2007 Waste – Co-winner 2
Town of Ladysmith
Ladysmith Organic Curbside Collection Program
In February 2006, the Town of Ladysmith became the first municipality in British Columbia to begin curbside collection of organic waste. During the first 10 months of the program, residents of this small Vancouver Island community diverted an average of almost 33 tonnes of organic waste per month to a Nanaimo composting facility. By doing so, the town greatly reduced the volume of methane produced in landfill sites, a significant source of greenhouse gases. Public support for the organic waste program is high and the community is proud to be the first in the province to launch a successful program. As an added benefit, the rate of recycling for paper, plastics and glass in the town has also increased since the organic waste program began.
Ladysmith, founded in 1904 on the scenic southeastern shore of Vancouver Island, is home to 7,700 residents. The town has changed from a bedroom community for a former coal mine into a tourist destination with a big view — of both the ocean and its own future. Ladysmith's vision statement describes the town as "a spirited community that values its small town feeling and offers residents a full and healthy way of life. The citizens work together as stewards of their heritage, environment and economy."
In 1995, Ladysmith was the first municipality in the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to introduce biweekly curbside collection of recyclables. Other green initiatives have included a community compost site for yard and vegetable waste and a spring cleanup week.
By provincial law, the town's waste collection is managed by the larger CVRD. In 2005, the CVRD learned that its contract with a nearby landfill site would expire at the end of 2006. Looking for alternatives became an immediate priority for Ladysmith's town council.
In 1999, Ladysmith had considered launching a curbside compost program but the costs were considered too high, so the idea was abandoned. Then, in 2005, the International Composting Corporation (ICC), based in Victoria and Nanaimo, B.C., approached the town with a proposal to transform its organic waste into quality compost. Ladysmith's councillors decided the time had come to reduce the town's dependence on landfill.
- The amount of garbage sent to landfill by the Town of Ladysmith fell from 71 per cent of total waste in 2005 to 37 per cent in 2006.
- People in Ladysmith have increased their recycling by 15 per cent since organic waste collection began. The town attributes this higher participation rate to the public education efforts for the organics program — an effort that raised citizens' general awareness of waste and environmental issues.
- Although household participation in the organics program is required by town bylaw, being involved in such a pioneering effort has given residents a sense of pride. They know that they and their town are making a difference.
- Other positive results of the program are stronger relationships among municipal departments and with other municipalities, and between the public and private sectors. The town's contracts with Waste Services Inc. and the ICC have provided local jobs, strengthening Ladysmith's economy.
- A local grocery store now packs customers' purchases in biodegradable grocery bags instead of plastic bags. This directly supports the organics collection program because the new bags can be used to line residents' under-the-sink organics containers.
- COMMUNICATE THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS. The director of public works, Joe Friesenhan, says the town learned the benefits of communicating when it launched this program. "We got together with the contractor that picks up the waste, with the end-user (that turns the organic waste into compost) and with our other level of government (the CVRD) to talk about how this program could happen. We went through many variations and asked many questions before deciding what we agreed to try."
- TAKE IT SLOW. The town's "systems-thinking" approach was complemented by a fortunate delay in the delivery of a new truck to collect the organic waste. Friesenhan is convinced that the four months spent waiting for a new garbage truck gave all partners the chance to take part in an intensive public education campaign. "Make it as easy as possible for people to be part of the program. Habits take time to change. Do a three- or four-month education campaign if you can," he advises.
- BE PREPARED. Before organic waste collection started, "we made sure every homeowner had bins and bags. We gave them everything they needed. The program was not a surprise."
- SHOW YOUR SUPPORT. Having town councillors rather than staff on hand at special information booths set up at local events worked well in Ladysmith, Friesenhan said.
Partners and Collaboration
- Cowichan Valley Regional District
- International Composting Corporation
- Waste Services Inc.