- BC Games
City of Richmond ramps up organic collection efforts
It's wheeled to the curb each week—junk to residents, but black gold to Harvest Power.
Organic waste is picked up from Richmond curbs by Sierra Waste and delivered to a futuristic East Richmond composting plant where it stays until transformed into a dark, nutrient-rich garden soil.
The volume of collected vegetable peelings and grass clippings is growing, as the City of Richmond continues to boost its efforts in keeping organics out of the landfill. Richmond launched an expanded Green Cart program in June, and statistics show the gleaming new bins are well-used.
Volumes measured after two months under the new program indicate 68 per cent of waste is being recycled in Richmond—up seven per cent from summer 2012, according to the city.
In two months this summer, the city's collection contractor, Sierra Waste, loaded 3,700 tonnes of yard trimmings and food scraps into its trucks from residents' Green Carts.
Further growth is expected. This month, the city is scheduled to start a pilot program to test organics collection at approximately 100 local apartment buildings.
City officials are aiming to offer organics recycling programs for all residents before Metro Vancouver's expected ban on food scraps in the landfill by 2015.
"We are extremely impressed with how our residents have taken the initiative to use our programs to keep recyclable materials out of the garbage," said Mayor Malcolm Brodie in a recent news release from the city. "We are proud to support their efforts by delivering convenient programs, and we will continue to look ahead to the next opportunity to trim our waste."
The apartment collection pilot will involve testing a variety of approaches to collecting material, given space limitations and lack of quality control in apartment buildings. The city is also planning to test organics recycling at up to six small commercial strip malls.
Compostable organics include materials such as food scraps, paper and yard waste. Left in the landfill, rotting organics generate potent greenhouse gases and leachate at landfill sites.
Organics collected in Richmond go to Harvest Power's 9.3-hectare (23-acre) facility on York Road in East Richmond's industrial lands.
Once on site, the material is loaded into huge steaming composting cells—similar to backyard piles, but with more science. Air is sucked out of the piles to assist the breakdown process and filter odours. Misters further suppress any smells by limiting rising air.
It's deep inside the compost piles, where temperatures can reach 85 C, that black gold is created. That final product, the soil, goes back to cities, landscapers and gardens to produce the food and flora it once was.
Some material—such as commercial loads of expired groceries like milk and bread—is composted in the Energy Garden, a closed composting system that also produces clean energy.
City council approved another measure this summer aimed at further reducing material trucked to the landfill. The Richmond Recycling Depot will now accepts Styrofoam, cellular phones, batteries and used books.
Said Brodie: "The reality is that in the past, more than 80 per cent of what went into our garbage cans was recyclable material that could be turned from waste into a resource through recycling processes. Today, there is a greater awareness that this type of waste of resources is unacceptable.