Organics, carts, and landfills

  • Posted on: 17 April 2017
  • By: Michael Brydon

The Campbell Mountain Landfill is the destination landfill for Penticton and most of Area F (rural Summerland uses the Summerland landfill).  The landfill itself is owned by the City of Penticton but leased by the RDOS on behalf of a slightly larger service area that includes Penticton but also Naramata, West Bench, and so on.  The RDOS, in turn, pays a contractor to manage the landfill.


There are two things I need to acknowledge about the landfill before talking about new initiatives:

  1. The Campbell Mountain Landfill is clearly located the worst place for a landfill that ever could have been imagined.  Not only does it occupy prime view lots on non-agricultural land close to town, it makes adjacent prime properties much less desirable.  You can see the landfill from Okanagan Beach.  Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about it now.  Some bad decisions are long-lived.
  2. The landfill's tight quarters make routine operations a challenge.  You may have noticed that the weigh-in/weigh-out process is very congested and inefficient.  Unfortunately, improving the flow with (for example) a second weigh scale or yard waste-only bypass is difficult.  There just isn't much room for anything.


The cost of the facility huge--it is one of the most expensive services in the RDOS.  However, the costs are recouped entirely through tipping fees.  Since there is no tax requisition in the budget for the Campbell Mountain Landfill, we often forget about its massive cost.  Of course, you are paying these costs.  Tipping fees are embedded in your garbage and recycling bill and you pay tipping fees directly if you take a load up to the landfill yourself.

One of the goals of the RDOS is to extend the life of the Campbell Mountain Landfill as long as possible in order to delay significant closure costs and also delay the cost and difficulty of finding a new landfill.  In addition, landfills can create a lot of methane gas when organic material decomposes without oxygen.  Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas, the province has introduced new requirements for methane capture or abatement.  Such measures have the potential to be very expensive, especially since the Campbell Mountain Landfill was not designed with methane capture in mind.

One way to extend the life of the landfill AND reduce methane is to keep organic materials out of the pile.  We already do this with yard waste.  We have specially yard waste collections and compost this material. We also promote on-site composting by residents whenever practical. The advantage of composting is that it involves oxygen.  Thus the main output of decay is carbon dioxide rather than methane.  Carbon dioxide is, of course, a greenhouse gas.  But it is many times less effective of trapping heat than methane.  Hence the preference for aerobic (with oxygen) composing over anaerobic (without oxygen) rotting in the middle of a landfill pile.

The next step is to divert other organic waste--specifically food waste--from the landfill.  This is a bit more challenging because, let's face it, food waste--chicken bones, leftover pasta, that rotting cauliflower you found in the back of the fridge--can be pretty nasty.  What we will be asking people to do is keep the organic nasty stuff separate from normal household trash.  This allows us to collect and compost the food waste.  Unfortunately, as noted above, Campbell Mountain is already a bit cramped, so we cannot operate a separate composting site there.  Composting food waste will therefore require some changes:

  1. A new location for composting large amounts of food waste.
  2. New bins for keeping food waste separate from other non-compostable waste.
  3. Different routines for residents to make all this work. Note that most people in the province already do this.  We are by no means leading the way.


As part of this process, the RDOS is hosting open houses.  The Area F session is May 2nd, 2017, at the West Bench school.  There is also a session on May 17th in Summerland.  A full listing of the open houses and links to background information can be found on the main RDOS site.


Not many people particpated in the RDOS survey on carts.  Even so, the results are included in the June 1 RDOS board package (starting at p. 32).  Two things jump out at me:

  1. Overall, the response to carts is luke warm.
  2. Of those responding in favor of carts, many seem to have experience with them in other jurisdictions.


I am not sure what to make of these two conclusion if taken together.  Either (a) we don't know what we are missing without carts or (b) conditions here are different from those in other jurisdictions.  I am tending to (b) where Area F is concerned.  What works in urban areas might not make sense in rural areas.  Thoughts or comments?