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After smelly stumble, CRD seeks new proposals for composting plant

The Capital Regional District is taking another stab at setting up a local facility to compost the thousands of tonnes of kitchen scraps generated annually in Greater Victoria.
photo composting bags
Compostable bags for kitchen scraps.

The Capital Regional District is taking another stab at setting up a local facility to compost the thousands of tonnes of kitchen scraps generated annually in Greater Victoria.

It is seeking ideas from interested companies on how to build and run a composting plant that could be developed on two acres of cleared land at Hartland landfill or at another location within or near the capital region.

If the project moves ahead, the CRD is hoping to see the plant running by Nov. 1, 2021.

Proposals must use proven technology, include ownership plans, and outline capital and operating costs. Submissions must be in by Dec. 4.

Results from the CRD’s request for expressions of interest go to its February board meeting.

If a local processing plant appears feasible and municipalities support it, a shortlist of four candidates will be able to bid on a request for proposals.

Price per tonne is expected to be a key factor.

At this time, if a municipality chooses to deliver its kitchen scraps to Hartland landfill, it pays $120 per tonne. From there, materials are taken to be processed outside the region.

Local governments are not locked into Hartland delivery — sometimes they send material directly to another plant.

“All we are trying to do is provide an option for them to consolidate tonnage, to potentially get a better price,” said Russ Smith, the CRD’s senior manager of environmental resource management.

Interested firms can count on at least 5,000 tonnes of kitchen waste per year, but need to provide expansion plans.

Companies have been given scope to develop scenarios and financing models. Within that, they have to meet certain criteria, such as using proven technology, outlining environmental controls to manage smells, leaching, emissions and residue, and describing what end products are possible.

It might be possible to produce biogas, which could be integrated with a future renewable natural gas facility for Hartland.

The CRD is requiring an example of another facility that has used the same or similar technology for at least three years.

It is too soon to say if a private proposal would appeal to the municipalities making up the CRD. Local governments might prefer the status quo, depending on proposals.

“All we can really do is go out and ask the question and see what comes back,” Smith said.

This opportunity has generated interest. Nine companies showed up for an information meeting with the CRD last week.

It is the CRD’s latest effort to work with a private firm to compost food waste after an earlier failure.

In 2013, the region contracted with Foundation Organics to deal with kitchen scraps on a Central Saanich farm. But the CRD pulled the operating licence in less than a year after neighbours complained about strong odors.

Since then, Greater Victoria’s kitchen scraps have been either hauled from Hartland to a recycling plant in Cobble Hill or taken to the Lower Mainland for processing. D.L. Bins Ltd. has a three-year contract, expiring Feb. 28, 2021, with the CRD.

In 2015, the CRD banned kitchen scraps at Hartland other than what is delivered by haulers to be taken away for processing. Greater Victoria residents have been putting kitchen scraps in green bins for pickup.

The existing kitchen scraps effort “requires extensive transportation and is inconsistent with the region’s long-term objective of managing the kitchen scraps locally to the extent possible,” the CRD’s expression of interest document states.