Organics waste pickup the first step to a zero-waste community

Lake Cowichan is catching up with its neighbours in the CVRD Zero-waste plan.

Despite some confusion, the Town of Lake Cowichan’s organics pickup pilot project, which was officially launched last month, has seen a 30 per cent reduction in waste. Though that number may seem substantial, town councillor Tim McGonigle wants to aim higher, getting Lake Cowichan in line with the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) region-wide zero waste plan.

Adopted in 2002, the Zero Waste Plan aims to make the Cowichan Valley, as a whole, garbage-free. Since the plan’s inception, the Cowichan Valley has achieved a recycling rate of over 72 per cent, according to the CVRD.

As for Lake Cowichan, McGonigle said the lack of resources and facilities for residents has been holding the town back, though the organics pickup project has helped us catch up.

One of the biggest obstacles for waste-neutrality remains the lack of a local recycling facility, which has forced some residents to take the easy route, sending these materials to a landfill.

“It’s about a 50/50 split for recycling glass and plastic here,” McGonigle said. “I’ve seen people from the community using the Meade Creek facility, it’s amazing what is accepted there, but it’s unfortunate that most of it can’t be curbsided. It’s good to have a facility that’s not too far away, the twenty minute drive doesn’t bother me, but for people who don’t have access to a pickup truck, it’s not so easy.”

While the organics pickup project may have diverted 30 per cent of Lake Cowichan’s waste from the landfill, McGonigle pointed out that the distance the organics waste needs to travel to get to the facility in Nanaimo’s Duke Point diminishes some of the environmental benefits.

“When we collect organic waste, then truck it to Duke Point, is that really reducing?” he said. “It may be hypocritical, but it’s a good start. At least that waste can be turned into something useful.”

While the hour-long trip to Nanaimo may seem excessive, Lake Cowichan’s non-organic waste is sent even further — to a landfill in Washington State.

According to McGonigle, the most useful aspect of the organic waste pickup project for the town is to find out how much weight can be diverted from the regular waste stream. With enough success, the Cowichan Valley, possibly even Lake Cowichan, could be seeing its own organic waste facility somewhere down the line.

While the Town of Lake Cowichan has made a large stride towards achieving zero-waste, there is still more to be done, both within and outside of the community, before real change can be made.

“Canada is one of the largest waste producers in the world, and without proper disposal, we’re choking the environment,” McGonigle said. “Dealing with waste in a responsible way is just the right thing to do.”