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City adopts a pre-treatment model for compost but also opts into regional program

Coun. Janice Morrison, the city’s representative on the regional district board of directors, said the city needed to notify the regional district that it would be participating in the organics diversion program at the soon-to-be constructed Central Compost Facility, based on the conditions that council had previously submitted.

A curbside composting program is going ahead in Nelson and the city is also throwing its hat into the ring for the regional district’s organics diversion program.

City council decided to begin its own program for composting but, unlike earlier indications at the regional level, was in favour of the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Organics Waste Diversion Strategy.

Coun. Janice Morrison, the city’s representative on the regional district board of directors, said the city needed to notify the regional district that it would be participating in the organics diversion program at the soon-to-be constructed Central Compost Facility, based on the conditions that council had previously submitted.

“I don’t think the regional district has ever felt that we were going to participate,” she said, adding that the city needed to be clear of its intent to join in.

Morrison urged the city to continue to work on the issues that were vital to them, but they were not issues that would drive whether or not the city participated.

“I will be continuing with those issues … I think we are trying to move towards that,” she said. “They do not need to be re-iterated again.”

Coun. Jesse Woodward noted the city would be part of the regional program but the feedstock it would contribute would be of a different form than just untreated organics.

“We will participate but our feedstock will be a dry compost and not wet organics,” he said.

The intent of the project — in conjunction with RDCK service partners — is to divert organics from the landfill to reduce greenhouse gases and to extend the life of the landfill.

Council had already made a decision in favour of curbside collection, said city manager Kevin Cormack, but the decision whether to collect wet or pre-treated compost had to be made.

A comparison was made of the traditional organics curbside collection in Nelson and central processing model to the projected results from a pre-treatment organics curbside collection model.

“Based on this review the pre-treatment model would result in much higher diversion rates and could be delivered at a favorable cost to a traditional curbside organics collection program,” Cormack said.

Pre-treatment appears to divert the highest amount of organics and has the lowest cost per tonne for greenhouse gas reduction, said Cormack, resulting in an 87 per cent reduction in material going to the landfill.

“Staff anticipate that by eliminating wet organic food waste at the home, that this will reduce the number of self-haul trips to the transfer station and increase the use of the city’s curbside waste and recycling programs,” he said.

“This would be greatly enhanced if the tipping costs at the transfer station were increased to the true cost of handling and processing this material.”

The decision will now allow the regional district to proceed with its Central Compost Facility design, allowing the city to submit a CleanBC grant application. If successful, that application could cover two-thirds of the cost of the compost bins, the FoodCyclers and an education program on the reduction of food waste.

City staff will also be developing a pilot for the institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) sector to pre-treat their organic food waste.

How we got here

In April 2019, the regional district’s Organics Waste Diversion Strategy was released with curbside collection of organics at its heart.

A request was made for the city to partner on the strategy and, one month later, the city agreed, subject to a number of conditions.

However, city council did consider pursuing alternative options for organics diversion. Toward that end, the city initiated a FoodCycler pilot program as a viable alternative to curbside collection of organics.

Ultimately 151 households participated in the initial program (which began in March 2020). Council also approved a second pilot with a fully random selection process, with 33 households participating in the second pilot project with similar results to the first group.

Between the two pilots, and the general public purchasing additional FoodCyclers, there are approximately 250 FoodCyclers in the community.

The RDCK was also asked to complete a study to determine the viability of collecting in the rural areas and smaller municipalities, and found the project to be “viable and would increase diversion rates,” a city staff report read.

“It also identified that the City of Nelson would not benefit from reduced collection costs by being part of a larger collection system.”

— Source: City of Nelson

Centering on waste

The amount of “feedstock” slated for the Central Compost Facility needs to be revised in order to design the facility, the city staff report noted.

A commitment from Castlegar and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has been made to collect wet organics curbside to be processed at the facility, as well.

“(T)he recent collection study also identifies additional feedstock can be collected, at similar costs to the larger municipalities, in the rural areas and would provide similar amounts of feedstock for a Central Compost Facility that they had anticipated Nelson would provide,” the report read.

By the numbers

Collection and tipping fees are the underlying factors on the costs of an organics collection program at the municipal level.

If food waste was collected each week, collection cost for the city is estimated at $8,000 per week for 52 weeks ($416,000).

“By pre-treating the material and encouraging residents to use the material on their own property, the collection frequency can be reduced substantially,” noted the city staff report.

The cost analysis is based on eight collections per year ($64,000) which would also allow for the collection of yard waste. It is estimated the per-household cost with pre-treatment could be as low as $43 per household and $115 per household for a typical family.

The city’s tipping fees would be reduced by approximately 80 per cent ($40 per household).

Traditional curbside would be $158 per household regardless of how much food waste is generated.

“Pre-treatment ensures that the savings generated by diverting organics goes to the party that is generating that diversion and keeping this material out of the landfill,” the report read. “The pre-treatment model diverts the most organics in the most cost-effective manner. It also creates an incentive to reduce food waste and creates equity as those that produce more pay more.”

The cost per tonne CO2e is $185 in the pretreatment model and $867 in a traditional curbside organics program.

— Source: City of Nelson