From edible food to recyclables, RDNO study finds garbage going to waste

Half garbage could be used

Almost half of all compostable organic waste going into Vernon's landfill could be avoidable food waste.

A waste composition study undertaken by the Regional District of North Okanagan at the Greater Vernon Diversion & Disposal Facility found the largest segment of waste to be compostable organics, with almost half of that deemed avoidable food waste, "which is basically considered edible food ending up in our landfills," the RDNO says in a preview of the soon-to-be-released report.

The next largest component of compostable organics was yard and garden waste.

Building materials made up the second largest category of waste by weight during the study, which looked at a representative 85 samples.

The construction waste included wood, drywall, carpet and insulation.

Almost half was wood, which is a divertible material that is accepted at a much lower rate than disposing it as garbage.

The next two largest categories – paper and plastic – make up about one-quarter of all refuse by weight.

"Many of these materials have readily available recycling programs (Recycle BC, Return-it, curbside recycling), however, many items ... were frequently found in garbage," the RDNO says.

Those included cardboard, office paper, newspaper, flyers, plastic containers, plastic film and other flexible plastics.

Residential, commercial and construction waste was separated and sorted into 12 primary categories and then further analyzed into 121 sub-categories.

"The information will help us better understand the quantity and type waste coming from various waste sources, and assist with solid waste management planning for our region," the district says.

It will also serve as a baseline to evaluate the future performance of new organics diversion initiatives, which started shortly after the study.

The most frequently found paper material was food-soiled paper, likely because more food service businesses are shifting from plastic to compostable products.

"With the new residential curbside organics collection in Vernon, Armstrong and Lumby along with the RDNO commercial food waste disposal regulation, we expect to see the amount food-soiled paper going to landfill decrease, as it can be composted with food waste as long, as it is not does not have a plastic layer," the RDNO says.

Textiles made up almost five per cent of total waste by weight – significantly more than was observed in a 2012 study.

The RDNO notes the study is a "snapshot in time" and waste can be highly variable, "so the results presented here should not be considered definite proportions."

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