MOUNT WILLIAM – Pictou County Solid Waste’s reduction program that started on Jan. 1 is beginning to see the fruits of its labour.
For the past three months, quick service restaurants, or fast food establishments as they’re more commonly known, have moved the sorting of trash from consumers to their staff.
The results of this change are impressive and have filled Susan MacDonald, an educator with Pictou County Solid Waste, with pride.
“Things are working very well,” said MacDonald. “We have the support of quick service restaurants and we’re in contact with them regularly.”
The idea behind the project involving fast-food restaurants and public buildings with cafeterias, such as schools, is to reduce the amount of waste heading to landfills through proper sorting.
Though there aren’t many hard numbers to give an indication of how the county is doing, one garbage handler estimates that the amount of organic waste collected so far has increased substantially.
“Our waste handlers estimate that we’re picking up roughly 3.4 tons more of organic waste than at this same time last year,” said MacDonald. At Burger King, the restaurant has had to increase the number of green bins for organic waste from three to eight due to proactive staff sorting practices.
Jim Shaw, owner of Tim Hortons/Wendy’s franchises in Pictou County, said a combination of great staff and incremental changes have ensured the program’s success at Tim Hortons.
“Things are going reasonably well,” said Shaw. “It’s evident that more of our waste is being sorted well and less is going to the landfill.”
He noted that these positive developments haven’t been without challenges. “It’s tough for us on busy days, at busy times. We’ll have to wait and see if we need to hire on any more staff.”
MacDonald said there have been some hiccups along the way as the plan was in development and being implemented. Initially, the fast-food restaurants thought they would be responsible for the sorting of the garbage cans outside their restaurants in addition to those in the dining and kitchen areas. The strategy only pertains to waste in the restaurants. While she concedes that it may get busy and confusing for a staff member, having to balance sorting waste in addition to other duties, MacDonald says PCSW is always ready to lend a hand.
“We provide the restaurants with guides, photos and have offered feedback, which has been well-received by the managers and staff at quick-service restaurants.”
Lloyd Himmelman, chief operator of compost at PCSW, says though the sorting may not be perfect, the increase in organic waste is clearly evident. “Occasionally we get some plastic straws, lids or cups in the organic bags, but it’s a work in progress.”
Once the materials from the restaurants make it here, they are sorted and filtered. It takes about a year before it resembles the black, earthy compost used in gardens and farms.
PCSW implemented the waste reduction program as a way to meet the aims set by The Department of the Environment, which has a mandate for municipalities to reduce all waste in Nova Scotia by 25 per cent by 2015, or about 300 kg per person.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn