Victoria food scraps may have no place to go but landfill

Tonnes of kitchen scraps separated from garbage by residents in Victoria, View Royal, Esquimalt, Sidney and Oak Bay could be destined for the Hartland landfill in Saanich after members of a Capital Regional District committee decided against shipping them to the Lower Mainland for processing.

CRD staff had recommended awarding a contract for hauling and processing food scraps between April 2014 and December 2015 to Emterra Environmental on the Lower Mainland for $4.79 million.

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Without the agreement, the only interim solution until an in-region processing facility is developed, is landfilling, staff said.

The decision not to award the contract was made by members of the environmental services committee and has to be ratified by the CRD board at its next meeting April 9. The bid from Emterra expires at the end of the day April 10.

Committee chairman Nils Jensen wouldn’t speculate on what the board might do.

“Certainly, landfilling the separated kitchen scraps, I don’t think, is going to sit well with a lot of people. Certainly, the kitchen scrap programs have been well received in Oak Bay and, from what I’ve heard from the mayor of Victoria, it’s been very well received in Victoria,” Jensen said.

“So if all that work is going to be undone and we’re going to landfill it, that’s something the board will have to consider — whether that’s the appropriate response and the appropriate interim solution.”

Saanich has signed a five-year deal to compost kitchen scraps at Fisher Road Recycling in Cobble Hil and is not affected by the decision.

The CRD has been scrambling to find a way to deal with food scraps since hundreds of odour and litter complaints led to the cancellation of the operating licence for Foundation Organics in Central Saanich.

A contract with Emterra was seen as a stopgap. But because there’s no guarantee of tonnage, it didn’t come cheap.

Staff had suggested an increase to the tipping fee for kitchen scraps to $140 a tonne — up from $107 a tonne, effective June 1 — to pay the estimated $1.3 million more it would have cost to ship food scraps out of region than what was budgeted to process them locally.

That was an about-face for the CRD, which has been giving a $20-a-tonne incentive to municipalities to separate kitchen scraps from other garbage.

The only alternative to raising rates, CRD staff said, was to further draw down on a rapidly depleting landfill reserve fund.

Both CRD chairman Alastair Bryson and Jensen urged committee members Wednesday to approve the Emterra contract, noting there was little choice given that a landfill ban on food scraps is due to kick in Jan. 1, 2015, and that several municipalities have already invested heavily in food-scrap collection.

In the end, only Bryson, Jensen and Highlands Mayor Jane Mendum voted in favour. Saanich councillors Judy Brownoff and Vic Derman left the room so they wouldn’t have to vote and Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell voted against.

The CRD has decided to ban dumping food scraps in Hartland landfill in an effort to prolong its life.

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