicators on the program’s progress, building on baseline data from the fall 2021 survey. Read the summary report from the mid-point survey here.

“It’s been really encouraging to see the support and engagement from residents in the pilot neighbourhoods in terms of participating in the program and providing feedback. We wanted to hear the good, bad and the ugly, and we have–and we thank the pilot residents because we need that range of feedback to adjust certain things and to move ahead successfully,” said Glen Farrow, the City’s Streets and Environmental Services Manager.

The second pilot survey, which had 200 more responses than the first survey, showed a continued majority support (77%) for organics collection. A majority of home composters (72%), as an individual segment, support the program.

Farrow presented a summary of the pilot program to date at the April 19 Civic Operations Committee meeting. He says a very encouraging statistic relates to the diversion rates that staff have been tracking.

“At the beginning of the pilot, when asked how much food waste their household diverted from the garbage, 36% said ‘none’ and 6% said they diverted all of their food waste. By the mid-point, that ratio had inverted—41% of respondents now said they diverted all of their food waste, and the number of people who diverted none was down to just 7%,” Farrow explained.

“I think it demonstrates that with a little effort, people can adapt to an organics program and that our residents are willing to do just that. Residents are excited to have a service that helps them further reduce their waste,” he said.

The Curbside Organic Waste Collection Pilot Program is in Phase 2 of a multi-year program that aims to reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfill and greenhouse gas emissions. Phase 1 included a feasibility study and waste audit that examined benefits of such a program, and Phase 3 expands on the pilot program to include 27,000 residential homes following completion of the pilot program.

To date, the City has received a $1.78 million grant from the Province’s Clean BC Organic Infrastructure and Collection Program to support the expanded community-wide residential organics collection starting in late 2023.

Pilot Survey No. 2 Highlights

  • There were 733 survey respondents (198 more than the first survey in fall 2021).
  • 77% of respondents said they support organic waste collection (consistent with 79% support indicated in the first survey).
  • 92% of respondents agreed with the statements “Reducing what goes in the landfill is the right thing to do” and “Composting helps the environment”.
  • 60% of respondents are placing their organics carts at the curb every week (19% place their cart out on most weeks; 14% place their cart out occasionally).
  • 88% of home composters have placed their organics carts out at least once. When asked as home composters what they like best about the program, the top reason chosen was “I like using it for food scraps I shouldn’t/can’t compost at home like meat, bones, oils, and cooked foods”.
  • Food waste diversion rates have increased significantly. Prior to the pilot program, 6% of respondents diverted all of their food waste, and by the mid-point, 41% said they diverted all food waste.
  • Soiled paper waste diversion rates have also increased. Prior to the pilot program 14% diverted most or all of their soiled paper waste, and by the mid-point, that number rose to 63%.
  • 71% of respondents said their experience has been excellent or good. The top reason chosen for that was “I like that I’m not putting as much waste into the garbage”. The other 29% who indicated their experience as fair or poor cited biweekly garbage and recycling and inability to use compostable plastic liners during the pilot program as the top reasons.
  • 77% of respondents overall said biweekly garbage had an insignificant/no impact or a moderate impact. That reflects data from the first survey in which 78% of respondents said they were either somewhat concerned or not concerned.

Next Steps

During the April 19 Civic Operations Committee meeting, Farrow stated that the numbers across the board are very encouraging and indicate that our community overall can successfully adapt and that key learnings from the pilot program are providing staff with areas of focus for future planning.

“We’re hearing that people want to be able to use compostable plastic bin liners, so we would like to include that stipulation in our requirement for a long-term processor. We’re also proposing having an option for residents to upsize their recycling carts,” said Farrow, noting the collection frequency model still requires Council’s direction.

Council will hear another update at the June 7 Committee of the Whole meeting. Meanwhile, the pilot program continues until end of summer 2022.

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