COLUMN: A success story, over time

Surrey’s new waste program will likely prove popular

Surrey’s new Rethink Waste program is drawing plenty of attention from city residents, not least because of the recent delivery of three separate waste bins to single-family homes and homes with suites.

These three bins will be used and emptied in a very different way than has been the case.

The green bin, which is for compost, food waste, soiled paper, bones and virtually all type of organics, will be the only one to be picked up each week. Pickup of the garbage bin will occur every two weeks, alternating with pickup of the recycling bin. The program begins on Monday.

This means far less garbage will originate in Surrey households. The city’s aim is to divert 70 percent of the waste stream away from the landfill by 2015 – an ambitious goal, but one that is achievable, based on tests the city operated with the new bins in some areas. That 70 per cent will be combination of organics and recycling. The goods that can be recycled at curbside are the same ones that are being recycled at present.

The city has been collecting yard waste for some time and has met with mixed success. Some residents regularly put out yard waste – many do not. Now, all are being forced into it, as a result of reduced garbage pickup.

There have been some growing pains, even though the new service has not even started.

Some residents have received bins that were too large. Others are saying they have no way of getting the larger bins to curbside. Pickup in alleys will be either completely eliminated or drastically reduced, because of the size of the bins and the way the trucks are designed to empty them.

One of the most exciting aspects of the new service is Surrey’s plan to eventually fuel the trucks with biofuel. The federal government has offered a grant of $17 million towards construction of a biofuel facility in Port Kells, next to the existing transfer station. Organic waste will be converted into fuel and used to power the trucks, and far more fuel will be created than needed for the fleet. All methane gas will be captured and there will be no carbon emission.

This means Surrey waste will be used to power the trucks that pick it up – eliminating the need to buy fuel and disposing of the products that cause methane emissions, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Surrey has long been a leader in dealing with household waste. It was among the first cities in B.C. to contract out garbage pickup. This immediately saved money for taxpayers and was emulated by many other cities, although union-friendly councils in places like Burnaby and Vancouver have failed to follow suit.

As it operated its own landfill for years in Port Mann, the city had more freedom to implement new ideas. Once it got into the Metro Vancouver waste management orbit, it followed along with Metro principles. Metro Vancouver was very slow to embrace recycling and composting, but has moved more aggressive on waste disposal since being forced to haul much of the trash generated in the region to Cache Creek.

I believe the new program will be a success as residents get used to the changes. Surrey residents already recycle a great amount of their waste and the organics program will likely prove popular.

It’s a way that each of us can contribute to making the city greener and cleaner.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.



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