Food producers in Whitehorse will soon have to opt in to a composting program that had previously been voluntary.
Jackie Taylor, environmental coordinator with the city, said more than 100 businesses have participated in the pilot project since it was introduced in 2013-14.
Next year, she said, the city will phase in remaining businesses over a period of two years. This aligns with the waste management bylaw, passed by the city in March 2018, requiring food service businesses and multi-family dwellings to have collection services for organic waste.
The city will start focussing on commercial food producers in 2019, and multi-family buildings, those with five or more units, in 2020.
Taylor said composting for commercial food producers — including restaurants, grocery stores, food distributors and commercial kitchens — will be phased in through a zoned approach that starts in Porter Creek, Hillcrest and other outer edges of the city. It will then move downtown, which presents more of a challenge for restaurants with limited alley access and less room for dumpsters.
Christine Kent, co-owner of Miner’s Daughter and the Dirty Northern, said she’s expecting a compost bin to arrive from the city early in May.
“(We) are very excited about it,” she wrote in an email. “We believe it should be mandatory for restaurants to recycle (not just cardboard) and compost but still find it a clumsy, expensive time-consuming endeavour for a variety of reasons.”
Taylor said 89 schools, apartments and businesses currently participate via a cart system, while 17 use the large volume collection option.
Boston Pizza is one of those.
Gerry Brandt owns the Whitehorse franchise. When he bought the business in November 2016, it was already participating in the composting program.
“When we bought the restaurant we made the decision that, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “And to be honest, to us, it just makes sense and good business, being where we are.”
Brandt said the restaurant has three separate garbage bins — for garbage, cardboard, and organic waste. These are emptied into outdoor bins an average of twice a day. The outdoor bins are picked up by PNW once or twice a week, depending on volume.
He said the toughest part of participating is teaching new staff which garbage goes where, and he said he can see how the cost could deter some businesses. The city’s website says the cost for a small volume green cart is $25 a month, while dumpsters of different sizes range from $150 to $160 a month.
“A few years ago I probably would have thought about it twice because it does take additional time and expense,” he said. “But as we’ve all become more environmentally conscious, especially in the Yukon where resources are limited and everyone takes pride in us having an amazing region and area of Canada to live in, it just makes sense.”
Taylor said that by bringing in the businesses that are not currently participating, the city estimates it will divert an additional 1,000 tons of organic waste from landfills annually.
She said the problem with organics making their way into landfills is that they are typically wet, and end up buried beneath, and interacting with, dry garbage.
“A good landfill is dry,” she said. “Once you have organics in there, it gets swampy.”
She said that creates methane as well as a toxic liquid called leachate, which leaches into the ground.
By contrast, the city’s organics facility, which opened in 2008, makes sure compost is aerated to reduce the occurrence of methane and leachate. It also turns organic waste into useable compost.
She said the city has engaged in consultation with the food service sector and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce as part of getting the program going.
She said one of the problems identified by downtown businesses (little space for dumpsters in the alleys, especially on Main Street) is something the city is looking to accommodate. She said the city is encouraging adjacent businesses to split and share large volume dumpsters.
If businesses don’t have the space, she said, the city will find ways to accommodate that.
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