Residents of two of Vancouver’s most high-end condo buildings are going green, the first in their exclusive neighbourhood, even though they are exempt from the City of Vancouver’s program on food waste.
In 2012, Vancouver extended its food-scraps recycling program across the city, providing free green bins and weekly green-bin collection to duplexes and single-family houses.
It excluded businesses, as well as multi-family residential high-rise condominiums that feature so prominently in areas like Coal Harbour.
However, Metro Vancouver is due to ban all organic waste from the landfill by 2015 and Vancouver, along with other municipalities, is trying to figure out what to do about high rises. Everyone knows new rules are coming.
“The city government is going to legislate that we will all have to do it soon, so we thought, ‘Let’s get started, let’s get ahead of the game,’” said Anne Gray, strata council member for Cascina and Denia.
The council decided to start recycling in July, though the bins only arrived in October, making the 240-apartment condominium the only high-rises in Coal Harbour currently composting food scraps.
City staff are working on plans to require all condos and businesses to recycle food waste in the near future. For now, the city encourages them to turn to private food-waste recyclers.
In Coal Harbour, the strata council has gone with Growing City, a private organics and recycling company.
It is not known how many of the 240 units take part in the composting, as the council cannot monitor who participates. The apartments are usually occupied 85 to 90 per cent of the time.
Cascina and Denia produce an average 2.5 kilos of organic waste per apartment per week, according to Growing City.
The waste is taken to an organics recycling facility that converts it into soil, which in turn is mostly sent to farms in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley region.
“Of all of the residential clients we service in the city, Cascina and Denia are diverting the most waste,” said Genevieve Blondin, business development manager for Growing City.
She expects that more buildings will begin composting soon, though she recognised it was “not something everyone will be instantly comfortable with, so the best time to start is now, so tenants and residents can be trained and used to composting by the time ban comes into effect in 2015.”
She is hoping that, as the city prepares for 2015, it will talk to the private companies that have been servicing the apartment buildings so far.
“I would like to see the city working more closely with the private waste haulers in order for us all to get the program rolled out more efficiently and faster,” said Blondin, who has been working with Growing City since May.
Marina going green
But it’s not just Coal Harbour condos forging a new recycling path. The area’s boat residents are also getting in on the act. The Coal Harbour Marina will start recycling food scraps produced by people living there in December.
At that point, the marina will be one of 21 businesses in Coal Harbour recycling food waste. But it is the only business with residents who are among the 20 live- aboard licences issued to ships docked in the bay.
“Obviously, we want to have our practices in place in anticipation of the change,” said Steven Varley, general manager at the Coal Harbour Marina. “But we also want to be good citizens and do our bit for Vancouver.”
The marina is currently paying all the costs of the program.
Cascina and Denia charge an additional fee for composting that is absorbed into the strata fees.
Gray, 70, who owns an apartment at Denia, believes that the costs of composting may explain why many stratas haven’t taken to the matter more enthusiastically.
She wouldn’t say what the fee is, but she did complain about it.
“In addition to property taxes, which should incorporate garbage and recycling pick-up, condominium owners have to pay strata fees for private garbage and recycling collection because the it doesn’t collect our waste.”
“For composting to happen, a strata council has to be prepared to spend yet more money of everyone’s strata fees in order to pay a composting company, which puts them off.”