Our landfills are shrinking, which means tighter restrictions are coming in the near future that will mandate what we can dispose of and how, in particular organic waste that can be disposed of in better ways. On June 10th, BOMA Calgary had an Organics Panel meeting where we learned how some of the forward thinking leaders such as Noreen Music, Oxford Properties; John Hooper, Waste Management Sustainability; Lindsay Seidel-Wassenaar, City of Calgary and Sharlene Quain, Bentall Kennedy are creating and implementing unique sustainability practices in order to prepare for the future.
In Calgary, the ICI Sector (Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional) is responsible for over one third of all waste going to City landfills, of which 25% is attributed to organics. According to Alberta Infrastructure, the biggest focus in reduction of organic waste is food mixed in with regular garbage. Some Calgary institutions are diverting their organic food waste by sending higher quality food to homeless shelters, lower quality to animals, and finally composting the remainder.
Property managers however have rather unique challenges when it comes to organics since for the most part, it is coming from tenants and food courts rather than food manufacturing, processing, or retail. What we learned is that while food courts play a big part in organic waste, the larger, and easier managed source of organics is from the tenants. One of the larger issues faced seems to be overcoming negative tenant perceptions that diverting organics means more work for their staff, less space, and the fear of having odor issues in their offices. The reality is however, implementing an organics program is not adding waste, it is rather separating it from the rest thus not changing any odor levels, and as for the fear of the program creating more work for tenants, it is simply a change of habit, not unlike recycling programs we utilize at home.
By implementing simple yet consistent education and publicly acknowledging tenants for improving their organic waste diversion, property managers alike can have an effective, and relatively easier transition to an organics program. Some of the creative ideas that have seemed to work quite well for Oxford and Bentall Kennedy, were tenant report cards, newsletters with easy tips to remember, and also literature showing what item from typical food court restaurants are considered organics and which are not.
Since organics are going to officially be banned from our landfills by 2019, and because implementing any change in habits on a larger scale is a challenge, the biggest takeaway from the Organics Panel meeting was that in order for an organics program to be successful, it must be consistently reinforced through education and communication.
Submitted on behalf of the BOMA Communications Committee
Image credit; City of Calgary & Crcog