The Comox Valley’s new engineered landfill is located near Cumberland. It opened last fall. File photo by Scott Strasser.

Plenty more waste in Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills could be diverted – audit

AET Group conducted a regional waste composition audit last fall

The Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts still have some work to do when it comes to garbage diversion, according to a recent waste composition audit.

A two-week audit done by environmental consultant AET Group last fall found that potentially 50 per cent of waste disposed at the Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills during the audit could have been diverted under current recycling programs.

AET collected and analyzed 104 samples of waste in the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, weighing approximately 100 kg each, from Sept. 25 until Oct. 6.

The audit found that thrown-out food was the biggest culprit, accounting for 20.2 per cent of divertable waste.

Paper and packaging accounted for 8.7 per cent, yard waste accounted for 4.7 per cent and plastic packaging accounted for 4.1 per cent.

AET’s report claimed that diverting food and yard waste would increase the Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) service’s diversion rates from 47 per cent (the rate in 2016) to 60.1 per cent.

The CSWM’s goal under its 10-year solid waste management plan is to divert 70 per cent of waste from the Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills by 2020.

A statement from the CVRD says the audit results will be used as a tool to assess waste diversion improvement moving forward.

“The audit provides a baseline understanding to allow a focused improvement on specific materials that are currently being landfilled,” reads a portion of the statement.

A new regional composting facility in Campbell River is in the works and expected to be operational by 2020. The $8-million facility is intended to remove organics from the waste stream and help the CSWM meet its 70 per cent diversion rate target.

“This audit provides justification to start an organic diversion program…and will be used to measure performance once it is in place,” reads the CVRD’s statement.

AET recommends the CSWM study its waste composition regularly. Doing so annually would cost the CSWM about $65,000 per year. The CVRD statement said that recommendation will be reviewed through the budget process for future budgets.

“There is no provision for an additional audit on 2018,” it reads. “Staff will review the recommendation and provide the board information to justify additional audits in the future.”

The CVRD cautioned the audit has some limitations and should only “be considered a snapshot” of a short time period.

“One of the limitations of this audit is that the results represent just the characteristics of the waste received at the facilities during the audited two-week period, as waste composition changes over time,” reads part of a staff report. “It should [also] be noted that the yard waste percentages could be inflated at the time of year the audit was undertaken (fall 2017).”

The audit also found that half of the waste being disposed of in the Comox Valley and Campbell River could not be recycled.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported the organics facility in Campbell River will open in 2023. It is actually scheduled to open in 2020.

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