RDCK resource recovery manager Mike Morrison is working on a draft strategy to bring curbside composting to Nelson. Photo: Will Johnson

RDCK set to unveil draft compost plan

Nelson and RDCK continue to explore options for organics

Nelson could have curbside compost pickup as soon as 2020 according to the RDCK’s resource recovery manager Mike Morrison, and he’s working on a draft plan to make that happen.

“One of the directions that the province has told us they want regional districts to go in is looking at food waste diversion, getting food scraps out of the landfill stream, and their goal is to have 75 per cent of B.C.’s population covered by organics diversion programs by 2020,” he told the Star.

“We’re developing a regional draft organics strategy, discussing it with stakeholders and looking at how we can collectively, in concert with member municipalities and the RDCK public, accomplish this.”

They’ll have to customize their approach for each community, providing them with the processing services while requiring the communities to pay for their own collection. That puts the financial burden on Nelson for purchasing a new truck, incorporating composting into their existing pick-up routine and potentially paying additional employees.

“For the City of Nelson we’d be looking at something like a curbside compost program with that material coming to our transfer station and then being transported to a composting facility, likely the old Salmo landfill.”

It’s a big, complicated process.

“We need to get approvals and commitments to collect the materials, we would need to put the facility development funds into the RDCK budget, and then actually proceed with constructing them. There’s a number of steps.”

Any new programs introduced would have to be approved by the RDCK board. There would need to be some adjustments made at the Grohman Narrows transfer station too.

“There’s equipment considerations, there’s considerations with Recycle B.C. and the collection of their materials, there’s the types of technology that can be used — whether it’s automated or manual. And the RDCK will be working with the city to come up with the best set of collection protocols.”

In terms of political will, things look promising in Nelson. At a recent council meeting, Mayor Deb Kozak gave city staff the go-ahead to continue their work their work with the RDCK on developing the strategy.

“A lot of the conversation centered around the fact people want these options but it needs to be affordable and needs to fit with what we want to do,” Kozak told the Star, after the meeting.

“People are aware of those trucks with arms on them that will pick up waste or compost and put it in the truck, and since our truck is at the end of its life and will probably be replaced in the next year or two, that might be an option.”

The problem as she sees it: implementation could dramatically increase garbage rates, a move that could prove to be unpopular with residents. But she feels when you take the larger context into mind, thinking of the environment and the amount of compost currently being wasted, things will even out.

“This is just the right thing to do,” said Kozak, a sentiment that was echoed by Morrison.

“Food waste does not belong in the garbage. It is a resource and should be treated as such,” he said.

“Food waste collection programs are becoming commonplace, it’s not unusual to have food waste collected at curbside, and there’s lots of good environmental reasons to do it — for one, it prevents generation of methane in the landfill.”

And ultimately they’ll be able to use it to make money, or to bolster projects they’re working on in the RDCK.

“We have the old mine tailings next to our Salmo landfill, which is where we’ll likely be doing the processing, and we’re currently working on a plan to close the tailings dam and revegetate. We could use several years worth of compost material to re-establish vegetation.”

Longer term, they’d be looking to create a product they can sell.

“The ultimate end goal with composting is to get that material returned to people’s gardens and growing fruits and vegetables.”

In a mountainous area like Nelson, he said there will be a large demand for soil products — which is what other communities have been creating with their compost as well. Ideally the RDCK program will be in place alongside other initiatives.

“We know around here we have a lot of home composting going on, and we need to make sure we’re not discouraging the activities that are already going on. People are already managing their organics well, restaurants are diverting food scraps to farms and that sort of thing, and we want them to continue to do that as well.”

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