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Comox trying organic waste pilot project

Comox council took the formal step Wednesday of endorsing a contract to begin a one-year pilot project to collect organics from households, resulting in a slight increase in garbage collection rates.

At the committee of the whole meeting, council voted in favour of a contract amendment that would increase household garbage collection costs by $1.25 per household per month starting in February 2013, in order to separately collect organics for the Comox Valley Regional District's pilot program.

The kitchen wastes will be brought to a segregated site within the Pigeon Lake facility, blended with yard waste, covered, and over a three-month period, composted.

Coun. Tom Grant inquired why kitchen waste and yard waste cannot be combined curbside.

"We're not paying $65 a tonne tipping fees in our yard waste now, and if we take the yard waste up and do that, that adds a considerable amount of costs," noted Don Jacquest, the Town's director of finance.

"We collect about 1,400 tonnes of yard waste, so multiply that by $65 a tonne. The yard waste is handled by Emterra and its subcontractor out by the airport and so they process it for much less then the $65 a tonne."

Currently, the pilot project does not involve multi-family residences, and Coun. Barbara Price inquired if the project could be expanded.

"At this point the regional district and the contractor ... (are) encouraging us not to do that," explained Jacquest. "In terms of the output, the input from the kitchen scraps (need to be) satisfactory. There are certain things that can't go in there, like plastic bags, even if they are biodegradable and compostable, if they want high-quality product at the other side."

For that to work, containers need to come from a single household, he added.

"If you have a multi-household facility and you share containers ... in (this situation), it's very hard to figure out who put inappropriate material in there, and who is going to take it out and who is going to get rid of it in the garbage," Jacquest said.

Coun. Ken Grant asked about containers for the waste, and who would purchase them.

Jacquest noted if good participation is the goal, the Town should provide the containers.

"Our own experience of blue bags versus blue boxes was when we switched to the blue bins and we supplied roughly 4,000, it was a considerable experience, but it yielded a tremendous increase in the amount of recyclables that were collected."

He added if the Town wants good participation, then it should consider suppling the bins, and said he has every expectation the CVRD will continue the service over the long term.

"The reason it's a pilot project is not because it's new technology. What makes it a pilot project is that they need to figure out basically how much buy-in will there by in the Valley?" he said. "It's almost a marketing pilot, it's not really a technological pilot."

Jacquest said he's not asking for authority at this time to purchase the containers.

Coun. Patti Fletcher, who is also the vice-chair of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management board, said one of the major goals is to divert the organics from the landfill.

"I don't see this as going away. I think we're just at the very beginning," she added.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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