A new composting facility will open up to commercial entities in Revelstoke on November 1, 2022, thanks to the work of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative (LFI). Food waste is one of the only materials that does not have to leave the community to be dealt with and is locally recyclable by composting.
The commercial program will be open to restaurants, hotels, offices, schools, multi-family units, strata units, daycares and any other commercial entity that produces food waste, says the CSRD.
The CSRD received a grant of $200,000 from CleanBC in 2020 to build a composting facility at the Revelstoke landfill. With the facility built, the CSRD’s goal is to have the program operational by November 1. This facility will allow food waste to be collected and processed locally into viable compost material without leaving the community.
The covered facility, equipped with four stalls, has PVC pipe installed in the floor that generates forced air up into the compost piles and aids the decomposition process. A facility operator regularly mixes the piles and adds wood chips to balance the moisture level.
Keys for successful composting
Although a composting program may seem straightforward, CSRD Waste Reduction Coordinator Graham Casselman says there have been challenges — the biggest of which is supply chain shortages due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Casselman says that it takes time to ensure composting programs are successful. One avenue the CSRD is taking to ensure the program’s success is grant funding for composting education. The CSRD is partnered with the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative, a non-profit organization in Revelstoke that actively promotes food security, recovery and education to push compost education.
“Working with the LFI in terms of community engagement and professionalism, it’s been a very positive experience for us,” says Casselman. “[The CSRD] want to try to get into the community, it’s sometimes a little bit challenging because we’re on the peripheral… So it’s really great to partner with the LFI to be able to spearhead this project.”
LFI Compost Education Coordinator Isabel Kessi is tasked with aiding local businesses in the shift toward waste reduction. She says the organization is excited to open this opportunity to businesses in Revelstoke.
“I’m helping businesses figure out how to start composting, how to divert food waste in the kitchens, where to get compostable bag liners for the bins, signage, workshops, and whatever they need,” Kessi says.
With the help of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, Kessi launched a survey to see what kind of support businesses need. The survey assists the LFI and CSRD in understanding the challenges in the industry by engaging with companies and organizations, providing insight into how a commercial food waste collection program may roll out in the community.
Commercial entities are encouraged to fill out the survey to assist in developing food diversion strategies unique to the challenges in Revelstoke.
What can be composted
The facility’s capacity for large amounts of compost allows materials that generally wouldn’t decompose in backyard compost to be deposited into the facility. These items include bones, meat, dairy products, and compostable packagings such as restaurant take-out containers and cutlery.
Pet waste will not be accepted at the facility until operations have been tested, says Casselman. Biodegradable items will also not be accepted at the facility.
Commercial and individual residents will be able to purchase the finished compost product, says Casselman. “It makes sense, we’re making it in the community, and we’ll be able to put it back into the community, too,” he says. In order to sell the compost, it will need to meet provincial and federal regulatory standards.
The logistics of composting
Logistically, composting is complicated. However, Casselman says the CSRD and LFI will figure out parts of the story on the fly. “I think it’s going to be a little bit of trial and error,” he says.
Getting commercial operations such as businesses, apartment complexes, schools, and hospitals started allows the facility to get up and running, but it also involves a lot of coordination.
“We’re looking at being officially operational November 1,” he says. “So our contractor will be fully trained and on-site to be able to receive and utilize the compost facility.”
Residents can expect to see compost bins popping up in alleyways downtown. While the CSRD hasn’t decided on the bins yet, they’ve considered Revelstoke’s wildlife and agree it’s best practice to have bear-proofed containers.
Once suitable bins have been installed, the LFI will work with businesses to determine how often pick-up of compostable material is necessary.
The cost breakdown of the program works like this: a commercial hauler will collect compost along a designated route — just as they do for commercial garbage collection — collecting the contents of compost containers. When the truck crosses the scale at the composting facility, the charge for the load is determined, and the hauler recoups the cost from the compost clients. The cost of collection containers will be included in the pick-up fee, says Kessi.
Casselman says the current rate to dispose of food waste at the compost facility is $120/tonne. And as an incentive to compost food rather than throw it in the garbage, the CSRD will implement higher fees for businesses with ‘mixed loads’ starting next summer and into the fall of 2023.
The compost facility turns food waste into a ‘marketable material’ according to the CSRD. However, mixing valuable waste (such as food waste) with regular garbage renders the entire load ‘unmarketable.’ As a result, if 10% or more of the garbage load is food waste, a fee of $240/tonne will be charged versus the regular garbage charge of $80.
The logistical challenges of commercial compost collection will help pave the way for residential composting, Casselman says. The City of Revelstoke has applied for grant funding to get residential compost collection underway. Mountaineer staff reached out to the city for comment on the progress of a residential composting program in Revelstoke but did not receive a reply.
Casselman says the CSRD is looking into opportunities for a drop-off station for household food waste.
“I think it’s a great project to make that step forward,” said Kessi. “There’s also the option to be part of a trial. So as soon as the bins are here, and waste management can pick up, we want your food waste as soon as possible.”
Questions about compost education can be directed to the compost education coordinator Isabel Kessi at firstname.lastname@example.org.