Most restaurants are unlikely to initially obey new Metro Vancouver rules that require them and other businesses to separate food waste for recycling starting Jan. 1, according to an industry spokesman.
B.C. Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostenson said most restaurant operators have not yet had enough time to prepare for the major change in waste handling, but added he expects majority compliance before Metro’s six-month grace period expires and actual penalties begin.
“As generators of organic waste we know this is the right thing to do to get it out of landfills,” he said. “But you can’t just impose these costs on 6,000 restaurants without having a really sensitive perspective on their economics.”
Many B.C. restaurants continue to “hang by a thread” since the 2008 recession, Tostenson said, adding he expects most will wait for the January slowdown to figure out how to add organic waste bins to their operations rather than disrupt their December holiday business.
Starting next July, Metro inspectors will slap a 50 per cent tipping fee surcharge on loads of garbage they spot that contain 25 per cent or more food scraps. Up until then, they’ll just issue warnings.
As with other Metro disposal bans, the fines are paid by haulers, who would then pressure their business customers to comply.
Single-family homes in most of Metro Vancouver are already expected to separate organics for curbside pickup.
The allowable level of organic food in garbage would be reduced in subsequent years, likely to 10 per cent in 2016.
The regional district expects to initially its enforcement on large generators of food waste, such as supermarkets, major restaurants and hotels.
But the new ban is also supposed to apply to hospitals, schools and multi-family residential buildings, many of which also face challenges complying due to lack of space for green bins and concerns about attracting vermin.
“We encourage residents of multi-family complexes and businesses to talk to their landlords, property managers, and waste haulers about implementing food waste recycling plans now,” Metro zero waste committee chair Malcolm Brodie said.
The region is counting on greatly increased diversion of organics to reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills and increase its current 60 per cent recycling rate to 70 per cent in 2015 and 80 per cent by 2020.
Food rotting in landfills is a major avoidable source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Tostenson said one challenge is that many restaurants are in malls or other buildings with other businesses and as tenants often don’t have full control over garbage handling.
He’s aware of one large Vancouver restaurant in a shared commercial building whose owners have made no accommodation for the rule change.
Mall food courts are another trouble spot, he said, adding mall operators will need to educate shoppers on separating food to go into organics bins from other recyclables.
Tostenson applauded Metro’s release of information videos on the change in multiple languages, noting the region’s diverse restaurant scene includes many operators who don’t speak English.
Collected organics may go to composting facilities or other purposes, depending on the hauler.
The City of Surrey is building a biofuels processing plant that will take 115,000 tonnes per year of organic waste and convert it into natural gas to power the city’s garbage trucks as well as compost.
Surrey is in talks with preferred partner Iris Solutions, which would design, build, partly finance and operate the plant, which is to open in 2016.
METRO VANCOUVER VIDEO
Banned from the trash
Metro’s disposal ban applies to food scraps, including raw food, plate scrapings, leftovers and meat. Some food soiled paper, such as pizza boxes or used table napkins, can also be separated.
For more information see http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solidwaste/businesses/OrganicsBan/Pages/index.aspx