Banning kitchen scraps from a landfill? What’s next, outlawing landfills altogether? Why not? The Capital Regional District is moving closer to that point with its strategy to turn all kitchen scraps into compost by 2015, reducing by nearly 30 per cent the waste sent to the Hartland landfill.
Collection of kitchen waste starts in the City of Victoria next month; Saanich council voted this week to implement twice-monthly kitchen-scrap collection within the next 14 months. View Royal and Oak Bay are already collecting the material.
Other municipalities will work out how kitchen waste will be collected, some likely through the private contractors that already handle garbage collection.
In 2006, recycling efforts were diverting 30 cent of the waste stream from the landfill. Now, with the Blue Box program, the banning of yard waste and other recycling efforts, it’s at about 47 per cent. The banning of kitchen scraps will bring the CRD close to its goal of keep 70 per cent of waste material out of the landfill.
At current rates, the landfill will be full by 2035. Monique Booth, CRD communications co-ordinator for environmental sustainability, says composting kitchen scraps could extend the landfill’s life by another 12 years or so.
It is not farfetched to believe that if we change our attitudes and habits, we can do away with the necessity of landfills.
“The regional goal is to never have another one,” says Booth.
That isn’t idle dreaming, it’s vital planning. Can you imagine the nightmare of trying to find a site for a new landfill in the region? In whose neighbourhood would you put it? What land would you like to see ravaged?
Apart from the near-impossibility of that task, it would be immoral — the human race needs to mend its wastrel ways. About 40 per cent of food — $27 billion worth — goes to waste in Canada each year, and more than 50 per cent of that waste originates from food thrown away in Canadian homes.
Much of that food waste could be avoided by wiser buying, meal planning, better use of leftovers and food preparation that maximizes the value of the products. (Those potato peelings are not only edible, they contain valuable nutrients.)
Wasted food also means a waste of the energy that goes into growing, processing, transporting, packing, storing and preparing the food. And when the waste goes into the landfill, it doesn’t just decompose harmlessly, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times worse than carbon dioxide.
Under the kitchen-scraps strategy, at least, the food will be turned into valuable compost.
More handling of waste will likely mean more expense, and some will grumble about having to pay a little more to dispose of garbage. No one quarrels with the principle of paying for food and other products; why would you complain at having to pay for disposal of the leftovers? It’s a given that we pay for our food; it should be just as obvious that we should pay to get rid of waste. Dumping garbage isn’t some inalienable right.
Better than looking for ways and places to dispose of our garbage is finding ways to avoid creating waste. Of the 3R’s of provident living — reduce, reuse and recycle — the first one is the easiest.
Some day, garbage trucks and landfills might be listed as extinct species. Either that, or humans will be on the list.
© Copyright 2013