Maris Pavelson feels good at the end of his shift at Gordon Neighborhood House (GNH), staffing the Food Scraps Drop Spot on Tuesday evenings. Not only is he helping to reduce the greenhouse gas methane that is created by food rotting in the landfill, the food scraps he collects are trucked out by local recycling company Recycling Alternative to be made into nutrient-rich compost for local gardens.
“But most of all it’s fun,” he says. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”
GNH launched their 10 am-12 noon Saturday Drop Spot in November, 2011, in partnership with Recycling Alternative, the West End Neighbourhood Food Network (WENFN), and the Vancouver Farmers Markets. While the City of Vancouver offers curbside food scraps pick-up and composting service to single-family resident homes, until the Drop Spots were launched the majority of West Enders and others who live in condos, apartment buildings, and co-ops were left out–half of the city. Randy Helten of WENFN estimates that the 45,000 people living in the West End alone produce around 27 million kilograms of food waste a year.
The first pilot project Drop Spot–begun in August, 2011 at the West End Farmers Market, initiated by Recycling Alternative and the Farmers Market, and funded by a $10,000 Greenest City Fund grant from the City of Vancouver– was instantly popular, as nearly 200 people dropped off their organics on a busy Saturday.
“When we were wrapping up the first pilot, people were asking us, “What are we going to do when you close the market? ” says Louise Schwarz, co-founder of Recycling Alternative. The perfect partner to pick up the slack was Gordon Neighborhood House, a mere two blocks from the West End Market site at Nelson Park. “GNH is a natural place for people to come to bring their food scraps,” says Samuel Mickelson, Community Initiatives Supervisor.
Even with the introduction of a $2 donation that pays for transportation, delivery of the food scraps to Enviro-smart Organics composting facility in Delta, and the disposal fee, the Saturday drop spot at GNH was a success. So much so that a second day was proposed, and Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 began in 2013. Together they receive up to 150 drops per week.
For Maris, life in the trash trenches includes checking for banned substances such as cat litter or Styrofoam, noting each droppers’ postal code to see how far they have travelled, offering hand sanitizer and paper towels to those soiled by their exertions, and engaging in conversations related to recycling and our local food cycle.
Currently there are six Drop Spots: the West End, Kitsilano, and Trout Lake Farmers Markets run in the summer; GNH and the Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey stadium take over in the winter; while the West End Community Centre operates year-round. This schedule will continue past the Metro Vancouver ban on all organic material going to the landfill in January, 2015, as Schwarz thinks it unlikely the City and independent contractors will have organized curbside collection of food scraps for all Multi-Unit Residential Buildings by that time.
With nearly 30,000 drops to date, the Drop Spots have diverted 200,000 pounds of food scraps otherwise destined for the landfill, helping make Vancouver a greener city.
No wonder Maris Pavelson enjoys his work as a GNH Drop Spot volunteer.
Written by Linda Lawson
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger