Council seeks report on FoodCycler waste reduction program

NORTH PERTH – Following a presentation from Food Cycle Science Corporation on March 7, North Perth council asked staff to research the feasibility of participating in a Foodcycler pilot program to help households reduce their organic waste by 90 percent.

“Food Cycle Science is a Canadian cleantech company,” said Christine Zardo, Manager of Municipal Solutions from Food Cycle Science. “We’re based out of Ottawa, Ontario, and we are 100 percent focused on providing food waste diversion solutions using our innovative technology called the FoodCycler.”

Although consumers can purchase the FoodCycler directly through partners such as Vitamix and Breville, Food Cycle Science works directly with municipalities to provide them with a solution for their food waste problem.

“it helps them keep food waste out of landfills,” said Zardo. “We work with many small rural remote and northern communities across the country. As of today, we have 35 Canadian municipalities across seven provinces and territories who have signed on to the food cycler program, and 24 of these municipalities are in Ontario due to some of the unique challenges that we have, especially in more rural areas.”

She said food waste is an avoidable problem.

“It accounts for a very large portion of our household waste, and it’s made up of mostly liquid, which is heavy and can freeze in the winter,” said Zardo. “On top of that, tonnes of food waste that go into our landfills in Canada is responsible for generating harmful greenhouse gases.”

One impact to municipalities is that food waste causes landfills to fill up quickly, and the collection services are a significant cost to taxpayers.

“The environmental impact is that when you have organic waste decomposing in the landfill, the anaerobic environment causes it to release methane gas,” she said. “This is the greenhouse gas that is (25 times) more harmful than carbon and contributes to the impacts of climate change that we’re seeing today.”

The odours caused by food waste may also attract unwanted visitors to homes, such as raccoons and other animals.

“When we remove the food waste from the garbage, it eliminates these issues,” said Zardo. “It’s much easier and more pleasant to manage.”

She pointed out that there are other options available such as curbside green bin collection, which millions of Canadians are accustomed to having.

“This is mostly available in big cities with a high population density and an investment in expensive processing infrastructure. It can be cost-prohibitive and operationally challenging in smaller rural communities, and participation rates in this program are always a bit lower than we would hope to see,” she said.

Zardo said backyard composting is a fantastic solution, but many people may not have the space or the desire to do it at home.

“We still have the concern about odours and animals, and the reality is that adoption rates have historically been quite low for this type of at-home solution,” she said.

Zardo pointed out that the status quo option of continuing to landfill organics has long-term costly and harmful impacts on the environment.

Essentially, Food Cycle Science has built a small kitchen appliance where food waste, including vegetable scraps, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and even some bones, gets turned into a dry, sterile, odourless and nutrient-rich soil amendment.

“The machine can be used anywhere with a plug,” she said. “Most people have it in their kitchen, their basement or maybe even the garage.”

The FoodCycler processes an average of 2.5 litres or one kilogram of wet, smelly food waste per four to eight-hour cycle.

“It uses less than one kilowatt per hour of power, so a couple of cents per cycle, and it’s roughly the equivalent of having a computer plugged in for the same amount of time,” said Zardo. “The result is a 90 percent reduction by weight and volume of your food waste, and then you have this dry, sterile, odourless soil amendment.”

The soil amendment can be used in gardening and landscaping, existing composting systems, leaf and yard waste programs, given to local farms or even pelletized for home heating alternatives.

“From an environmental standpoint, when we compare the Food Cycler solution to other types of solutions, it does compare well to backyard composting and central composting from a greenhouse gas impact perspective,” she said. “When we look at the comparison from sending food waste to landfills, we see about a 95 percent reduction of greenhouse gas impact.”

From an economic standpoint, FoodCycler offers a return on investment by significantly reducing waste management costs. In traditional services, there is a bin or recycling receptacle, a hauling truck, possibly a transfer station, and then it’s buried in a landfill. With the FoodCycler, residents generate waste and process it right at home.

“One thing that we’ve learned from working with our municipal partners is that their residents are very interested in being part of the solution,” said Zardo. “They want to try new things, and they want options, and they want their government to bring these things to their community, so with the FoodCycler, you get to bring something innovative, Canadian and tangible to your residents.”

On top of the social pressures, she reminded council of new regulations coming to Ontario.

“it’s important to have a plan in place that meets these goals and works for your community,” she said. “Since food waste makes up so much of what is in our household waste, it is the single most impactful strategy to achieving these diversion targets.”

Food Cycle Science completed pilot programs in over 1200 households across Canada, and Zardo said the results are overwhelmingly positive.

“We have very high levels of participation,” she said. “We have achieved a significant amount of net new diversion, and over 90 percent of people say that they would recommend this solution to friends, family and neighbours.”

In Nelson, BC – after two successful pilots, they have voted to put an in-home appliance like the FoodCycler in every home in their city of 10,000 people. The pilot program is typically a 12-week project where residents purchase a unit from their municipality at a subsidized rate. They use it and track the number of cycles they run per week. In the end, they keep the FoodCycler and complete a brief survey to evaluate the program’s success and how much waste was diverted.

“The results of these surveys are essentially a feasibility study on the solution and can be used to support future waste management decisions or perhaps to accompany an application for funding to expand the program,” said Zardo. “There are many grants out there, both provincial and federal.”

For a community the size of North Perth, in 2021, the enumerated population of the municipality was 15,538, which represents a change of 18.3 percent rise from 2016; Food Cycle Science would recommend a pilot of 200 households.

It works based on a subsidy model where Food Cycle Science provides a discount, the municipality pays $125 per unit, and the resident pays $175 for a FoodCycler that retails for $500. These recommendations are based on models that have been successful in other partnering municipalities.

“We would welcome the Municipality of North Perth to be part of this initiative,” she said. “We think your community would be a great fit for the benefits of the program, and tonight what we would ask is … if there is interest in a pilot program to refer this to staff for a report and recommendation to tailor a program that is suited to you.”

Mayor Todd Kasenberg said that as he was peeling potatoes for supper before the meeting, he thought very much about the FoodCycler.

“I’ve had exposure myself to a green box program when I lived in Kitchener, and it was kind of messy and complicated,” he said. “It was hard to do right, if you will, and so I certainly found some intrigue myself in your presentation.”

Coun. Allan Rothwell requested a report be brought back to council as to whether or not we should consider moving forward with a pilot program in North Perth.

“I would really support and second that,” said Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen.

Council supported the request of a report unanimously.

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