Big changes are underway in Vancouver’s commercial kitchens as businesses scramble to meet the deadline for the upcoming organic waste ban.
In the same way homeowners in single-family houses were required to compost with the green bin program as of September 2012, all commercial businesses across Greater Vancouver will be required to do the same by this January. The ban will first apply to businesses that produce more than 25 per cent organics, like restaurants, caterers, and grocers.
The Lazy Gourmet catering company is one example of how food service businesses have been moving towards greener practices. On Nov. 1, the staff began converting the company’s waste-management operations to compost collection. Now all food scraps, paper, and plant-based products will end up on the compost heap instead of in the garbage.
The caterer had long discussed implementing a composting program and switched waste-hauling companies during the past year to work with someone who was more enthusiastic about the program.
“The topic of recycling and composting came up a lot during company meetings,” says operations manager Jen Pavich. “People care a lot about it now.”
But thinking about it and actually making the necessary changes are two different things. The Lazy Gourmet had to outfit its kitchen and staff areas with new bins and signage and retrain all existing and incoming staff in proper organic-waste disposal practices.
As the holidays near and businesses become busier, these measures are more challenging. The Lazy Gourmet staff increased from 130 to 200 people to cope with the holiday rush. With more staff to train and less time to do it, Pavich predicts a temporary decrease in productivity as a result.
With just six weeks until the ban comes into effect, other commercial kitchens across Greater Vancouver are facing similar obstacles.
However, diverting organic waste from landfills has become a priority for Vancouver as part of the city’s greenest city goals and, in the same way, residents adjusted to the changes, so too will businesses.
The incoming ban will affect roughly 26,000 businesses in Vancouver. Municipal engineering staff hope that once everyone is involved, the city can achieve its zero waste goal by 2020.
Vancouver’s director of waste management, Albert Shamess, says composting “could mean up to 36,000 tones of organic waste diverted from disposal.”
The city also acknowledges the challenges. “It’s a big change,” says Shamess. Because of the variety of businesses affected, the process may be easier for some than for others.
To address this, a six-month adjustment period, beginning in January, has been allocated to allow businesses enough time to successfully adapt their operations.