North Okanagan hopes higher fees will keep commercial food waste out of landfill

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North Okanagan higher fees will keep commercial food waste out of the landfill
WATCH: As they look to cut down on how much material is ending up in local landfills, officials in the North Okanagan are targeting commercial food waste. The regional government has announced it will be phasing in higher landfill fees for commercial food waste in the hopes of encouraging businesses to compost or donate instead – Apr 22, 2022

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) is hoping that by adding an extra cost it can prevent commercial food waste from filling up local landfills.

Beginning next year it will cost a lot more for large grocers and food processors to bring food waste to RDNO landfills: $260/tonne up from the $108/tonne they pay now.

“Eighty to 90 per cent of what comes to landfill from large grocers and processing facilities is food waste so we think there are other things we can do with it like compost, like give it to charities and make use of it so it doesn’t end up in the landfill in the first place,” said Jim Schubert, RDNO’s environmental services manager.

The regional government plans to phase in the higher landfill fees on commercial food waste. The higher fees could start applying to restaurant food waste as early as July 2023.

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“This program was initially announced in 2019 as something we were going to do. So it has been delayed for some time with COVID,” Schubert said.

“There are around 16 [companies] in the RDNO that would be targeted initially through this program and nine of them are already doing something, either composting or giving the material to Food Mesh or another organization like that.”

Food Mesh is a Vancouver-based business that, for a fee, will help companies keep their food waste out of the trash.

“We have a retail food recovery program. This is for retailers who have a daily supply of food that they are not able to sell either because it is close dated, maybe it has aesthetic imperfections, it might be bruised or [have] discontinued packing,” said Food Mesh spokesperson Megan Czerpak.

“We can connect them to charities that can take that food away on a daily basis and put that straight onto the plates of people in the communities who need it.”

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Czerpak said Food Mesh already works with several large grocery chains in the Okanagan.

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The company will also connect retailers with farmers so food that is no longer fit for human consumption can be turned into feed to animals.

“The hope is that none of their unsaleable food will go to waste,” Czerpak said.

The RDNO’s environmental services manager said he doesn’t think the new regulated waste fees are too harsh on businesses.

“The incremental costs of actually sending it to a composting facility is much less than what the regulated waste rate would be and it is doing something for our environment. Food waste, yard waste, [and] organics generate greenhouse gasses when they are put in a landfill which is basically 50 per cent methane and 50 per cent C02, which adds to climate change,” Schubert said.

“By taking the organics out of the landfill we will remove that major source of landfill gas.”

Schubert estimates Vernon’s landfill has around 40 years’ worth of space left in it.

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