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COMPOST CHRONICLES – Chapter 3: the trucks, the survey and news

(Image: David Johnson)

This is the third instalment in David Johnson’s series on the City’s composting pilot project. Earlier instalments were on ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ for those on the program, and on the business model for composting.

By DAVID JOHNSON

THIS YEAR I am 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, and reporting information provided by Kamloops city staff involved.

NOTE: If you are not on a predetermined pilot project route, consider this series as introductory fodder if and/or when the full program proceeds.

David Johnson.

Chapter 3 in this series focusses on the equipment that picks up your garbage/recycling/compost, the online Survey results the City have to share, and a few other tidbits.

Special Attention: If you are on a Pilot Route, and you find that you have more garbage or (more likely) recycling, each bi-week it is picked up, the City says that participants can, during the pilot project;

– put extra recycling in a cardboard box beside your recycle bin, and
– extra garbage bags beside your garbage bin.

Whereas putting a garbage bag on the ground in summer isn’t a good idea regarding wildlife or pests, during the winter this is less of an issue. All refuse should be put to the curb as usual, on the morning of pickup.

The City will pick up extra volumes for pilot participants, no questions asked.

The goal of the pilot isn’t to limit what the city picks up from you, but generate data on how compost pickup affects all pickups … and find solutions.  This data will inform if or when the composting project gets a green light for the expanded, entire city program.

Extra stuff put beside the bins will be charted as such, become data and will be picked up.

PLEASE – put extra recycling in an open box, and garbage in a bag.
Don’t hide stuff or confuse drivers by not following these simple directions.

In addition, you may have the initiative to haul your own daily, regular recycling away to other sites, because it doesn’t fit in the bin.  DON’T. Dealing with extra recycling yourself doesn’t tell the city what the actual needs are.  You need to make sure the City is picking up all your disposables; this is the only way to get accurate data.

Obviously, this doesn’t include any occasional post household move, massive volumes of cardboard boxes.  They can still go to the City recycle centres around town.

The Trucks:

For pilot participants, you may have noticed that the same white trucks (pictured above) that were used to pick up your garbage and recycling, are being used today to pick up your composting weekly and your garbage and recycling biweekly.

If you have ever watched these trucks in action, you will know that from inside the truck, the driver picks up one bin and dumps it, then a plate levers forward or backwards for the second bin to be dumped.

Inside this truck are two chambers, side by side running the length of the truck, historically one side for garbage, the other side for recycling.  Once the truck is full they can be dumped at the appropriate City site, one side at a time. There is a steel wall positioned between these 2 sides.

The composting pilot has noticed an unexpected issue.  The trucks were designed to carry garbage bags and loose, but dry, recycling. Generally, the two do not mix.  It’s easy.

The problem is that compost is not clean and easy, its wet and goopy.

The city has noticed that the wet of the composting would run under the wall separator and soak the garbage or recycling, as it may not necessarily have a tight seal between the two.  Picture that. Let’s just say “ick.”

Here I will pause for a moment. And respect the poor City person tasked with cleaning that up …

With a few easy to do operations and repairs, this was easily fixed.

——————-

Coun. Cathy Sinclair suggested recently that ‘recycling could be a weekly pickup’, as composting does not reduce the amount of recycling received, as a response to complaints that the recycling stacks up … but that creates a problem that can only be solved by spending more money.

Remember, the existing trucks have only two compartmented sides to them, any increased ‘type’ of refuse to be picked up each and every week will simply require more trucks and more driver costs, which will be quickly passed on the taxpayers as a more than 50 per cent increase to the garbage line on our utility bill.

Fair to say given the pronouncements from Council lately, regarding expected residential tax increases, this isn’t a doable answer.

Perhaps one day, Kamloops will be of the size that a fleet of separate composting pickup vehicles can be bought and used specifically for that purpose, but at the moment, for the pilot and moving forward, it’s much more prescient to try to gather all the products, with the equipment and staffing that we have, and are already paying for today.

That means the City was left trying their best to figure out how to pick up three objects with two fingers, hence the biweekly solution. I for one am glad that the City staff involved, are running the pilot like this, with the tax spending dollar of home owners in mind.  Start cheap, chart the results, figure it out.

———————

The Survey:

The City website was home to what was the ‘Initial Survey’, regarding the Composting Pilot program.  There will be more surveys to come, the next one timed for spring 2022.  If you did not take part in the initial survey but would like to be involved in future surveys regarding this, sign up HERE.

The Statistics Are:

– The survey was completed by 535 pilot program participants, out of 2,500 households on pilot routes.

That’s more than 25 per cent … not bad for surveys.

– Over 120,000 Kg’s of organic waste has been diverted from the landfill since September.

Considering the limited number of addresses that the pilot services, that’s a massive number.  That means that averaged out to all households on the pilot routes, that’s about 50Kg per household, in two months.

– 64 per cent of residents on the pilot routes are participating, and using compost bins.

My first thought to that was “really? That’s all?”  It really is not a high number.  Encouraging and positive, but not high. The 50Kg per household above, just doubled because of this.

– The weight of ‘garbage’ on these routes has reduced by 41 per cent.

Not an insignificant number, especially considering this was only from 64 per cent of households on the route.  Imagine if that 64 per cent was markedly higher, much less a full city program. We’re talking many millions of Kg’s per year.

– 79 per cent of survey respondents (not specifying if respondents were on the pilot routes or not), generally support organics collection, 13 per cent were neutral and eight per cent against.

– 7 per cent of pilot participants said they would NOT be putting out bins for collection, yet half of those are because they already compost at home.

Surprisingly accurate; 8 per cent against the idea, 7 per cent say they will not participate.

– Other major concerns had to do with cart cleanliness and attraction for flies and rodents and possibly larger wildlife.

My bin is a mucky mess at the bottom, but with the drop of temperatures, it doesn’t smell as much as before … you know … out of smell, out of mind.

Let’s see how much it ferments before the spring. I have not, and will not wash it out, following through with creating the worst-case scenario in my driveway, as a test.  We never did smell it in the bedroom directly above the bin.

– The City is ‘studying the contents’ of garbage and organics, compared to non pilot routes, to determine differences.

There’s a job, eh? “Oh … look, a lamb bone.”

This reminds me of the reality of higher ups ordering high flying ‘statistical data’ … and I just think of the poor soul with a safety vest on, his head stuck in a pile of muck, and his super standing over his shoulder with a clipboard.

Not all City workers are hanging around with their chins draped over shovels, on Columbia Street tearing up the divider and digging a hole during rush hour … some of them are literally combing through our second worst biological refuse.

Again … respect.

On The Positive:

The City is not just considering larger recycling bins, but have ordered them.

Global supply chain issues and shipping from overseas is still a massive problem, then add the inability to truck it up here due to the recent destruction of our highways.  In the short-term, just put your additional recycling out, in a box, beside the bin.  These issues are far beyond the City’s control.

Two weeks ago, the Provincial government announced millions of dollars of funding to bring food and yard waste collection to several B.C. Interior communities.

Last week Kamloops City announced it will receive a $1.97 million grant from the province to help support our program.  Kamloops is being provided with the province’s largest single expenditure from this program.  We could be happy about that, but it also means we are behind the curve on this compared to Kelowna and other interior cities, and we are in catch-up mode.

This will definitely help to defer some of the up-front costs of an expanded program, estimated to cost north of $6 million.

Next Compost Chronicle installment in the early spring;

My neighbours, winter escapades, post Christmas recycling volume issues (hadn’t thought of that one, had ya) … and any other news that crops up.

A reminder; There are people at the City actually monitoring social media conversations regarding this subject … they really want to know.  Any information and input will help the City understand what works well, what needs improvement, and what the barriers to participation are.

Please feel free to comment below here at the Armchair Mayor, with any tips, tricks or unique problems you have come across as a pilot participant.

City staff monitor here as well.

David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.

About Mel Rothenburger (8973 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on COMPOST CHRONICLES – Chapter 3: the trucks, the survey and news

  1. Over 120,000 Kgs of organic waste has been diverted from the landfill since September. That is extremely hard to believe.

    On another note…who are we kidding? Compost all you want but that is only a placebo at best with little impact on the whole of the environment and on the climate. I am certain you, David, have all the best intentions and I am sure you are also very aware of what truly needs to happen:
    https://cases.open.ubc.ca/environmental-impact-of-meat-consumption/

    • David Johnson // December 16, 2021 at 12:14 AM // Reply

      Thanks for your comments Pierre.

      Given the size and breadth of the rabbit hole that is the massive issues regarding the environment and climate, in this series I am intentionally hyper-focusing on this one simple program in our own home city. For a couple reasons:

      – Environment and climate change is such a massive subject and involve a huge, huge portfolio of discussions. It would be a disservice to let it broaden too far … in a simple series of pieces on our local composting program. That would make the read more complex and confusing. I also dont really want to jump on the Suzuki bandwagon of philosophical ideology, thats not my bag.

      – I also believe there is value in really looking at actual day to day solutions that people can easily grasp at and actually DO something about, with only slight alteration of their daily life. So often we are all inundated with climate terrorising news and commentary, and are attacked for our consumption of beef because of methane belches … that many people just shut down, or change the channel, not knowing what to do. There is benefit in providing just enough information about something they have complete control over today, without revamping their entire lifestyle, ie; their weekly garbage.

      The long term goal here could be; once the environment ball is rolling in someone because of a little attention to their garbage bins, it could grow to bigger things within them. Any tiny role that this little series can play in our fair town to maybe doing that … is an ‘intention’ worth doing.

      ps: 120,000 Kg is data straight from the city. The math above divides it up, and is proven by a 41% loss of weight in the garbage bins. It isnt so far fetched.

      • Can you remind me please how many households are involved with the 120,000 kilograms? I am composting on my own (winter is proving interesting thus far, btw) and I will start weighing all the stuff that goes into my composter. I am really curious to really find out and I will start tabulating some data.

      • David Johnson // December 17, 2021 at 12:08 AM //

        Pierre,
        120,000 divided by 2,500 (potential) participants = 48Kg average.
        but … 64% on the routes are using their compost bin …
        so that would be in reality 1,600 (actual) participants.
        which changes the calculation 120,000/1600=75Kg per household,
        for the

        We have had since the start about 12 garbage days.
        75Kg divided by 12 = 6.25Kg per household, per week … thats 13.75lbs

        I just weighed my large kitchen bin that we usually dump once a week into the outdoor bin.
        Its over 10lbs now, give a pound or so for the plastic … and its thursday, our garbage day is monday. Its usually heavier when I put it out.

        There are 2 of us full time here, with a fair bit of hungry family dropping by for meals. Other families will be more and some less. I would put us about middle of the pack.

        The math works for 120,000, our own use matches that equation.

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