In Metro Vancouver’s 2010 Integrated Solid Waste Management plan, they identify in their strategy (2.6.2.e) to “Ban all compostable organics allowed in residential green bins from disposal to landfills and all forms of waste-to-energy except anaerobic digestion by 2015”.

What does this mean? My interpretation – all municipalities will implement curbside pickup of both regular solid waste and organics for single family residences. You will now have to separate your organics out of the regular garbage or they won’t take it away. This will be covered in your taxes for homeowners but the cost of operations will increase and be passed along. For apartment/condo dwellers, businesses, industrial and institutions, who currently pay for garbage removal privately, it is not clear on how this will pan out to me. Metro Van just mentions the development and implementation of work plans for organics diversion.

In addition to banning, the cost of sending waste to landfills (tipping fees), which are passed along to businesses operating costs, will be continually increasing to 2015 as identified on Metro Van’s website. Currently you pay indirectly or directly $82 per tonne to send garbage to the landfill – the Metro Vancouver projections for cost increases are $96 per tonne for 2011, $108 for 2012, $121 for 2013, $153 for 2014 and $182 for 2015. That is a $122% increase in the next 5 years. And which direction are fuel prices heading as well? The cost to transport garbage or food scraps from your business is comprised of primarily of driver labour, truck fuel, tipping fees and truck leases. If you compost on-site with appropriate equipment, say bye-bye to 90% of your fuel, truck and driver costs, and 100% of your tipping fees. Regional policy and market forces are going to make it very economical to invest in on-site composting equipment very soon.

Compost Boy

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Okay, so far this has been a product testing blog about a condo sized, on-site, in-vessel,  composter.  But the potential for real impact, which includes saving money, saving fuel  and getting trucks off the road, is in composting on-site for commercial businesses – hotels, grocery stores, ski-hills, golf courses, restaurants, etc.

Commercial Composter - Restaurant Sized

Did you know some grocery stores have their organic waste picked up 3 times a day in the summer just due to the smell, not due to lack of space?  FYI it is not cheap to have a 1 ton truck come to your downtown grocery store 3 times a day.  On-site composters remove the water in food scraps (about 70%) and further break-down the  remaining material to 5% of its original weight while neutralizing the smell (via the oxygenated composting process and a filter), and the end product is high-quality, nutrient-rich compost that can be used for agriculture.  This on-site method vastly reduces the number of truck trips, fuel and costs.

Grocery Store Sized

In addition, businesses pay not only for the waste pick-up and transportation costs (which includes a truck, driver and gas) but also a tipping fee (the fee to dump at a composting facility or landfill based on weight),  and 70% of the weight in food scraps is water!  You are trucking and paying to dispose of water that you can get rid of on-site.  Why not get rid of the water first, turning it into water vapor, and turn the organics into compost, then call a truck to come pick up the compost to take back to a farmer instead of the landfill.  These units do everything for you – they turn the food srcaps, mix in the oxygen, keep the mixture warm, mitigate the smell, and spit-out the high-value compost (which actually can be sold to farmers).  All you have to do is dump the food scraps in and close the lid.  No other composting solution besides aerobic composting on-site is going to both mitigate the smell of rotting food waste, get trucks off the road and save the business money.  On-site composting seems like a no-brainer to me.

Compost boy

The Value of Condo Composting

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

People ask me “Why would I want one of these things when I can throw my food scraps out for free”?  From an economic standpoint, maybe you would not want one as waste removal is covered in your taxes “for homeowners only”.  However for condo dwellers, if everyone in your condo had one of these (or one central unit), your kitchen garbage would not stink, you would reduce the number of solid waste pickups (reducing your condo fees) and you could sleep at night knowing that you are making the most sustatinable choice in disposing of the waste you created.  People are starting to understand the value in buying locally grown food to reduce the cost and carbon emissions associated with transportation – so why would you then ship the food scraps 300km away? 

Here is an example,

City Farm Boy www.cityfarmboy.com grows veggies on the roof of my Yaletown condo.  I can buy carrots from him, cut the tops off, eat the carrot, compost the tops on my balcony in the automatic, in-vessel composter, and then bring the compost back up to the roof to put in the garden – the food and waste never leaves my building!!!  Now that is sustainable agriculture.

Here is a recent shot of the inside of the composter – dark rich compost and only $2.04 in energy costs for a month and a half!

Inside of Composter at 1.5 months

One Month Review

Posted: October 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

Anyone curious what 2 years worth of food scraps from 2 people amounts to after composting – check out the picture.  This is from our worm bin that we just retired – we did not empty it for 2 years.  I would expect the new auto-composter do an equal or better job of reducing the volume and mass of scraps.

So after one month we have added a total of 9 kg of food waste (this is surprisingly low – however my wife was gone for week so there was not so much cooking going on then).  The composter has used a total of 22 kWh = $1.32 worth of energy in a month.  So this thing is not exactly going to make us go broke with energy bills.  It is working well and we are throwing everything organic we can think of into it – with the exception of those pesky corn  husks (I can still see them in there although they are almost eaten up).

2 Years of Worm Compost

Testing week 1 complete

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

Here is the quick and dirty on the new composter… 🙂

This thing is certainly making compost fast (check out the picture).

Inside the composter

I have put an average of 600 grams of scraps in it daily for 2 people – the maximum rated is 5,000 grams per day so this thing has way more capacity than we are using.

Weigh Scale

I am putting 100% of our food scraps in there; greens, skins, egg shells, avocado pits, compostable coffee cups, bread, muffin disasters, etc.  and it all looks like dry compost now.  However, it does not seem to like corn husks – I hear these are tough to breakdown – we will see in a few weeks.

Energy used in 7.3 days = 8 kWh * $0.06 per kWh = $0.48  so we are on track for spending $2.00 this month in additional energy used – pretty cheap for the value added.

Energy Meter from Canadian Tire ($22)

I discovered you do not want this thing right inside your apartment or house as the exhaust, although not really offensive, does smell – my wife says sort-of like yeast.  I put it on our covered deck.  It comes with a hose (see picture) so you can direct the flow of air away (which seems equivalent to a blow dryer on low speed).  It comes with a window attachment like an air conditioner if you have to put it inside.

Exhaust hose shooting into neighbors condo

The biggest plus?  Since I put 100% of our food waste in it, as opposed to about 50% with the worm bin, the garbage bin fills up less, and does not smell anymore – all dry, non-recycleable stuff.  I used to empty the bin, not when it was full, but when the rotting smell started.  This was followed by an embarassing trip in the elevator to the trash bins downstairs as people gagged along the way.

With the energy meter you can clearly see how much and when energy is used when the fan is on (15W), when the blades turn (65W), and when the heater turns on (280W) – I like to know this – for no practical reason.

Stay tuned for next week’s pictures of harvesting our old worm bin – which we donated to a worthy new vermi composter.

10-4, Compost Boy

Let the testing begin!

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Welcome composting fans -to my blog site.  What is the point of this blog?  I am conducting a 6 month test of a new technology (new to North America) of an on-site, in-vessel, high-temperature composting unit for your condo, house, or business that is bigger, better, faster and stronger than my current worm bin (or your back yard composter).
To make a long story short, I came up a composting business with a few friends a few years ago and developed a business plan with classmates for one of  my MBA courses.  Coincidentally, an in-vessel composting company is just launching in Canada and they are letting me test out one of their apartment sized composting units.  Why would I want one of these things?  What is the advantage vs. worm composting or backyard composting?  It is less finicky, automatic and takes just about everything you can imagine – even dog poo – and makes it way smaller by  turning it into compost.

On my condo deck

This composter will reduce the weight and volume of your food waste up to 95% (as most of the weight is actually water) which means the garbage truck comes to your house 95% less (not to mention you are taking ownership of your own organic waste and properly disposing of it).  Or, if you can use the compost in your garden, none of your organics will go to the landfill.   My worm bin is pretty good, but it is always too wet, you can only put certain scraps in it, and the worms stop eating in winter as it is pretty cold on my deck.  So I wanted a composter that kept a certain temperature year round, could take almost anything (cooked or uncooked), and mix itself.  I am going to test this unit out over the next 6 months by weighing everything I put into it, observing what happens to the food scraps, and measuring the amount of energy it uses for the heater, fan and mixing motors.  By the way my apartment is Bullfrog Powered so any energy my wife and I use is from wind http://www.bullfrogpower.com/ .  The manufacturer says you get compost in about 24 to 48 hours, it uses minimal energy, and the racoons can’t get into it (at least I think they can’t).  Let’s just see what happens over the next few months.  Stay tuned for progress updates. 

Signing off – Compost Boy

Composter