By DAVID JOHNSON
This is the next installment of the ongoing Chronical of the Kamloops City Composting Pilot Project.
This year I will be sharing the details, trials, tribulations and hopefully successes as we test out the service provided by the City, our home being on a pilot project route.
NOTE: If you are not on a predetermined pilot project route, you did not receive the mailers, or the bins. In that case, consider this series as introductory fodder if and/or when the full program proceeds.
Number 2 in the series focusses on the business model; the plan and costs during this one-year pilot program and the business plan if/when the program is expanded to the entire city.
Attached is news on the issue regarding compostable bags that has surfaced as a primary interest to many pilot program participants, details why not allowing them is a short-term reality and also discusses how this could change to allowing compostable bags in a full City program.
To gain knowledge on the city’s perspective on the pilot and hopefully the ongoing program, I was able to sit down with City Staff:
– Gen Farrow – Streets and Environmental Services Manager
– Marcia Dick – Solid Waste Services Manager
– Christine Nickel – Communications and Community Engagement Advisor
– Graham Lamont – Sanitation and Sign Shop Supervisor
… and I am very grateful for their accessibility and willingness to engage,
the goal being to get information out to participants of the pilot program and all city residents.
What happens to our compost?
Our green bin is dumped into one half of our existing two-sided garbage collection trucks. From there it is unloaded at a designated spot at the City yard on Bunker Road. There will be a future column specific to the City side of that task.
Here we have to pause and recognise that there are two timelines to deal with:
– during the pilot program
– after a potential full city-wide program rollout
For the year of the Compost Pilot Project, disposal of our compost is directly linked to the Kamloops biosolids contract presently held by Arrow Transportation through one of their subsidiaries.
Since 2018, biosolids generated at the Kamloops Sewage Treatment Facility are mixed with fibre supplements, then trucked by Arrow to their Ingerbelle Compost Facility in Princeton, where it is treated and turned into Class A compost, which they then sell.
For our residential compost pilot project, those same Arrow trucks stop at the Bunker Road site on their way from the Kamloops Sewage Treatment Facility (KSTF) on its way out of town. The compost waste is dumped on top of the Arrow trucks biosolids load.
The city decided, for the pilot project year, to simply add this service to the existing Arrow contract. This provides time to determine exactly what the actual ongoing needs of a full Kamloops composting program will involve. To put it simply: we are all learning about this, including the City, and they decided it makes more sense to use an already existing contract, for now.
The City is in no way attached to Arrow regarding any future residential compost program contract. This is a short term and temporary solution, and it shows the cautious approach being taken by the City, who have decided to crawl before it can walk. The amount of the compost being added to the biosolids contract is described as ‘small potatoes’ compared to the biosolid tonnage Arrow already handles for us.
This strikes me as a prudent move. We wouldn’t want to be tied into an ongoing contract with any company, then learn through our own experience, that it’s not what best suits our needs.
The City pays Arrow $87.23 per ton to pick up and haul away our biosolids from the Kamloops Sewage Treatment Facility, and our pilot program residential compost materials are being added to that, at the same price.
At the conclusion of the pilot program, if the City decides that the residential compost program is to be an ongoing, permanent program that includes compost pickup from all addresses in Kamloops, a Request for Proposal (RFP) competitive bid process will be initiated, and proposal bids will be considered.
Apparently (news to me) there are a number of larger and smaller companies in B.C. and beyond that would be interested in a long-term residential compost contract like this, and their business model shows why … in case you missed that part above; they get paid to accept our raw material, and are paid a profit again when they sell it.
To say the least … I’m in the wrong business
This model appears to be the norm for collection and processing of these kinds of waste products, for all regions and Cities that are engaged in composing. I was told that no one is going to pay you, or even just accept for free, waste materials that are not a final value-added product, at this scale. That’s just the reality.
Beyond this pilot year, an ongoing contract will likely cost more per ton than our $87 biosolid deal, for two reasons:
1) The volume of a full program will require dealing with contaminants (things that should not be in the mix), which means man hours for sorting,
2) Processing for mixed compost like this is more intensive than biosolids alone.
By example; Arrow knows exactly what materials they are going to get from the Kamloops sewage treatment facility, but what we throw into our compost bins increases the potential risk of contamination, and that will increase the price from a future provider. This is another industry reality.
The question becomes, how will this future ongoing cost be paid for should the full program rollout?
Simple — this will be a new bill that the city will have to pay.
This tonnage rate and any potential tax increase (via the garbage utility bill) levied on taxpayers is a potential future I will be paying close attention to. I have already said in a previous column that there is a planned increased to our garbage collection utility bill, to pay for potential increased costs due to composting as stated by Councillor Dale Bass back in March … even though the original plan was for the RecycleBC revenues to be directly used to pay for any composting program. In reality, this composting program should already be paid for without any increased taxes.
But I digress.
This rolls us into the Compostable Bag problem.
At this time, for the pilot project period, Arrow cannot deal with compostable bags as it’s just not in their existing processes to have them included at a high volume, and to them, at their site, it is a contaminant. This is why we are not, at this time, allowed to use them.
The City recognises residents’ desire to be able to use compostable bags, and (alongside other needs) will look at including the requirement for the allowance of compostable bags in any future RFP, for a future full-program roll out.
In other words, the City will consider making it a basic requirement in future contracts. Just be aware that in order for compostable bags to be allowed, it is possible the tonnage rate paid will likely increase, because they will have to be able to deal with them … and nothing is free.
For those in the pilot project today, creative use of paper bags, pizza boxes at the bottom of your bin or putting yard waste in first before sloppy kitchen scraps are dumped, are all doable short-term solutions, but just know that for this year it’s just something we will have to deal with, keeping in mind that this could change later and we may be allowed to use compostable bags in an expanded program.
How can you let the City know about compostable bags or any issue important to you:
To let the City know that you want compostable bags to be included in the future contract, or to report any other issue or difficulties you are experiencing with the pilot project, the City wants your engagement by filling out the survey at the City website before Oct. 29, the deadline for the initial survey.
If you are on a pilot route, regardless if you are participating by using the compost bin or not, the City is interested in your feedback. Go to the website link and “CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE”.
This will put you on the email list for the newsletter which will provide you with a link to the survey. As the year progresses, you will receive emails for future surveys and news, directly from the City staff responsible for the program.
I’ve been on this list since the beginning, and it looks like the City is not interested in email spamming, so it’s not problematic to join up from that perspective.
There are people at the City actually reading everything sent, and are monitoring social media conversations regarding this subject … they really want to know. Direct input via the survey will help the City understand what works well, what needs improvement, and what the barriers to participation are, and this can include the issue of compostable bags if this is important to you.
Please feel free to comment below here at the Armchair Mayor, as well as at the City site,
with any tips, tricks or unique problems you have come across as a pilot participant.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.