Workers sort through trash during a waste composition study to measure what types of waste are going into the landfill.  CRD photo

Workers sort through trash during a waste composition study to measure what types of waste are going into the landfill. CRD photo

Saanich per capita trash levels rising

There’s only so much room at the Hartland Landfill, and Greater Victoria’s residents are filling the region’s only public dump faster than ever.

The Capital Regional District reported a total of 400 kilograms, per capita, going into the landfill in 2017. All indications so far in 2018 suggest another year of the same, said Russ Smith, the CRD’s senior manager of environmental resource management though even 2017’s numbers need to be confirmed.

But let’s face it, we have a trash problem, and we know it.

Despite the implementation of 2015’s kitchen waste collection program, the CRD’s waste per capita has surged far above its pre-kitchen waste numbers, when it was averaging 370 kgs between 2012 to 2014, inclusive.

In 2015, the region implemented the kitchen waste program to divert all organic waste (or some of it, as it turns out).

At first, the effect was staggering. Landfill numbers dropped to 345 kgs per person in 2015, when the kitchen waste program came online. However, any hope that the non-organic waste totals would continue to drop as additional condo and apartment buildings came online (as most contract separately from their municipalities) were dashed.

Instead numbers surged back up to 353 kgs in 2016. Now, despite the fact the CRD’s 383,000 residents are generally below the provincial average (last reported as 472 kgs per capita in 2016), it’s starting to look like a monumental task to get the CRD per capita waste total below the provincial target of 350 kgs per capita in 2020.

At this rate Hartland Landfill is estimated to run out of room by 2048.

So where does the trash come from? Research suggests a strong economy, which is supported by a manual search of the garbage bags at Hartland, Smith said. (See in depth results of the search here.)

“We do see that waste per capita [correlates] with the level of economic activity,” Smith said. “A stronger economy results in new buildings and renovations, and it results in people throwing old stuff out and getting new stuff.”

To no one’s surprise, studies show that perceived excess cash shows people buy more and throw out more.

In a timely move, the CRD hired a consultant to open random non-organic trash bags in 2016 (when Hartland’s numbers were at all-time lows) to inspect the composition of the garbage bags.

Twenty-one per cent was still made of organic material which could have been diverted. It’s a staggering number and a basic estimation is Hartland’s current trash total is likely not far off, meaning one fifth could be diverted from the Hartland dump and turned back into earth. Seventeen per cent was wood.

“Wood waste is an indicator of economic activity, buildings taken down, renovations, etc.,” Smith said.

Saanich also measured its waste collection but is unsure exactly what comes from single family residences only – with about 32,000 households in the district in 2018. This is up about 200 households from 2015.

Its garbage cart collection numbers have risen from 8,286 tonnes in 2015 to 8,614 in 2016 and 8,867 in 2017, far exceeding the goal of being below 8,180 tonnes.

At one point, about six years ago, a local waste consultant suggested it would be realistic to extend the life of Hartland Landfill up to 80 years based on concerted efforts of diversion.

In the meantime, the CRD and its municipalities are developing a new solid waste strategic managing plan. A committee is working to come up with diversion initiatives. Expect it to come before the public for consultation soon as CRD staff hope to bring it before the CRD board for approval in process in 2019.

reporter@saanichnews.com