Food Cycle Science presented a food waste solution to city council on Monday that would see city residents produce nutrient-rich products from their kitchens for their gardens. The Ottawa-based company has proposed to the city a pilot project where residents would pay a subsidized rate for a FoodCycler product, with the municipality paying a portion; some funds would also come from Impact Canada, a federal program meant to support the adoption of innovative funding approaches.
“Most residents really enjoy being able to kind of close that loop on the food waste and put it right back into their garden to help grow new food,” said Jacob Hanlon, Food Cycle Science municipal program co-ordinator.
He said the company works with municipalities in rural, remote and northern communities across Canada to keep food waste out of the landfill.
Food Cycle Science manufactuers electronic devices that grind and dehydrate food waste, reducing it by up to 90 per cent of its original weight and volume in under eight hours. Called a FoodCycler, it’s a compost alternative.
Coun. Mike O'Connor noted Aquatera currently has a landfill Gas-to-Energy program that collects gas from decomposing landfill waste and wonders if this program would impact its operations by reducing the amount of compostables it currently uses.
Council decided to direct administration to bring a report back regarding the impacts of adopting the Food Cycle Science’s municipal program along with what impacts it would have on Aquatera.
“We know the successes of recycling in our community through Aquatera; I think this is a great next step for consideration,” said Mayor Jackie Clayton.
“While other people do call it compost, it's not a compost, it's more aligned with what a fertilizer would be, so it's high in nutrient volume, and it can go right into your garden,” he said.
After purchasing the FoodCycler at a reduced cost, residents will be asked to track the number of cycles they use over 12 weeks. A survey will complete the pilot project.
The mayor said she wants the future report to include information on what other municipalities in the program are doing and if they are capping the number of households that can participate or the total expenditure.
The FoodCycler comes in two sizes at a retail cost of $500 and $815. A municipal discount ($200 or $265), along with the Impact Canada investment ($50 or $150) and municipal subsidy ($100), reduces the cost to the consumer to $150 and $300.
According to the Food Cycle Science presentation, municipalities with more than 20,000 residents would be looking 250 households or more to participate in the project which equates to a minimum $25,000 cost to the municipality.
“I think this could have no cost impact on our community,” said Clayton.
She said she wondered if getting a sponsor to contribute the $100 municipal contribution would be possible.
Coun. Grant Berg said he wouldn’t support the the project.
“I'd love it in theory, but it's one of those things that we do the report, and then we have to talk dollars, and to me, there's other priorities for those dollars.”
Coun. Wade Pilat echoed Berg’s concerns saying, “just because somebody comes forward with an idea doesn't mean we have to fund it.”
“I think there's other challenges in our community that we should concentrate on.”
Coun. Chris Thiessen said when the report does come back, he will be looking for a significant impact to balance the cost.
He said when GP Grows started in 2020, the program could run for less than $50,000 and impacted the lives of 5,000 families.
“If we can get something similar to those outputs, then I might be all in,” said Thiessen.
Hanlon said the program has seen success in communities across the country, noting currently 103 municipalities are taking part across the country; over 50 have completed the pilot project.
“We've had some really good success in terms of adding extra diversion to the existing programs in a municipality, and we've had a really good reception from residents.”
He said 90 per cent of residents who use a FoodCycler in a municipal program say they will continue using it after the pilot project.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News