A whopping 43 per cent of the garbage making it to the curb in Chilliwack is organic materials. Waste diversion for organics is coming at last.

Curbside pickup of organics coming to Chilliwack by 2017

'Everyone I talk to is surprised to hear that we're not already removing organics from the waste stream,' said a city councillor

Chilliwack is getting ready for curbside collection of organic waste by May 2017.

Plans to shift gears on the waste program, and get some feedback about the changes, came up at the last city council council meeting.

Coun. Jason Lum wanted to know if that two-year timeline to switch to organic waste collection could be speeded up.

“I’m wondering if there is any opportunity to move faster on this,” asked Coun. Lum. “Everyone I talk to is surprised to hear that we’re not already removing organics from the waste stream.”

The issue for City of Chilliwack is its contractual obligations at this point, and the existing waste contract the city has with Emterra expires in 2017, said Terra Friesen, manager of environmental services.

“We could review that but it would be a challenge,” Friesen said in response to the councillor’s question about moving forward faster than the proposed lead-up time.

More than 43 per cent of the garbage contained in the bags making it to the curb is organic materials, according to the pie chart presented Tuesday in the report. Another 12.5 per cent is recyclables, while 2.4 per cent was yard waste.

Benefits for diversion of organics were cited like reducing landfill odours and greenhouse gases, making room in the landfill and putting the organics materials to good use through composting.

There’s a new organics web page with more details and a link to the survey at www.chilliwack.com/organics  or send an email to curbside@chilliwack.com.

Several other Lower Mainland local governments are already diverting food and yard waste from their waste stream, and Abbotsford has a waste separating facility.

City hall regularly receives correspondence from residents on this topic, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

“We get letters from those who really want this to happen,” she noted during the meeting.

But in spite of that they are restricted by the contractual limitations.

Public outreach is starting this fall to get feedback on the changes, such as whether to use manual collection of the organics or automated.

Landfill tipping rates and curbside waste collection user fees could go up significantly when organics are included, so the city’s outreach efforts will gather customer input to

assist in planning the new service. They are gauging support with the survey to see if people would like the city to supply at $10 container for organic waste collection or use their own, and if there is support for idea of reducing recyclables to biweekly collection.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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