Beyond Biosolids: Metro Vancouver Recycles Food, Yard Waste and More

Source separation at the Metro Vancouver utilities means less and less waste is going to a landfill.

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Editor's Note: This article is part of a profile on Metro Vancouver. Watch for a special feature in the June 2015 issue of Treatment Plant Operator. Not a subscriber? Take care of that right here and now. Click here to have TPO delivered monthly to your mailbox.

More and more of the organic waste produced by the 2.4 million people in Metro Vancouver (MV) is being recycled and reused. And less and less is going to the landfill.

That includes biosolids from the region’s wastewater treatment plants as well as yard waste, food scraps, clean wood, corrugated cardboard and more. Since 1990, MV has delivered hundreds of thousands of metric tons of biosolids to various reuse sites, including the Vancouver International Airport, the Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler, numerous landfills and mine reclamation sites, gravel pits, rangelands, city parks and silviculture projects.

The effort has benefitted landscaping and agriculture in the area, while earning the utility a 2010 Award of Excellence from the Northwest Biosolids Management Association. Now, new source separation plans about to kick in will add to the material being reused.

Andrew Marr, director of solid waste planning, says MV will begin banning food scraps and clean wood from trash disposal in 2015, diverting them to composting and energy generation.

“We will phase the program in over several years, starting with a high level of tolerance and tightening up in subsequent years,” he says.

Food scraps from homes are co-mingled with yard waste and picked up by the same trucks, keeping the number of trucks to a minimum.

MV does not recycle the waste itself, but works with the private sector or its member municipalities. For example:

  • Harvest Power, a private processor, operates a high-solids anaerobic digester that processes 27,000 metric tons (29,800 tons) per year of organic waste to produce methane, which it converts to electricity for sale to the grid.
  • Enterra Feed Corporation uses food waste to feed black soldier fly larvae and produce high-protein animal food. 
  • Composting operations support agriculture and landscaping.
  • Recycled clean wood is used mostly for fuel.

Offsetting costs
Disposal ban inspectors are MV’s main costs, largely offset by surcharges collected for violations. While MV is not the first locale to separate organics and recycle food and wood wastes, the organization has set high standards.

“Our regional goal is to divert 70 percent of our waste to recycling by the end of 2015,” Marr says. “At the end of 2013, we were at 60 percent. We already divert about 300,000 metric tons [330,000 tons] per year of organics away from disposal and into compost, feed and biofuel products, but our hope is to double that.”

The region’s public is buying in: “There are always concerns about costs and space, but in our public consultation on our plans to minimize waste to landfill and maximize reuse and recycling, we’ve found good support.”


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