Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Composting dirty diapers in Toronto ~ let's get it right

In an interesting article in the NY Times last month, Oakland was recognized for its green-waste composting program. Citizens there can compost yard waste ~ and also food waste and paper napkins.

But Toronto, it turns out is even greener. They collect dirty diapers, animal waste and kitty litter along with the food waste. They send it all to a facility to be turned into fertilizer for farmlands and parks. Dirty diapers, the article suggests, are "helping Canadian crops to grow."

Which way will we go with composting?

Metro Vancouver is in the final stages of negotiations with two companies to process organics. The Recycling Council of BC has formed an Organics Working Group that will report back to its Policy Committee in June with recommendations on best practices for organics programs.

Will Toronto be our model? Will we provide composting for dirty diapers?

We will want to look at Toronto's system top to bottom before we make up our minds. The NYT article closes with a caution: "Some of the diapers may still end up in a landfill, however, due to an overuse of plastic bags in some areas served by the Green Bin program."

Because Toronto designed their program to allow folks to wrap up their compostable organics in plastic bags, the program produces thousands of tonnes of non-compostable plastic residuals each year that have to go to landfills or incinerators to be destroyed. According to a member of RCBC's Working Group who has visited the Toronto area facility, the non-compostable residuals could run as high as 21 percent of the material collected.

The plastic in diapers would meet a similar fate.

To this blogger it does not make sense to design a composting program to take non-compostable materials. I hope that our programs clearly prohibit plastics of all types.

And I hope that we go after the producers of disposable diapers and require them to take them back ~ the way we make beverage producers take back cans and bottles.

By cleaning up after Pampers and Huggies, Toronto's program will lock in the bad design in disposable diapers that makes them hard to compost.

We should instead require the producers to come up with a design that can be composted.

Pic: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times.


Anonymous said...

This comment posted at Jim Cairns request:

Helen is correct. Let’s carefully examine centralised compostable technology, not only in Toronto but around the world. The Lower Mainland is a late entrant to this Municipal expense.

Might it be agreed that the lowest Municipal cost will be achieved when the greatest number of municipally collected organics are composted to the highest possible value with minimum environmental impact?

It is recommended that this preferably be achieved by initially focusing on the widest range of compostables from Food Stores, Restaurants, and Institutions. When it comes to residential consumer organic discards, minimize the potential confusion by stipulating the non acceptables.

Kitchen Catcher (“Yuck” liners) – options: no liner and rinse often, or the least expensive: paper or plastic. Reference: Sustainably managing the Yuck factor presentation at Coast Waste Management Conference, 2007.

All compost is screened before sale.

EPAS considers extracted conventional exhausted plastic film (sourced from natural gas), is not a contaminant but a valuable resource. As a clean fuel source, it mitigates the use of vigin fossil fuels while reducing the presence of plastics in landfill.

By all means encourage the continued improvement of efficiency and capacity of the Burnaby waste to energy facility through composting and starting to minimize premature conversion to energy of viable, readily identifiable, recyclable discard streams. See The RCBC Recommendation to start by having viable recyclabes from Soap Cleaner and Detergent designated for Stewardship. The latter is supported by Metro Vancouver, the Capitol and Cowichan Regional Districts.

MOE’s former Deputy Minister Trumpy calls for packaging, being ubiquitous, to be phased in.

Let’s get started and continue to demonstrate B.C.’s leadership across the nation.

Jim Cairns, EPAS
Enthusiastically Promote Allthings Sustainably May 15TH 2009

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