What is Metro Vancouver’s position on using commercial digesters, or similar on-site technology to manage food waste from retail locations?
Metro Vancouver maintains that composting is the best way to manage organics. Sending them through the sewer system costs the region more money and doesn’t capture the same value from the compost. Digesting food waste does not align with many corporate sustainability guidelines aimed at protecting the environment and gaining maximum value from resources. Digesters are not currently prohibited by Metro Vancouver’s sewer use bylaw as long as they are operated in a way that fully complies with that bylaw. Digesters not in compliance are subject to regulatory action. Commercial operators require a liquid waste discharge permit to release materials into the sewer system. Visit
here or contact Metro Vancouver’s Regulation and Enforcement division at 604-436-6737 or email
What about other on-site technologies that do recover material or energy from organics? Are any viable in this region?
There are businesses managing their organics on site. This report compares various options available in Canada. Its focus is on currently used and available methods to store, de-water, condense or compost organics material on-site. Criteria for the reviews include operational costs, corporate sustainability, footprint, and maintenance.
What kind of capacity is available for hauling, de-packaging and processing for the volume of organic material Metro Vancouver anticipates?
Many hauling companies offer food waste collection services. Currently, there are de-packaging facilities in the eastern and western parts of the region. The Recycling Council of BC staff can provide a list of commercial hauling and depackaging services. Contact the Recycling Hotline at 604-REC-YCLE (732-9253).
Substantial new processing capacity is under development to recycle the additional food and compostable materials that will be separated for recycling once the Organics Disposal Ban is fully implemented. The progressive implementation of the disposal ban will give time for the new capacity to align with the additional needs.
What other cities in North America have a disposal ban like this one, and are other food retailers dealing with those regulations? What about the costs to comply?
Organics disposal bans exist in other places around the world. Costs of those programs are manageable. Examples include Ireland, Massachusetts, Portland, Halifax and Nanaimo.
There is still a lot of recyclable material in typical commercial waste loads. Removing all cardboard and recyclable plastics for example will allow reductions in waste bin size or hauling frequency.
Complying with this regulation aligns with many corporate sustainability goals, and can often be considered in greenhouse gas emission targets. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. In a landfill, food scraps decompose without access to oxygen and produce methane, whereas proper composting avoids producing the methane. Read the report from ClimateSmart Businesses Inc.
What is Metro Vancouver doing to help make this initiative work?
Metro Vancouver is responsible for managing the waste generated in our region, including meeting the goals set in the Solid Waste Plan, which were derived from public input.
- Waste reduction and improved recycling are key goals.
- Removing organics from landfilling, and recovering nutrients is a priority.
We recognize this is a significant change for some businesses and have engaged and consulted on the disposal ban details, created a six month grace period where businesses will be informed of infractions and not fined, and phased in the ban enforcement to impact higher volume wastes earlier.
Metro Vancouver is able to influence removing food from the regions landfills by:
- setting the regulation at the disposal facilities
- supporting a price differential for green vs solid waste tipping fees to offer a cost advantage to composting over landfilling
- encourage private investment in processing facilities
- convening major organics generating sectors to look for collective, sector-wide ways to improve waste reduction and recycling
- producing tool kits, best practice guides, case studies and information
- encouraging consistent messages, images and recycling collection programs for end-users among cities and private businesses across the region, which improves recycling rates.
- creating mandatory space and access and other related bylaws for new buildings and major renovations
- assessing the waste produced region wide and continuously identify targets for reduction
- supporting Extended Producer Responsibility and other programs.