Metro Vancouver fears rising use of garburators will strain sewage plants

Regional district considers ban on new food waste grinders in restaurants, urges residents to divert organics instead

As Metro Vancouver prepares to impose fines to stop the dumping of organic food waste in the garbage, officials at the regional district now worry too many residents and businesses will instead use garburators to send the problem down the drain.

As a result, Metro planners are now considering a ban on the installation of new food waste grinders by restaurants and other businesses, and they’re mulling how to keep households from using garburators that are already widespread in newer homes.

Using in-sink disposals to grind up food and flush it down the drain is convenient for people and businesses who don’t have organic waste pickup service or don’t want to use it.

But Fred Nenninger, Metro director of liquid waste policy planning and analysis, said all those food particles increase the load on the region’s sewage treatment plants.

More food waste in the sewage fosters more microbe activity and could potentially deplete oxygen in the effluent discharged to the Salish Sea.

Metro estimates 45 per cent of homes in the region now have garburators and there’s no food scrap pickup yet at 63 per cent of apartments and condos across the region.

A continued trend towards more food grinding, coupled with expected population increases, could put Metro in violation of its sewage discharge permits from the Iona and Lions Gate plants that are still on primary-only treatment, Nenninger said.

Metro isn’t proposing a residential ban on new garburators – it doesn’t have the authority to impose one on households.

But Nenninger wants residents to know they’re problematic and diversion of organics – either to backyard compost or to green bins – is a much better use of the material as a resource.

It’s cheaper, too.

According to a staff report, the cost of processing food waste through the sewage system is $1,800 per tonne, compared to the $70 per tonne tipping fee for separated organic waste.

Food grinders are so far relatively uncommon as a disposal method in restaurants and supermarkets.

But the report warns increased use of them could cause big problems for the Metro treatment plants, as well as municipalities.

One anticipated problem is that a restaurant food grinder that mushes food bits up with fat and oil will make required grease traps much less effective, causing more oil and grease buildup in sewer lines.

Area cities already spend $2 million a year removing built-up grease from sewer pipes to keep them from backing up.

“If you’re trying to grind ahead of grease traps you’re going to have a real serious problem,” Nenninger said.

He noted some commercial food grinding systems may be less problematic than others.

“There may be different options,” Nenninger said. “We will work work with the commercial sector to look at the technologies available in determining what might have to be banned and what might be completely appropriate.”

B.C. Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostenson said he believes most restaurants will “do the right thing” and find ways to make organic food waste diversion work rather than resorting to more use of food grinders.

In a letter to Metro directors, manufacturer InSinkErator Canada argues the use of in-sink disposers significantly reduces garbage going to landfills, cuts the cost and emissions of trucking garbage or organics, and leaves no material sitting around to attract wildlife and vermin.

 

Organic waste disposal surcharges take effect in July

Haulers who arrive at Metro transfer stations with too much food waste in their garbage loads will be dinged with a surcharge starting in July.

A ban on organic waste disposal has been in place since the start of the year but actual enforcement through fines is now taking effect after a six-month education period.

Inspectors who already watch for loads with other banned recyclables such as electronic waste, cardboard or paper will now add a 50 per cent surcharge to the tipping fee of loads containing more than 25 per cent food material.

That threshold is expected to drive disposal costs up for mainly just the larger generators of food waste, such as supermarkets, restaurants and hotels that don’t have an effective food scraps recycling system.

Metro expects to gradually reduce the tolerance threshold in future years so the surcharge hits more loads and spurs greater diversion of organics to green bins.

Although the Metro surcharges don’t take effect until July, the regional district has been getting complaints for months from some residents and businesses who believe they’ve been wrongly charged.

Haulers have in some cases already begun charging customers who don’t have organics recycling in place, or have added across-the-board fees to recover expected higher costs due to the Metro surcharges.

“If customers think they have been charged inappropriately, Metro Vancouver advises them to raise their concerns directly with their hauler,” according to a Metro report.

It says early results of the organics dumping ban are encouraging – organics diverted were up 50 per cent in the first three months of 2015 compared to a year ago, following a 12 per cent increase to 300,000 tonnes in 2014.

Organics make up an estimated 40 per cent of the region’s garbage that goes to landfills or the Burnaby incinerator.

Just Posted

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

Surrey resident says proposed apartment building is a ‘monstrosity’ in Whalley neighbourhood

Philip Galbraith says he voted for Safe Surrey Coalition to ‘slow down development’

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Most Read