'It's incredibly disheartening': Compostable food containers still can't go in curbside green bins
VANCOUVER -- When Vancouver's foam take-out container ban came into effect Jan. 1, restaurant owners called the region's first ever distributor of compostable food containers, BSI Bio Packaging.
"Lots of last minute, 'We need a solution what have you got?' " said CEO Susanne Carson, who founded the company 15 years ago. "Fortunately, most of the time we can find a really good working solution."
But Carson knows if her fully compostable containers are put in curbside green bins, they will likely be removed by compost facility sorters and thrown in the trash.
"It is incredibly disheartening when we get another notice from the city or Metro Vancouver that the products are still not accepted," she said.
Some smaller compost facilities will take food containers, mostly from private businesses who collect and sort them on site.
But cities need companies that can take huge quantities of mixed curbside green bin material. So Metro Vancouver is continuing to ask homeowners to put compostable containers in the garbage, because not all facilities that handle green bin material accept every certified compostable product, and there's a risk of contamination.
"Ideally it would be great if every facility were able to provide the same conditions, it would be great if every certified compostable product were able to break down in the time and temperature conditions that every facility provides," said Metro Vancouver's director of solid waste planning Andrew Marr. "It's just not there yet. I don't think it's going happen anytime very soon."
Marr says it's out of Metro Vancouver's control because all the region's compost facilities are private companies who are contracted by cities to take green bin material, but Carson thinks the companies will make the change to accept compostable food containers if they're supported by government.
"We have to make sure we invest in the infrastructure in composting to allow them to solve the problems they have, so they can then accept products like this. To abandon them to figure it out for themselves I don't think is an appropriate way to go. But we can do it if we help them," said Carson. "I'd love to see our politicians and governing bodies make the commitment to try. Because right now they're just saying, 'Don't.' "
If every local compost facility accepts compostable food packaging, Carson knows homeowners will also need to be educated about what can go in the green bin, and what can't.
"I wouldn't discredit what people are willing to learn," she said. "I wouldn't discredit what people want out of the future here in the Lower Mainland."