City of Vancouver bans organic waste from regular garbage

food scraps poster in Vancouver
Promo image Metro Vancouver

The use of a green bin has been recommended for years, but now it's the law in Vancouver, as part of the city's plan to cut down on unnecessary food waste.

The city of Vancouver has taken a drastic step to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. As of January 1, it became illegal to toss food scraps into the regular garbage, regardless of whether you live in a single-family home, an apartment complex, or run a business. There will be a six-month grace period for all residents of the Metro Vancouver area to become accustomed to separating organic and household wastes and for garbage haulers to learn to identify the illegal waste, and then penalties will start being applied in July 2015.

Vancouver is already a forward-looking city with an excellent track record when it comes to recycling – about 60 percent, which is among North America’s highest rates. The city’s goal is to recycle 70 percent of its waste by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020. Implementing the organics ban will help make that happen. Greg Moore, chair of Metro Vancouver, explains:

“Everyone is affected by this ban, whether you are at home, or out in the community. We need to think differently. We need to think about how we separate our organics, our recycling, and our solid waste.”

Currently an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the garbage in North American landfill sites is composed of organic material. This is a serious problem because, when organic waste decomposes, it produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Diverting food scraps from landfills – which is something that everyone can do easily at home – provides a number of benefits that include: (1) reducing landfill dependence, (2) cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, and (3) repurposing organics and food waste in ways that benefit the environment, rather than damaging it. It also helps make people more aware of the amount of food they throw away because all of it is visible in one place.

According to Metro Vancouver’s blog, green bin contents will be taken to “industrial scale facilities that turn this natural resource into nutrient-rich composts that help grow the next cycles of food, flowers and garden plants, and energy-rich biofuel.”

There are new signs posted around the city to remind residents of the new ban, such as the header picture above. Hopefully the ban is well received, and that other cities will take note and follow Vancouver’s lead in improving waste management.

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