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B.C. community expands home composting pilot project to divert more food waste from landfills

B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, centre, holds a FoodCycler while flanked by Nelson mayor-elect Janice Morrison, left, Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson, right, and city staff.  (City of Nelson British Columbia/Facebook - image credit)
B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, centre, holds a FoodCycler while flanked by Nelson mayor-elect Janice Morrison, left, Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson, right, and city staff. (City of Nelson British Columbia/Facebook - image credit)

The City of Nelson, B.C., is expanding its food waste management pilot program, distributing countertop waste recyclers to more households in an attempt to reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week, the city council announced its plan to give out 1,600 FoodCyclers, which the Ottawa-based manufacturer, Food Cycle Science, says can substantially reduce the weight and volume of organic waste.

Each FoodCycler unit can easily fit on a kitchen countertop and comes equipped with a 2.5-litre bucket for food waste. Through a process of drying, grinding and cooling, the company says the FoodCycler will aerate food waste without producing methane gas and turn it into fertilizer within four to eight hours.

The West Kootenay municipality, home to more than 11,000 people, is one of the 40 communities across Canada — and the first B.C. community to sign up to pilot the device.

Jean Delisle/CBC
Jean Delisle/CBC

Alternative to curbside pickup of food waste

The city's climate and energy manager Carmen Proctor says nearly 200 residents in Nelson and neighbouring communities participated in the initial three-month pilot in 2020 and it was a great success in terms of waste reduction.

"[Using FoodCycler] was an alternative to the regular weekly curbside pickup of wet food waste," she told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.

In its presentation, examining how successful the pilot was, city staff said participants processed more than 30,000 litres of organic waste during the three-month period and estimated its use could save 280 kilograms of carbon dioxide by weight per year.

The presentation also mentioned survey results where more than half of participants would want to keep using the FoodCycler if the cost of using it is the same or less than curbside food waste collection, with almost 40 per cent saying FoodCycler motivated them to reduce food waste creation.

Mayor-elect says she reduced her food waste by 90%

Nelson mayor-elect Janice Morrison took part in the pilot when she was still city councillor and agrees it has helped her to buy food more wisely.

"I started to realize how much food I had in my house that I was actually throwing out," she said. "Not only has it reduced our organic waste going into the regular garbage, it's actually made us better consumers of food in general."

Submitted by Janice Morrison
Submitted by Janice Morrison

Like most pilot participants, Morrison mixed the waste-turned-fertilizer into her home garden.

She says she's amazed at how much the FoodCycler appliance reduces the amount of waste.

"I was getting a volume reduction of 90 per cent, which was unbelievable — and it was costing me about 11 cents a cycle to run it."

Next pilot launched in January

The city says it has secured almost $700,000 in funding — through charging resource recovery fees to local residents — to buy the 1,600 FoodCyclers for the next stage of the pilot program that it expects to begin in January 2023.

The city says if successful, it will buy more FoodCycler appliances and distribute them to all local residents by 2024.

Nelson's FoodCycler program is part of a Regional District of Central Kootenay project to divert food waste from landfills. The district says compostable waste constitutes 40 per cent of total household waste.

Residents in Nelson can fill out an online form to participate in the FoodCycler pilot.