Questions and answers

Does this recycling rule apply to all residential buildings?

Yes, this rule applies to residential buildings across the region. The organics disposal ban is being phased in gradually. Find out about Metro Vancouver’s phased approach to enforcement.

Will my city collect food scraps from my building?

Some cities are collecting food scraps from some buildings - generally those that already have city garbage and recycling collection. Find out who collects your building’s recycling (city or private hauler) and ask what food scraps collection they offer. Another option is to call the Recycling Council of BC Recycling Hotline. Staff can answer questions about the organics disposal ban, and provide a list of commercial hauling services. Contact the Recycling Hotline at 604-REC-YCLE. (732-9253)

I haven’t heard from my strata. What should I bring to their attention?

Talk to your strata about the new food scraps recycling rules. They may already be thinking about planning. If not, suggest they visit metrovancouver.org/foodscraps for information or contact the Recycling Council of BC Recycling Hotline at 604-RECYCLE. (732-9253). Hotline staff can answer questions about the organics disposal ban, and provide a list of commercial hauling services.

Our building doesn’t have a food scraps collection plan, what does a plan look like?

A food scraps collection plan identifies as examples:

  • Roles and responsibilities (Who will contact the hauler or city to find out hauling options? Who will make decisions about informing residents?)
  • Timing (When can your building realistically be ready to start a full program? Is it reasonable to start a few floors at a time to build participation?)
  • Communication strategy (Will residents be informed with elevator notices, door-to-door introductions, a lobby meeting? How much follow-up information will be provided after the program is initiated?)

For examples of a plan, visit TrashTalks (a multi family resource website), or read case studies.

Who will set up our collection program?

There are a large variety of building types in this region, and the answer is specific to your building. Who currently manages your garbage and recycling? It may be the strata, your city, a property manager, or a group of engaged residents.

Where do we get the kitchen catchers for our kitchens?

A kitchen catcher is a counter-top (or under-sink) container with a lid that you use in your kitchen that can be carried to and from the communal food scraps recycling bins and easily cleaned. Many stores sell them, or residents can make their own (a lidded coffee tin, a large yogurt container, or a glass bowl with a plate on top). Use something you can line with newspaper and seal with a lid to manage odours.

Can we use our food grinders (and similar technologies)?

There is not a regulation about using food grinders and similar technologies. But this information might help you make choices about how you dispose of your food scraps.

In terms of environmental impact, composting is a preferable option.

  • Food grinders and similar technologies result in food waste in the sewer system where it puts extra pressure on wastewater treatment plants. Sewer water is treated before being released into the environment, and it is costly to treat large volumes of food at the sewage plants.
  • Food grinders and similar technologies use a lot of drinking water to move food down your pipes, and through city pipes to the wastewater treatment plants. There are so many better uses for our drinking water.
  • Food scraps can be turned into something useful if they are recycled. The resulting compost is used in landscaping, and biofuels are used as a green alternative to fossil fuels.
Food grinders and similar technologies can’t take all of your food scraps, for example:
  • Bones and large volumes of starch (like rice) clog pipes as they dry.
  • Grease should never be poured in the drain as it clogs when it cools, joins up with other solids and can cause overflows in your home. Solidified grease should go in your food scraps bin.
  • Food-soiled paper such as pizza boxes, paper towels and napkins can go in your food scraps bin, but not down your food grinder and similar technologies.

What if other residents put plastic and packaging in our shared organics collection bins? Will our strata be fined?

Like all recycling, a communal food scraps bin requires everyone to follow the same rules. Your food scraps hauler will identify if there are plastic bags, food ties, or food packaging in your bins and can suggest ways to avoid it. To improve your food scraps recycling program, provide residents with feedback on how they are doing,and on problems to work on, use consistent informational signage, and provide friendly reminders.

Our building has a tiny recycling room and there is no space for food scraps bins.

This is a challenge in some buildings. Your waste hauler may be able to recommend a solution. Metro Vancouver has determined reasonable space and access parameters for new buildings and retrofitting. In the meantime, existing buildings are reorganizing their rooms, decreasing garbage bin sizes (increased recycling means less garbage), increasing collection frequency, moving bins outside where feasible, and trying other solutions.

Our building’s recycling bins are kept outside. Won’t a food scraps bin attract rats? And smell in the summer?

Pests and odour can be kept to a minimum with regular emptying and cleaning of food waste containers.  An average building’s garbage is already currently 40% food scraps. Now, those same food scraps are in a separate bin.

Residents can line their kitchen catchers with newspaper and wrap greasy or wet food scraps in newspaper to absorb moisture, which will reduce odours and prevent flies. Some buildings keep the newspaper recycling near the food scraps bins for this purpose.

Talk to your hauler about options such as:

  • switching in clean bins after collection
  • using a bin liner approved by the food scraps recycling facility when available
  • having bins cleaned at time of collection
  • more frequent collection during hot weather.

Commercial bin-cleaning services are available. The Recycling Council of BC maintains a list of service providers. Contact the Recycling Hotline at 604-RECYCLE (732-9253)

Can we line our kitchen catchers with plastic bags? What about those labelled biodegradable or compostable?

Plastics, including those marked biodegradable, and similar items contaminate compost and reduce its value – please keep them out of the green bin. These bags often do not compost properly during processing.

The food scraps recycling process makes a high quality product and plastics will contaminate it and reduce its value.

If non-compostable material is included in the green bin, two things likely occur:
  1.  If identified, the entire load may be rejected and sent to landfill. 
  2. If not identified, the load may be processed, but the resulting compost will not be usable because it has plastic bits throughout and is not valued for landscaping.

It is very difficult for staff at the processing plant to determine how plastics are labelled once loads are mixed together and piled at the processing site.

Other common contaminants include: plastic wrap and bags, elastics, twist ties, straws, swizzle sticks, plastic cutlery and glass.

Line your kitchen catchers with newspaper, paper towels or brown kraft paper bags and wash them out after each use.

What happens if we don’t participate?

Focus on why a resident should participate. When asked, most people care about the place they live, and want to do what they can to help the environment.

Recycling food scraps does these things:

  • Reduces our reliance on landfills. Currently about 40% of the garbage we landfill is food scraps.
  • Once buried in the landfill without access to oxygen, food scraps decompose poorly, and create methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Sending them to a processing facility, or using a proper composter however, creates compost for landscaping, or biofuel and energy.
  • Helps individuals realize how much food we waste (30 to 60% of a resident’s household garbage is food scraps, ask yourself why?) which can lead to smarter shopping and saving money
  • Can save money for the strata or building manager. The tipping fee on food scraps is lower than the tipping fee for garbage. This means it costs less to dispose of food scraps once they are separated from regular garbage than to leave them mixed together.
  • With the new organics disposal ban, garbage loads that contain too much food scraps will receive surcharges on the disposal tipping fee. This may affect the cost of the building’s garbage hauling service.