Langley City happy, but residents still have composting questions

Brenda Anderson

Times Reporter

Just over two weeks have passed since the City of Langley made its transition to organic green waste recycling and bi-weekly garbage pickup, and so far, staff are happy with the process.

However, the changeover, which began on Jan. 2, has left some residents questioning the municipality’s procedures.

Through calls to City Hall and letters to the editor, a few residents have expressed displeasure over the reduction in their trash pick-up schedule from once a week to every second week — calling it a drop in service without an accompanying drop in taxes.

They’ve also pointed to the City’s failure to provide extra large garbage containers as some other municipalities — including Surrey — have done to compensate for the reduced pick-up.

The City of Surrey has in fact supplied residents with large garbage totes — 300,000 were purchased at a cost of $15 million, City engineer Gary Vlieg told council on Monday, as he addressed the most frequently asked questions staff have handled.

The cost of the totes is being passed along to Surrey residents at a rate of $5 per household per year, he added.

The difference, Vlieg said, is that Surrey has automated pick-up, whereas in Langley garbage is still hoisted into trucks by hand.

“As I understand it, it’s a safety issue,” said Mayor Peter Fassbender, adding that WorkSafe B.C. limits the size of can that a worker is permitted to lift.

And full automation is not an option for Langley City in the near future, because the municipality recently signed another two-year contract with its current garbage/recycling collector, Emterra.

Councillor Dave Hall asked whether, when the City renegotiates its garbage contract, it would be possible to go to a system where residents can select smaller or larger garbage cans and pay accordingly.

“All options will be examined,” said Vlieg.

“We’ll see what level of stratification council would like to see.”

The City has also been criticized for not providing smaller bins for collection of organic kitchen scraps. Instead, they are advising residents to purchase kraft paper bags, which are available at a variety of outlets and can be dropped right into the green cans with less mess than dumping containers.

Compostable plastic (cornstarch) bags are not acceptable, because they interfere with the composting process, the mayor stressed, adding he’s already made that mistake himself.

It takes from six to eight weeks from delivery of the organics until they have broken down into usable compost, and the so-called plastic bags don’t break down fast enough, he explained.

As far as garbage rates go, Vlieg said, until the City can measure residents’ participation in the new recycling program, it is using 2012 figures as its base for 2013.

Tipping fees for organic green waste are roughly half those of garbage, because the composted product can be resold at a profit, but if people continue to dispose of organic kitchen waste in their trash, the City — and by extension taxpayers — will not realize any savings. However, it is unlikely that will happen.

“If we assume a 15 per cent diversion from garbage to green can, we’re looking at a 150,000-kg diversion,” said Vlieg. At that level, he said, the City and taxpayers would break even.

“Above 15 per cent, we would see an overall reduction in costs.”

“So there is a potential dollar savings if people do divert more,” said Hall. “If residents embrace the program, we would expect savings.”

While residents of multi-family dwellings (townhouses and condos) make up more than 50 per cent of the City’s 25,000 residents, they are not included in the organic waste program.

The City has received a number of calls asking if and when that will change, Vlieg said.

By 2015 full-spectrum recycling will be required at all residences, commercial and industrial properties, he noted.

However, the City’s advice to condo and townhouse dwellers for now, is to talk to their strata about implementing a kitchen organics program through their recycling company.

Currently, single family households may put out two cans of garbage for collection every second week. Additional cans can be put out as long as each bears a sticker, which can be purchased from the City for $2.20.

There is no limit on the number of containers of organic waste, which are collected weekly.

The City’s composted material will be hauled to a composting facility in Abbotsford.

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