EDITORIAL: Abbotsford composting/recycling program on right track

Sixty per cent of trash diverted in first quarter of 2013

Abbotsford’s new composting, recycling and garbage disposal program is showing significant early success.

According to a recent city report, in the first quarter of 2013, 60.5 per cent of waste was diverted – meaning placed in recycling or compost containers – compared to 33.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.

That’s huge, clearly pointing the way into the future.

The city began collecting curbside compost on Jan. 1, 2013. Garbage collection was reduced to bi-weekly, while recycling pick-up remained weekly.

There was the usual expected negativity from some residents, who complained about having to separate compostables out of their garbage, or claimed that one can of non-recyclable trash every two weeks was simply not adequate.

Yet, the majority of residents seem to be coping quite well.

During the past two months, 326 randomly selected homes within designated rural and urban areas were assessed for participation in the program.

The highest urban compliance was in central Abbotsford at 85 per cent, and the lowest urban participation on Eagle Mountain at 70 per cent.

Those are impressive numbers for a new program – particularly one that requires a change in longstanding domestic routines.

For rural areas, participation in the program was highest on Sumas Prairie, at 49 per cent, and lowest on Sumas Mountain at 22 per cent.

As a result of reduced garbage pickup, and lower disposal fees, the composting/recycling program will save the city an estimated $316,000 relative to last year.

However, that’s an added bonus.

The much greater value of this program is the environmental benefit of diverting of trash from landfills, and the re-use of resources.

It also raises serious questions about the proposed waste-to-energy incineration plant proposed by Metro Vancouver.

Negative impact to air quality aside, such a facility obviously requires material to burn – hundreds of thousands of tons of trash.

Surely that must eventually reduce the impetus for increased recycling efforts, and the motivation to reduce manufacturing packaging, and find uses for materials that are currently not recyclable, such as some plastics.

The future is about reducing the garbage stream to the lowest possible level.

Abbotsford is on the right track.