Victoria councillors call for composting at Hartland landfill

Faced with the prospect of thousands of tonnes of separated food scraps being landfilled, Victoria councillors are calling on the Capital Regional District to immediately explore establishing a regional compost facility at the Hartland landfill.

“I think this is something that might be the compromise that can get majority support at the [CRD] board to give us a solution,” said Coun. Ben Isitt, the city’s representative on the CRD environmental services committee. “Because right now our [foods scraps collection] program is very vulnerable and that’s no failing of the city.”

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That committee this week rejected a CRD staff recommendation to award a $4.7-million contract to Emterra Environmental to haul food scraps to the Lower Mainland for processing between April 2014 and December 2015 while a more permanent solution is sought.

The CRD has been left with no local place to compost food scraps collected in Victoria, View Royal, Esquimalt, Sidney and Oak Bay since it cancelled the licence of Foundation Organics in Central Saanich because of odour and litter complaints.

If the committee decision is not overturned and the contract not accepted by the CRD board in two weeks, staff say there is little alternative but to landfill food scraps that residents in those communities have been separating from other garbage.

Saanich, which begins its organics collection program on Tuesday, is not affected because it signed a separate five-year deal to compost an estimated eight to 11 million tonnes a year of residential kitchen scraps and yard waste at Fisher Road Recycling in Cobble Hill. That facility is not able to accept more kitchen scraps.

“I think we want to prove Saanich wrong — that CRD can manage this responsibly and deal with the waste in the region,” Isitt said.

Central Saanich is already on record as supporting composting of food scraps at Hartland.

Isitt said for the $4.7 million the CRD is looking to pay Emterra, it could establish a facility at Hartland, possibly before the CRD ban on dumping organics at the landfill begins in 2015. The CRD has said the ban is needed to extend the life of the landfill.

“Talking to people in the industry, it’s not impossible to build a basic type of infrastructure in a three- to six-month window,” Isitt said.

Hartland is zoned for waste management so composting would be a permitted use and is something the CRD has looked at in the past, said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.

“But certainly, in terms of taking government money and giving it to a contractor who is going to require a multi-year commitment, it’s not something you do off the side of your desk,” he said.

Leonard said it appeared Isitt was “trying to cover his own tracks,” given he was a key player in seeing the Emterra contract rejected by the CRD committee.

“He was instrumental in the decision to put compost in the landfill and rather than stand up and try to give some rationale, he’s like a magician. He’s trying to distract with all these other comments and motions,” Leonard said.

“Perhaps people like their politicians to be magicians, but I think the people like what Saanich is doing, and that’s making sure that compost is composted.”

Leonard said as soon as news of the CRD committee’s decision broke, Saanich’s greener garbage hotline was inundated with callers who said they wouldn’t separate food scraps from garbage if it was going to be landfilled.

They were assured that Saanich has lined up a facility for composting.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

 

> Editorial: Waste not, A13

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