Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore understands composting

Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore looks good in bright green. And he earns his colours with his community's leadership in food scraps composting.

His city was the first in the region to give it a try last year, when he was on council. On November 4, he was a guest on Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste Breakfast panel talking about what it was like to be the mayor taking heat for showing leadership.

Moore said the biggest pushback was when the city of Port Coquitlam switched its collection schedule.

Instead of collecting trash weekly and yard waste bi-weekly, the city now empties the food scraps/yard waste bin weekly and the trash every other week. Citizens apparently inundated their mayor with angry emails.

Residents saw this change as a "reduction in service"—until Mayor Moore phoned each angry citizen back and assured them it was the same level of service as before—only better!

They still pick up the stuff that smells bad every week. And, of course, the trash can wait the extra week because there's less of it and it smells great!

I asked Mayor Moore if he didn't think Metro Vancouver should reconsider building big incinerators, now that our waste was dropping so fast. His reply was muddled, but the message came through that deep down he doesn't think the rest of us are going to be such super composters as his citizens (let's just show him!) and he hasn't given enough thought to incinerators to take a clear stand.

I have confidence that Mayor Moore will be a quick study—that he will understand that once all the nice clean organics are gone from the trash, what's left will be things that we probably shouldn't be burning at all.

Right after the Zero Waste Breakfast, Metro hosted a webinar where Dennis Rannahan said we'd be burning "composites", contaminated waste (meaning: trash that people failed to sort), plastics, and textiles. Who knows what's in that stuff?? Do we want to blow it into the sky?

Maybe Mayor Gregor and Mayor Greg should have a chat. Greg can help Gregor get moving on his long-promised food scraps program (words, words, words....) and Gregor can explain why his Vision Vancouver party rejected incineration on Zero Waste Vancouver's survey last fall. Then they can both commiserate about the problem where they both committed to make a difference: homelessness.

Make no mistake, the same basic attitudes underlie both our trash problem and our homeless problem. And would we consider putting 30 percent of the homeless in incinerators?

Helen Spiegelman is a Vancouver-based environmentalist and blog coordinator. Read more at Zero Waste.



Happy composter

Nov 9, 2009 at 1:53pm

I am encouraged to see Greater Vancouver municipalities FINALLY taking the important and pragmatic step of managing the region's waste much more sustainably. Way to lead Port Coquitlam! Wow, I never thought those last four words would ever combine in my head. Regardless, nicely done!

George T. Baker

Nov 26, 2009 at 12:07pm

This is a brilliant idea that a lot of rural communities could use. There is dwindling waste space at the landfills in rural BC. Instead of increasing capacity, communities could rethink how they do rubbish.