Over the past several months, Nikki West’s face has become very familiar to the residents of her Walnut Grove housing complex.
Earlier in January, a number of green and yellow plastic bins arrived at their homes and West is hoping the containers will soon become very familiar to them as well.
West is a volunteer Recycling Ambassador who, with support from the Township of Langley, is helping the residents of Bridlewoods keep their food scraps separate from their garbage. With Metro Vancouver now banning organic waste from landfills, she is hoping residents at other multi-family complexes will volunteer to do the same where they live as well.
“I did it because I wanted to upgrade my own recycling habits and do something meaningful for my community,” West said. “I believe in the efforts the Township is making to get people on board, and with the ban in place, it is even more critical that we get it done.”
The Recycling Ambassador program was launched by the Township’s Engineering Division in the summer of 2012 to help increase recycling rates in multi-family housing complexes. As Ambassadors, volunteers help encourage their fellow condo, apartment, or townhouse residents to do everything from collecting their electronic waste and batteries to keeping cardboard out of the garbage cans.
The program is open to those aged 16 and up and volunteers are provided with a training workshop, educational materials, posters, and promotional items from the Township. Municipal staff provide help and support throughout.
“Ambassadors are now needed more than ever,” said Township of Langley Solid Waste Coordinator Krista Daniszewski, because on January 1, Metro Vancouver began enforcing new rules to keep food scraps, yard trimmings, and soiled paper such as napkins out of the landfill.
Food waste is one of the largest sources of methane, a strong greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. As food slowly decomposes in landfills, it produces methane because there is not enough oxygen to help the scraps properly decompose.
To comply with the ban, Township of Langley residents who receive Green Can collection are encouraged to take advantage of that service, and those with yards can compost their raw fruit and vegetable scraps with a backyard composter. Some multi-family complexes receive Green Can collection services from the Township and those that don’t can arrange for organic waste collection service from a contractor.
“We already pay privately for garbage collection so we asked the contractor to add organic waste collection service,” said West, who has learned a lot about the environment and the region she lives in once she became an Ambassador. For months, she has been doing research, making calls, asking questions, learning, and planning. It has been a challenge, West said, but one she has enjoyed – especially since it gave her the chance to meet all her neighbours.
“Everybody understands this is what we need to do,” she said. “The question was: how do we do it? Now, they just need to decide what bin to put their kitchen waste in: is it garbage or not?”
For West, the key elements to successfully implementing the organics collection program were getting the approval and support of her complex’s strata council and working closely with Township staff.
“Krista has educated me and provided ongoing guidance, provided educational materials, and participated in our educations session at Bridlewoods,” West said. “She has also listened to and shared by frustrations and joys and encouraged me at critical times.”
“Nikki has done an excellent job and her neighbours are very lucky to have her,” said Daniszewski, noting that West arranged a contract with the waste collection service provider and had them deliver collection bins. She then placed informational hand-outs and small containers for collecting day-to-day kitchen scraps inside the bins and presented them to the residents.
“Many of the neighbours were delighted to get them,” West said. “Now we just need to follow through. It’s very important that we all do what we say we will do.
To sign up to be a Recycling Ambassador, or to learn more, visit tol.ca/ambassador or call 604-532-7300.