Banff’s ‘Radical Rethink of Residential Recycling’ project is working, according to Town of Banff environmental co-ordinator Chad Townsend.
“In 2006, we were looking at a situation of only two depots and we now have 30 mini depots,” he said. “That’s a significant shift in the facilities we provide and in the collection responsibilities of the town.”
In 2007 the town applied for, and received, a $250,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal Fund to divert waste from landfills to recycling, contingent on being able to reach an overall diversion rate of 50 per cent within three years.
That goal was actually reached in 2009, said Townsend.
“We had an audit done in 2009 on how much we were diverting, and they included in their definition of waste the biosolids from our waste water treatment plant – which we compost and don’t send to landfill,” he said. “So by weight, that’s a large portion of our waste.”
According to the audit, the town had a 52 per cent diversion rate, with 17 per cent diverted from residential waste.
“That report is only from the residential stream, not construction or the wastewater treatment plant or anything else, but when you look at the whole picture of Banff, that’s what FCM wanted to know,” said Townsend. “So we did get the funding. It was announced last summer and it was based on 2009, in which we had 52 per cent waste diversion.
“Which means we produced a whole lot of waste, but at least 52 per cent went to recycling rather than landfill.”
Much of the waste diverted included things like construction and demolition materials.
“If projects in Banff – for example, the large building that’s being deconstructed at the Banff Centre – if they separate it into concrete and metal and wood, then it can be recycled and counted as waste from Banff that was recycled,” said Townsend.
The council report also states the town is part of a regional commitment to divert 70 per cent of its waste as part of the Bow Valley Waste Management Commission.
“That’s a goal that we have regionally and we’re all working towards that in different ways,” said Townsend. “Last year’s diversion of construction and demolition waste was really high, and we’re happy with some of the demolition projects like the Husky station and our curling rink – that allows demolition waste to be recycled as opposed to landfilled.”
Now, as the town moves forward, new ways are being sought to further divert waste. Beginning this January, the town enacted a commercial waste utility, whereby commercial properties are charged a waste fee based on usage, rather than as a flat rate.
“(We are) charging commercial properties for their waste by how much they generate, but charging them less for cardboard, and even less for food weight organics, which is a very heavy part of the waste,” said Townsend. “I believe that will help increase our diversion rates in 2011 and onward.
“The policy shift on commercial happened within 2010 and that is quite radical in terms of the change in how businesses are charged for how much waste they produce.”
This utility cost is being phased in over four years, so the full charge won’t be in effect until 2014, but this year’s 25 per cent has had an impact.
“The shift will create new opportunities for businesses and better diversion rates as we go forward,” said Townsend. “I can’t foresee the amount that we pay to see material going to landfill ever going down, only going up, especially with rising fuel costs and as landfills fill up and are harder and harder to site.”
At present, Banff waste is sent to a landfill in Calgary, so diverting waste will mean greatly reducing the costs associated with disposing of it.