Increases in capture of (foodscrap) recyclable materials – (especially organic waste) of between 40 and 60 per cent – appear to be possible by introducing Every Other Week (EOW) residual waste collection.
EOW collection is a strategy that holds interest as a means to both increase participation in foodscrap collection programs, as well as to lower overall collection costs.
An increase in participation is believed to occur as a result of residents realizing that this portion of the waste stream, which is most likely to produce odours, can either go out weekly on the foodscrap collection program or every other week with residual collection. They tend to choose the former.
Cost savings from EOW residual collection come about as a result of being able to co-collect materials from different streams (foodscraps, recycling and residuals) onto the same truck. This is especially true when recyclables are co-mingled in a single-stream recycling system.
For example, at my home in Toronto I normally get only one collection pass a week. One week foodscraps and co-mingled recyclables are collected. The next week it’s foodscraps and residual waste.
What’s the potential to increase participation?
The seven municipalities in what I’ll call the Greater Greater Toronto area (GGTA), provide an excellent case study on the effect of EOW residual collection on foodscrap capture. See the list of municipalities in Table 1 and their location on Map 1.
These municipalities are in close proximity to each other, all being within a radius of 50 miles. As a result, all have similar demographic profiles.
All collect foodscraps weekly and six of the seven municipalities use the same bin (the small Norseman). Only Hamilton has chosen a larger 120 litre cart. There are some differences, particularly in regard to the use of liner bags and bag limits.
The performance of the seven programs is detailed in Table 2.
At the lower end is the City of Barrie, which captured just 210 lbs per household in 2006 and 160 lbs in 2007, despite having just a one-bag limit on residual waste (with a $2 tag fee for additional residual set-out).
Next is Hamilton where it’s believed the average capture of foodscraps was 480 lbs per household per year in 2008. It’s important to account for what I believe to be the effect of the use of a larger curbside cart in Hamilton. By giving residents a 120-litre cart, it may be that (say) roughly half of the 480 lbs is leaf-and-yard material. The other municipalities use the small Norseman container, so this leaf-and-yard waste is not being captured and counted in their foodscrap program to the same extent.
Table 3 details the tonnage per month deposited into the cart in 2008. You can see during the heavy leaf-and-yard months (April to November) the capture rate is 600 lbs year. But during the December thru March period, capture is only 260 lbs/year, falling to a low of 195 lbs per year in January and February. It may be that something like 260 lbs per year is closer to the actual amount of foodscrap material collected.
Finally, among those municipalities collecting residual weekly, is Peel Region. Here, after an April 2007 start, foodscrap capture was 290 lbs/household/yr. in 2007 (pro-rated) and 280 lbs year in 2008.
For the three municipalities that collect residual material weekly, I’ve estimated an average foodscrap capture rate of 250 lbs per year. Among those municipalities collecting residual waste EOW, first (in Table 2) is Halton Region, which (after an April 2008 start), collected, on a pro-rated basis, 400 lbs per household in 2008.
The City of Toronto and York Region collected 450 lbs and 800 lbs respectively in 2008.
Liners may or may not play a role. Both York and Toronto, the two areas with the highest foodscrap capture rate, allow the in-home container to be lined with any type of plastic bag. In most cases this is a PE grocery bag usually acquired at no cost. This no doubt drives participation and capture.
Regardless, those three municipalities that collect residual waste EOW have an estimated average capture rate of at least 400 lbs per year. That’s 150 lbs more (or 60 per cent) than the municipalities that collect residual weekly.
Let’s look closer at Peel and Halton Regions. As you can see from Map 1, these two municipalities are next door to one another; they introduced foodscrap collection within a year of each other. As a reminder, both use the small Norseman bin but (most importantly) both have the same policy regarding liners: you can use them, but BPI-certified only. There are two differences between Peel and Halton. Peel collects residual every week; Halton EOW. With capture rates of 290 lbs per year for Peel and 400 lbs per year for Halton, the difference is 110 lbs or nearly 40 per cent. (Another difference is that Halton has the higher bag limit(!) of six bags every two weeks vs. Peel’s two bags every week.)
Another useful sub-study is Durham Region. In 2003 the four smaller municipalities in the Region, totaling roughly 45,000 households, introduced foodscrap with weekly residual collection. The capture rate in 2005 was 135 lbs year. In 2006 the remaining four larger member municipalities (totaling 135,000 households) introduced foodscrap and shortly thereafter the entire Region switched to EOW residual collection. The effect? With 180,000 households, all on EOW residual collection, 315 lbs per year was collected – an increase of 180 lbs per year or 130 per cent!
In conclusion, it appears that increases in foodscrap capture ranging from 40 per cent to 60 per cent or (even 130 per cent) are possible with EOW residual waste collection.
Rod Muir is Waste Diversion Campaigner for Sierra Club Canada and founder of Waste Diversion Toronto in Toronto, Ontario. Contact Rod at firstname.lastname@example.org