Seagulls feast on waste dumped at the Glenmore Landfill in Kelowna. (Natalia Cuevas Huaico - photo)

Seagulls feast on waste dumped at the Glenmore Landfill in Kelowna. (Natalia Cuevas Huaico - photo)

Organic waste program in Kelowna remains in the dump

Okanagan resident says it’s time for Kelowna to implement a residential food waste program

Finding ways to divert the amount of residential waste that gets sent to the landfill has presented a challenge to municipalities for decades.

However, in recent years many cities and towns have implemented organic food waste programs to cut greenhouse gases and reduce its environmental footprint.

While such programs have been in place for more than four years in Metro Vancouver, the City of Kelowna has yet to implement a similar program, raising questions from many residents concerned about the future of the planet.

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Danica Lacusta said she was surprised to find out Kelowna did not have an organics food waste program when she moved here from the Lower Mainland.

“When I looked into trying to find a city implemented food waste composting option, even if it was curbside, I found nothing. I was very, very surprised,” said Lacusta, who lives in an apartment building.

“The city is large and I can imagine that the food waste being produced is an obscene amount.”

While the program has proven extremely popular in cities that have implemented one, the City of Kelowna said it’s up to the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) to implement an organic food waste pickup program.

“RDCO manages the waste removal contract and the city runs the landfill,” said Tom Wilson, communications supervisor for the City of Kelowna.

“I have not heard of any discussion here at the city about starting a program, but if RDCO came up with a plan to collect it, then the city would figure out the landfill side of things.”

According to the city, the Glenmore Landfill isn’t currently allowed to operate a food composting system because it doesn’t have a provincial permit, which it doesn’t intend to apply for unless the RDCO implements a residential collection system.

If the RDCO were to implement such a program, Scott Hoekstra, the waste manager at the landfill, said the city would have to build odour reduction buildings at the landfill in order to meet provincial regulations.

In the meantime, he said the city has already taken several steps to divert organic waste from the landfill, including composting yard waste and capturing gases emitted from the landfill that it sells to FortisBC.

“We divert a significant amount of organics at the landfill, we just don’t necessarily divert the food waste from the landfill,” said Hoekstra.

According to the RDCO, while it does not currently have any plans to implement an organic food waste pick up system, the regional district is conducting a study to look at the region’s organic waste stream issue.

“It’s looking at yard waste, food waste, material that comes from agriculture — it’s a much bigger amount of organics than just food waste,” said Jodie Foster, director of communications for RDCO.

“We’re not looking at it right now outside of organics as a whole. It can’t be looked at just as a single stream.”

While the study is completed, she said the RDCO has a program for subsidized worm and backyard composting bins to help residents compost their food waste in their own backyards.

With little chance of a program being implemented in Kelowna anytime soon, in Vernon that city recently conducted a pilot project over the summer to collect organic food waste from residents.

The program involved two organics collection bins placed behind Vernon City Hall and the Schubert Centre, with the waste being collected twice a week by Spa Hills Company.

The result was more than 232,000 pounds of food waste was diverted from the landfill.

Because of its popularity, the pilot project had to be cut short after its $5,000 budget ran out earlier than expected.

“It shows community members were pleased with the program and the option to compost, diverting organic materials away from the landfill,” said City of Vernon communications manager Christy Poirier.

According to the province, organic waste currently represents 40 per cent of material sent to landfills and communities that have implemented programs have seen an immediate impact.

In Metro Vancouver, the program has helped it divert 1.6 million tonnes of organic waste from the landfill between 2015 and 2018, helping it to work towards its goal of zero waste by 2040.

—With files from Black Press Media’s Michael Rodriguez