UBC Undergraduate Research

Implementing a Food Scrap Composting Program for Multi-unit Dwellings in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Cameron, Brittany; Khuu, Tiffany; Samels, Danielle; Sheikh, Aden; Sun, Crystal


The City of Vancouver established the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP) in collaboration with Metro Vancouver to make Vancouver the most sustainable city in the world by 2020. Food scrap composting is one aspect in which we can achieve this goal since food scraps compose of 22% of waste in Metro Vancouver’s waste. The purpose of this study is to determine the environmental and social effects of implementing a large scale food-scrap composting pick up program in Downtown Vancouver, as well as challenges that will arise from its implementation. This is a timely project as the City of Vancouver will ban food scraps from entering the landfill or incinerator by the year 2015. Our objectives are: 1. To understand the current food scrap composting systems in Metro Vancouver. This includes establishing the goals, logistics, target communities and the key individuals/organizations of the food scrap composting pilot projects that are currently running in Metro Vancouver. 2. To quantify, through spatial modeling, the distribution and the number of people in multi-unit dwellings in Downtown Vancouver. These models will include high, medium, and low density scenarios depending on size of dissemination areas (DAs). 3. To establish the mass of food waste produced in Downtown Vancouver’s multi-unit dwellings, and the mass that can be reduced through food scrap composting, both in present and future conditions. The GHG reductions were computed through the Waste Reduction Model (WARM). 4. To conduct an assessment regarding the implementation of the project under the categories of: Environmental benefits and disadvantages: Accessing the results of the WARM model and what these results mean for Downtown Vancouver and the City of Vancouver. Addressing whether the results obtained will help the City of Vancouver achieve the goals outlined in the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Social benefits and disadvantages: Addressing social conflicts such as odours, health concerns, and education of citizens regarding composting. Implementing a Food Scrap Composting Program in Downtown, Vancouver, British Columbia 2 To achieve our objectives, three different analyses were conducted: a spatial model of truck routes and the density distribution downtown, a statistical model of garbage reduction from the landfill due to this food scrap composting program, and a WARM model to statistically determine the amount of GHGs saved through this program, as compared to a baseline scenario. The West End area of downtown is the densest and will require the highest amount of compost pickup, and the Waterfront/Gastown area will require the least. Eight trucks per week will be required to transport food scraps from downtown to the Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre composting facility. Since the distance from downtown to the composting facility is shorter than from downtown to the Vancouver Landfill, 2070 kg CO2e/yr can be saved from composting through transportation fuel consumption alone. Based on the 2011 population it was determined that Downtown Vancouver produces 48,280 tonnes of garbage a year. Three different scenarios were created to determine garbage and greenhouse gas reduction. The three different scenarios were a maximum (100% participation), an average (70% participation), and a low reduction (40% participation). The mass of garbage saved from the landfill compared to a business as usual situation was between 4240 and 10620 tonnes per year, which is at least a 9% reduction in garbage being brought to the landfill from Downtown Vancouver. Also, there would be between 2180 and 5470 tonnes of CO2e reduction Since this program was not implemented in 2011, and the population in downtown is expected to rise, reaching 108,500 people in 2020, we created projections, assuming that the program was implemented by 2013. Again, three scenarios were developed that were based on Toronto’s participation as well as food scrap composting becoming mandatory. These scenarios were compared against a business as usual case. Based on the most likely scenario, there would be a 20% decrease in garbage produced per year in 2020, and a total cumulative reduction of 69,700 tonnes. From the WARM model it was determined that by 2020 there would be a 32% decrease in CO2e being emitted if food scrap composting was implemented following the most likely scenario. Our models have determined that banning food scraps will divert 16.5% of garbage from the landfill and incinerator. GCAP’s goals are to divert garbage from landfills and incineration by 50% from the 2008 levels by 2020, and our statistical model shows that food scrap composting will keep garbage masses constant at 2008 levels, even with the 20% population growth by 2020. Composting saves 2.070 tonnes CO2e/yr from entering the atmosphere through altering truck transport route of food scrap pickup, as the distance from downtown to the composting facility is shorter than the distance from downtown to the landfill. Overall, 3,830 tonnes of CO2e/yr are diverted from the atmosphere through food scrap composting. Because these emissions are measured in CO2e, they represent various GHGs that can be diverted from entering the atmosphere. This would improve the air quality in downtown and in Vancouver, thus improving the health of people who live there and contribute to making the City of Vancouver one of the most livable cities in the world. Food scrap composting would also increase the general population’s environmental Implementing a Food Scrap Composting Program in Downtown, Vancouver, British Columbia 3 awareness. Implementing this program should be easy as it would be similar to the current garbage pickup program, and due to downtown’s dense nature, trucks do not have to travel far to pick up food scraps from the buildings. The City of Vancouver can provide composting bins upon initial implementation of this program, and charge a small fee for additional ones. A higher participation rate is predicted since downtown’s population is composed of a younger population that would be willing to accept environmental initiatives. Downtown will produce 10,620 tonnes of food scrap per year, but the Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre ltd. facility should be sufficient to handle this amount, as its capacity is 200 000 tonnes. Proper composting needs to be enforced, because organic system can only handle a 1% contamination rate. A factor that may deter people from composting is its smell, but there are simple solutions for that, such as installing carbon filters, lining composting bins with newspapers or paper bags, putting in citrus fruits, or baking soda. Such a food scrap-composting program has been carried out in the City of Toronto, Burnaby, and Portland with at least a 50% success rate. Recommendations that would ensure the success of implementing a food scrap-composting program would be to educate those that would be composting. Once it is understand why composting is being done as well as the significance, participation rates will increase, and contamination will decrease. Workshops can be conducted in elementary and high schools to install sustainable practices in future generations. Further research will be needed to determine if the aerobic composting that this program suggests is the best method, as anaerobic composting in vessels is also possible. If so, in vessel composting facilities that could be placed within neighbourhoods within downtown or the rest of Vancouver will reduce GHGs produced from transporting food scraps from downtown to the composting facility.

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