Metro Vancouver to look at taking more organics at transfer stations

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Metro Vancouver is considering whether it should begin accepting organic waste from businesses and multi-family residences at its transfer stations.

At a meeting on Friday, Metro’s board of directors asked staff to develop a business case for commercial organics transfer services, and report back on options.

“What we’ve seen over the last number of years, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of facilities in the region processing organics, and we’ve seen challenges around specific facilities with respect to odour, with respect to pricing,” said Paul Henderson, Metro’s general manager of solid waste services.

In Metro Vancouver, 68 per cent of the region’s organics, or 450,000 tonnes per year, are diverted from the landfill. Organics recycling jumped by 60 per cent between 2013 and 2017 because of municipal organics programs, private-sector hauling partnerships, and a regional organics disposal ban.

The regional district sees an opportunity to keep more organics out of the dump by targeting commercial sources and residences such as apartments and townhouses.

“The overarching goal is to ensure that we can get more organics out of the waste stream, and what’s the best path to get there,” Henderson said.

The current proposal is for Metro to receive organics at transfer stations and contract with third parties to process the material, either in or out of region. The business case will assess the need for the service, expected costs and contracting options.

“A longer-term potential, if it turns out to make sense to do this and over time there’s lots of material being processed through the regional system, at that point the question of whether it will make sense to invest capital in processing, that’s where that question would be addressed,” Henderson said.

Director Kim Richter, a Langley Township councillor, expressed some concern that there are companies in the region that have spent time and money on developing organics processing facilities.

“I’m not sure that getting into the business of competing with private industry is in the best interest of the region at this point in time,” she said.

Henderson said staff will consult with haulers, processors and generators as they prepare the business case, which will likely be finished by the middle of next year.

Staff have also recommended providing organics transfer services to municipalities, upon request and under contract, and charge enough to recover Metro Vancouver’s costs. Currently, municipalities are charged based on the tipping fee bylaw and do not contribute to facility fixed costs.

Most of the region’s municipalities have contracts for organics processing services with private companies. The City of Surrey uses its own biofuel facility. Only North Shore municipalities deliver their organics to a transfer station, where they are picked up for processing by a private company.

A shift to full cost recovery would add about $20 per tonne to the cost of organics management for North Shore communities.