Cyclists could cart away kitchen waste

If the numbers work, cyclists one day could be carting off kitchen waste from downtown restaurants, hauling it to the CEED Centre, where it would be composted and put back into use in community garden plots around Maple Ridge.

That’s the concept anyways, if all the details work out.

“At this point, we have no revenue model for it. There may be in the future,” said Christian Cowley at Community Education on Environment and Development centre on 223rd Street.

First, some pilot projects have to be tried with a local restaurant to determine the volume of potato peelings, carrot tops and all other green waste that would be produced by a kitchen.

If bicycle carts are able to carry that volume, the waste would be pedaled down to the CEED Centre, where it would be unloaded into a medium capacity composting system. Cowley has in mind the Earth Tub system, which can chew through about 75 kilograms of veggies a day and turn it into nutritious soil content in about three months, ready for adding to the two community garden plots the centre operates in Maple Ridge.

“This will actually solve some of the problems for us in terms of having to purchase soil amendments,” said Cowley.

So far, he doesn’t know of any local restaurant composting system that uses bicycles for transport. But Windemere secondary school in Vancouver is already using the Earth Tub system, he points out.

Carting the compost on the two bikes the centre plans to buy would be done on a volunteer basis. And with seniors looking for some quick exercise and high school students trying to fulfill the physical education requirements for graduation, Cowley’s confident there will be enough helpers.

Some seed money will be needed to get the project started. He guesses about $16,000, for the composter, two bicycle trailers, electrical system upgrade at centre and for the 50 waste receptacles that would go in the restaurants. The trailers will have wind-up lifts so they can accept the waste without the riders having to do any lifting.

A few local restaurateurs have already said they’re interested in helping out with the project and to help raise the start-up dollars from the local business community. With restaurants now having to pay to have their waste hauled away, there could be incentives to use the new service.

The system could work in some restaurants, said Dean Haldin at the Roast Bistro Cafe and Grill.

But he already re-uses most kitchen vegetable waste by using vegetable stocks or onion peelings for making soup stock. The only thing he tosses are pepper tops and potato peelings. Setting up a collection system in larger restaurants should work, though, he said.

If the pilot studies prove out, the CEED Centre could partner with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association and chamber of commerce to implement the project.

The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, the Golden Ears Transition Initiative, Metro Vancouver and the District of Maple Ridge also could be involved.

“What we’re trying to do at the CEED Centre is to get the community connected.”

Cowley wants the pilot projects to get going as soon as possible. “We’ll start slow and scale it up.”

The Ridge Meadows Recycling Society previously has asked Metro Vancouver to redesign its transfer station in Maple Ridge so it can accommodate more green waste.

Currently, the drop-off location at the depot accepts about 3,750 tonnes of yard waste a year. That’s then trucked to Fraser-Richmond Biocycle in Richmond, where it’s turned into top soil for plant nurseries.

If the drop-off location was redesigned to include kitchen waste, that figure could double.

According to the society, 36 per cent of the garbage produced in Maple Ridge homes is either yard or kitchen waste or wood waste. When that’s combined with a recycling rate of 55 per cent, Maple Ridge could exceed Metro Vancouver’s target of 70 per cent diversion of garbage from the dump.