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City of Nelson begins evaluation of FoodCycler pilot

An independent report will be presented to city council this summer
City of Nelson staff (L-R) Lisa Tomson, Mary Tress, and program co-ordinator Emily Mask deliver a FoodCycler to Alpine Lake Suites building manager Moe Roy and building owner Anne Gover. Photo: Submitted

The City of Nelson’s pilot Food Cycler project in Fairview has reached two major turning points.

First, the organic waste program and the appliances themselves are ready to be formally evaluated to decide if they reached their goals and if they should be extended to the rest of the city. If the program is deemed successful by an independent evaluator, this would trigger another mass purchase of the appliances.

The evaluation report will be presented to city council this summer.

In the meantime, there are FoodCyclers left over from the pilot that are now being distributed to neighbourhoods outside of Fairview.

The pilot program has seen 709 FoodCyclers distributed in Fairview, where 928 homes were considered eligible.

This 76 per cent uptake is considered “an overwhelming success” by Emily Mask, the co-ordinator of the program, who said that in conventional curbside pickup programs for kitchen waste, 50-60 per cent participation is considered average by waste industry standards.

Mask said the appliances were distributed only to people eager to get them, after the city offered them to all Fairview residents by direct mail, door-to-door visits, and advertising.

“We were looking for the willing participation of community members,” she said, “because we are not banning organics from the waste stream, so we can not force anyone to do this.”

Residents of other neighbourhoods can now sign up to receive the remaining units, first come first served, by emailing via

The FoodCyclers are provided free to residents but they remain city-owned and stay with the building if the resident moves.

Cost and function

So far the pilot has cost $1.5 million, about half of which has been covered by grants, with the city providing the remaining $767,000, according to Chris Jury, the city’s chief financial officer.

He said the $1.5 million includes the cost of the appliances, staffing, the carbon refill stations, and the administration of the program including the fee of the independent evaluator.

Neighbourhood drop-off receptacle for food residue from Food Cyclers in Fairview behind Safeway. Photo: Steve Ogle

The city has said these costs are expected to be eventually redeemed by lower costs of garbage pickup and hauling.

This city did not reply when asked by the Nelson Star what the the cost of each individual appliance is.

The countertop FoodCycler appliances grind and dehydrate waste and reduce its volume and weight by about 90 per cent, resulting in a nearly odourless residue that can be put in a garden or compost, or placed in a neighbourhood receptacle to be picked up by waste collection crews. The city says this process will reduce waste collection costs and greenhouse gases by eliminating truck transport of “wet waste” to a landfill, and by reducing collection volumes.

The program is also expected to reduce the number of bears in the city by eliminating large amounts of smelly garbage.

Residents of apartment buildings are not eligible for the program with the exception of Alpine Lake Suites, which was included as a pilot for such buildings.

Mask said she found the program’s door-to-door campaign revealed that there are various motivations for taking a FoodCycler: climate action, convenience, avoiding bears, and the example of neighbours.

“They are hearing from their neighbours that they are enjoying their units and it has not been difficult. I have this testimonial from a resident who said their garbage did not get ripped apart by wildlife but their tenant’s did, and the owner had a FoodCycler. That kind of story is turning heads a bit.”

Mask said she also found there were a variety of reasons some people did not want a FoodCycler. Some were elderly people aging out of their homes and moving to retirement facilities. Others said they had a very small place and no room for another waste system. Some houses were vacant or for sale, and some residents said they would not participate in any kind of program designed to deal with organic waste.

The countertop appliance FoodCycler grinds and dehydrates kitchen waste, reducing its volume and weight by about 90 per cent. Photo: Submitted

Mask said she has been contacted by many municipalities expressing interest in the program, but none so far have begun their own version of it.

“There is lots of interest but they are not willing go ahead with it until they see our results. Everyone is being cautious.”

The Fairview pilot’s results will determine whether the appliances are offered to the rest of the city. An independent consultant has been hired to evaluate the pilot program, Mask said, by looking at the attitudes of the pilot residents as well as how much greenhouse gases were avoided, how much diversion from the landfill has taken place, and how easy it was to facilitate and integrate into the existing waste system.

She said the decrease in the total weight of material taken to the landfill from the streets of Nelson is already noticeable, but it has not been formally calculated.

The overall point of the evaluation, she said, is to determine “how much diversion has taken place and at what cost.”


Nelson rolls out FoodCyclers in Fairview

Nelson to launch countertop food waste treatment pilot in spring

Nelson’s organic waste program to be piloted in Fairview

• Residential countertop food waste appliances will remain Nelson city property

Nelson receives $395K federal grant for FoodCycler program

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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