For many schools in the VSB, the start of the new school year this week also meant the start of the VSB's new waste system. The biggest change is that there are now green bins in the schools to collect organic waste, which makes up more than half of the district's total waste. This means VSB schools have the opportunity to keep that waste away from the landfill - an estimated 3.5 million kilograms, or about 1100 full garbage trucks per year.
Last year, Metro Vancouver passed a region-wide bylaw banning organic material from the landfill. While the VSB is now fully compliant with the bylaw, it will be an ongoing process as each school community gets used to the new waste system. Here are a few tips and assurances to help those schools that are new to the program:
- Pests and odours have not been an issue at the pilot schools. To avoid them, make sure the compost bins are being emptied every day by custodial staff.
- It may take a while for everyone to get familiar with what can go into the organics bins, and too much of the wrong stuff ("contamination") means that the whole load must go to landfill. So remember: "when in doubt throw it out!" If you're not sure which bin it goes in, it's best to throw it in the garbage this time and figure it out for next time.
- If you accidentally put something in the wrong bin - leave it in! Safety comes first, so don't reach into the bin - just be more careful next time.
- Start where you can. Paper towels make up the majority of VSB's compostable waste, which means that changing just this one habit (putting paper towels into the green bin) will have a big impact.
What is "organic waste" and why should we keep it out of the garbage?
The term "organic waste" means waste that can be composted back to soil. It includes paper towels, food scraps, pizza boxes, fruit and vegetable peels and cores, leaves, wooden coffee stirrers, meat, bones, and even some special plant-based take out containers and cutlery - plus a lot more. Basically anything that once grew from the ground can be composted back to soil.
Have you ever wondered where trash goes when we throw it "away?" There really is no "away." There's the landfill, and nothing we send there decomposes at all - even the organic stuff. It all gets buried in the ground with too much plastic and not enough sunlight, oxygen, water and decomposing critters to break it down properly - it's a waste of space for our waste! Using our organic waste to create compost is a much better solution because we get to recycle all those nutrients into the next crops of food; nothing goes to waste this way.
If you have any questions or concerns about the new waste program, check out our waste page on the Green Board, talk to your principal or building engineer, or email Ashley - VSB Sustainability Coordinator. Together, we can make great strides to becoming the greenest, most sustainable school district in North America!