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Mandatory commercial food waste program proposed for Canmore

“It’s part of our coexistence with wildlife and meeting our climate change goals and priorities to be better handle and better deal with food waste… helps us go a long way in making sure we’re not part of the problem and we’re contributing to the solution."

CANMORE – A mandatory commercial food waste program could soon be coming to Canmore.

Canmore council directed Town staff to return with an updated recyclable and waste bylaw that would see food waste banned from being put in the garbage as well as requiring food-related businesses to have food waste collection in order to divert it from landfills.

If the bylaw receives council approval, the program start date could begin by Oct. 1, 2023.

“It’s part of our coexistence with wildlife and meeting our climate change goals and priorities to better handle and better deal with food waste … helps us go a long way in making sure we’re not part of the problem and we’re contributing to the solution,” said Mayor Sean Krausert.

If passed by council, Canmore would join other municipalities such as the Town of Banff and the City of Calgary with mandated food waste diversion programs for the commercial sector. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also have mandated programs.

The proposal would align with the Town’s strategic goals of aiding in the diversion of food from landfills. A staff report highlighted a third of waste sent to landfills is food and emphasized “more efforts must be taken to increase the amount of food waste being diverted from landfill.”

The staff recommendation follows the introduction of the Town’s commercial food waste program in December 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to a slow intake of businesses.

By September 2021, there were 20 participating businesses. It grew by 22 businesses by November 2021 after 104 businesses and eight institutions were contacted.

As of September 2022, there were roughly 36 per cent of relevant businesses or 40 in total taking part.

The Rotary Club of Canmore donated $3,250 to help participating businesses cover the costs of 10 weeks of collection.

The program gives participating businesses a 240-litre roll cart, with each removal costing $10. The roll carts are intended to be stored inside, but if they’re outside an animal-proof enclosure is used.

Communitea Café first volunteered to help with the logistics of the program in the fall of 2020.

The report stated 112 businesses and institutions were directly contacted, while more than 400 phone calls were made, more than 500 emails were sent and over 100 in-person visits were done.

The staff report wrote the reasons for participating were to help the environment and alleviate waste concerns. Reasons for not participating were costs, waste diversion not being a priority and the relationship between the property owner and tenant businesses.

Simon Robins, the Town’s supervisor of solid waste services, said Town staff felt they had reached the maximum intake of voluntary sign-up, necessitating the implementation of a mandated system.

He told council food waste generates methane, which is 25 per cent worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and every ton of food waste that is composted reduces the equivalent of 1.18 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

A 2019 capital project led to the first round of compost bins being installed in Canmore, which now has 24 bins. According to Robins, roughly 100,000 kilograms of residential food waste and 13,000 kg of commercial food waste is collected each month

Robins said the bylaw would return in the spring and not be implemented until Oct. 1 to help give businesses time to react to the changes. He said it also allows businesses to get through the busy summer months.

Coun. Tanya Foubert said the plan aligns with the Town’s climate change goals, strategic plan and livability objectives.

“We’ve worked with everyone who’s willing to work with us and those businesses have benefitted from that work,” she said. “Now we’re at a point where we’ve learned what the barriers are to full participation in the program, and as a result, we’re prepared to take the next step and make it mandatory.”