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Metro Vancouver cities range from recycling stars to wastrels

Survey shows better diversion rates where food waste pickup is underway
Getting organic food waste out of the garbage and into green bins is one of the key strategies Metro cities are pursuing to reduce the waste stream.

Households in Port Moody and Port Coquitlam are out-recycling the rest of the region by a wide margin, while New Westminster and White Rock are among the worst laggards.

That's according to a new Metro Vancouver survey of waste diversion rates that looked at the curbside disposal and recycling practices of single family houses in each city.

Port Moody houses have hit a 61 per cent curbside diversion rate – which compares the compostables and recyclables put out for pickup against the garbage collected.

Port Coquitlam was a close second at 59 per cent, followed by Langley City at 58 per cent and West Vancouver at 56 per cent.

In contrast, cities with worse than 40 per cent diversion rates included Anmore (23 per cent), New Westminster (31 per cent), Belcarra (35 per cent), White Rock (36 per cent), Lions Bay (37 per cent) and Pitt Meadows (38 per cent).

Vancouver and Surrey weren't much better at 43 and 44 per cent respectively, below the Metro average of 49 per cent.

Metro waste management committee chair Greg Moore said the aim isn't to shame some cities but to track progress going forward and determine what measures are working best.

"We are all going along the same path," the Port Coquitlam mayor said, adding some cities are moving faster than others.

Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have both had curbside kitchen scrap pickup programs for more than two years now, Moore said.

"So the residents are just more used to doing it and more and more residents are participating," he said.

Burnaby is also picking up kitchen waste, Vancouver is phasing it in and other cities, including Surrey, are conducting neighbourhood pilot projects.

All municipalities are working to bring in kitchen scrap pickup programs for single-family homes by the end of 2012.

With 40 per cent or more of the waste stream consisting of organics, It's hoped much less trash will be put out to go to landfills or the region's incinerator.

Besides picking up kitchen scraps, Port Coquitlam is now more than a year into its shift to less frequent garbage pickup every two weeks and weekly compost pickup.

Port Moody followed suit this year and Moore said that city is actually now approaching a 70 per cent single-family diversion rate as a result.

Most waste can go into either blue boxes or for compostable green waste pickup if residents are diligent, Moore said.

"So there really isn't a need to pick up solid waste on a weekly basis. There's more of a need to pick up kitchen scraps on a weekly basis."

Some of the numbers in the survey are older diversion rates from 2009, but in most cases the data is from the first three months of 2011.

Multi-family buildings weren't covered – traditionally the households with the worst recycling and composting rates because it's near impossible to determine who throws recyclables into common garbage bins.

Cities are aiming to bring composting to multifamily homes as well, but by a more distant target date of 2015.

That's the same year Metro is committed to reach its ambitious target of recycling or composting 70 per cent of the waste stream from all sectors, including businesses, to rein in how much garbage is landfilled or burned.

Organics picked up by local cities are already being composted at a regional plant in Richmond and plans are in the works to create a biofuels plant in northeast Surrey to digest kitchen scraps.