Niagara Region & Residential Organics Program

Recently here in Niagara, residential garbage pick up frequency changed from weekly to bi-weekly. This means that residents no longer get the luxury of putting their garbage out weekly, but instead get to put out two bags of garbage every other week. However, residents as always, are allowed to put out as much recycling (paper, plastic and organics) to the curb, every week. This caused some confusion, hesitation (to change) and just general residential anger. However, Niagara is not the first to move to this new way of waste pick up. Many regions have been operating in this biweekly waste system for years without issue, and Niagara was just catching up to the trend.

Now that the initial uproar has subsided, the most interesting outcome of this schedule change is that Niagara region residents are now using their organics program more than ever before. Although nearly 80% of Niagara region residents already diverted food waste from the landfill, the region has seen an increase. According to the Niagara Region Waste Management Department, organics tonnage is up by 34% and garbage tonnage to landfill is down by 16%. But why? Why are people all of a sudden using their organics program that has been available to them for years? In this blog post we are going to look into why this shift of organics usage has happened. 

Why Are Niagara Residents Using The Organics Bin More?

When the region switched from weekly to biweekly garbage pick up, they left recycling and organics weekly, which is an obvious indication that the main purpose to the schedule shift was to increase recycling and organics diversion rates. Given this, the most obvious answer is that residents can put this out weekly vs having to hold onto more garbage for two weeks. However, I think there is more to this discussion. In my opinion, I think people are diverting more because of a few reasons.

First of all, we are in a major pandemic, where people are staying home more than ever (Niagara region has literally been on a stay at home order for nearly 4 of the 6 months this year), which gives people the opportunity to make more meals at home. In addition to this, restaurants are not open for dine in, only take out. All of the food scraps that would have been left at the restaurant are now being diverted through residential waste streams, as well as all the take out containers that go with this (think compostable clamshells and pizza boxes). This will naturally contribute to the amount of organics that the Niagara Region sees because some of that waste was going to other providers (like us), or dumpsters, at the restaurants.

However, I do agree that there is a direct connection between the bi-weekly and weekly pick up schedule change, and the increased diversion rates. I think this has to do greatly with the fact that people are inconvenienced by having to hold onto their garbage for more than a week. Holding onto more garbage is less desirable, so if you are able to get rid of more recycling or organics weekly, that is more convenient. Additionally, organic waste that is left in your garbage stream for a two week period is not ideal for vermin and odour. I think people have come to realize this.

Given this, I think that there is a twofold reason for more organics program use, but it is interesting that since switching to this method that the Niagara Region has seen an increase in their diversion rates. Niagara region has offered an organics program for many years and the fact that they are now just seeing an increase, does reinforce that the biweekly schedule is doing what it was intended to do – divert more waste from the landfill.

The other part of this is that there is a 16% reduction of waste that is entering the landfill. This is excellent for regional stats and for our landfill usage here in Niagara, especially given that we are in a pandemic. The same argument that I used for the reason for more food waste being diverted could also be a reason that the region should have seen an increase in garbage to the landfill, not a decrease. With this stat, hand in hand with the increased organics diversion stat, it is clear that the bi-weekly garbage is contributing to an increase in diversion (in both streams). 

Discussion

I think it is important to look at all angles when looking at diversion rates, as there are many reasons why month to month they could vary, especially during these unprecedented times. Can this increase of diversion be related directly back to the new bi-weekly pick up schedule? Maybe. But I do think there has to be some accountability given to the pandemic and people just being home more often, cooking more and getting solely take out foods. More evidence based research needs to be done here.

Another thing that should be noted is that the region has also confirmed that there is an increase in recycling as well, as that diversion tonnage for both paper and plastic recycling is up 12%. It is excellent to see that there is more diversion happening in all streams. However, another angle that can be taken from this is why are the tonneages for recycling and organics up so much (total of 46%) and garbage tonnage to landfill only down a small amount (16%)? Are we actually just creating more waste in the organics and recycling streams in general? These numbers of tonnage should align, but yet they are not.

Like I said, more evidence based research and audits need to be conducted to get to the root of these diversion rates, but I would say that diverting more waste is certainly in the win column for Niagara. Hopefully as the new bi-weekly schedule moves forward, and the pandemic comes to an end (sooner than later, we hope!), we will see these numbers even out a bit more and see the benefits of the bi-weekly schedule in full use.

 

BREAKING NEWS: BioSqueeze 200 Separation Press System – The Next Big Thing at Davidson Environmental

After years of dreaming, discussing, and planning our next steps here at Davidson Environmental, we are happy to release some exciting news. We have officially purchased and installed the BioSqueeze 200 Separation Press System in our facility – the first of its kind in North America to process commercial waste. Working closely with Fitec Environmental Technologies, we were able to get this equipment built to order from Finsterwalder Umwelttechnik in Bernau am Chiemsee, Germany. At this point you’re probably thinking that this sounds interesting – but what does it do? Great question!

This hydraulically operated system separates waste into a digestible and non-digestible fraction with a high degree of efficiency and reliability. This means that if we put in any waste that contains fragments or parts of organic matter/waste, this machine will properly separate the organic matter from its solid waste counterpart. For example, if we put in expired granola bars, with their wrappers intact, this machine is able to separate the inorganic waste from the digestible organic waste. This then creates a nutrient dense slurry that is in a perfect composition for disposal at a BioGas facility as well as condensed ‘slugs’ of packaging that are the perfect candidate for waste-to-energy incineration.

Prior to getting this machine, our business was somewhat hindered by packaging on food waste. Under those previous parameters, we were happy to take all types of food waste but some food wastes naturally have more packaging then others – i.e. yogurt containers, granola bars, canned food etc. In these cases, we often try to de-package & limit the food packaging prior to its disposal at a BioGas facility. This can be very time consuming, costly, and inefficient. Additionally, the yield of this food waste is low quality, contaminated and not the best candidate for BioGas recycling.

However, the BioSqueeze 200 will be changing this completely for us and for you, our customers. This machinery will allow us to take a larger variety and volume of packaged organic food waste and yield high quality digestible waste. It will allow us to take all types of food waste and ensure that we are always getting the maximum amount of food waste from the products. This ensures a high level of recyclability of the food waste and ensures that waste that is destined for the landfill currently, can be diverted to a waste-to-energy incineration plant. Truly a zero-waste process. As you may or may not know, the Ontario government has committed to banning organic waste from landfills by 2022. With this machine we can provide our customers with a diversified program that aligns with government priorities and supports on-going environmental strategies.

This machine will change the way we conduct our business and ensure we are leading the way with the absolute best practices of our industry. This machine allows us to capture more food waste then any other waste service provider and ensure that your waste is disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner, every time! We are now able to process food waste with an immense amount of packaging without hindering the quality of the digestible output and divert waste from the landfill to create a zero-waste system.

Whether you have been a Davidson Environmental customer for a week or 20 years, I personally want to thank you for your support and financial commitment in doing the right thing for the environment. Together, we shall usher in the next phase of responsible organics disposal.

James Davidson, CEO of Davidson Environmental

Ready to commit to making your business more environmentally conscious? Contact us today to get a tailored organics recycling program for you and your business today! 905-988-9926 x 222 or sales@davidsonenvironmental.ca

Do you have any questions or comments? We would like to hear from you!

905-988-99626 x 230 or sustainability@davidsonenvironmental.ca