Yesterday, a group of 20 MURB (multi-unit residential building) recycling champions gathered to talk about their experiences and challenges of initiating food scraps recycling programs in their buildings. Special guests included Paul Henderson, General Manager of Solid Waste Services at Metro Vancouver and Andrea Reimer, Vancouver City Councilor; it was great to have Paul and Andrea present to answer the many questions around the upstream and downstream aspects of the local waste management and recycling systems, as well as comment on the proposed 2015 ban on food scraps in garbage.
The quote of the day belonged to Hilary Onno, a volunteer on the food scraps recycling committee in her MURB, who, in response to the conversation of smells and how it is often other items in garbage rooms (such as beer bottles not rinsed out) that are the real culprits of funky odours said, “but food scraps smell good, it smells like soil”. That is certainly music to our noses.
Kudos to all the Vancouver residents who volunteer their time to recycling efforts in MURBS. Continuous engagement and the measuring of metrics is a lot of work, and you are doing amazing and important work. In fact, we love them and the work they do so much we have nominated them for a Greenest City Leadership Award from the City of Vancouver for their tireless efforts to reach the City’s and Metro Vancouver’s zero waste goals. Whether they win this award or not, they are champions in our eyes.
Certainly my favourite part of being involved with the Recycling Committee or “Green Team” in my building has been the one to one neighbor to neighbor engagement, or more specifically, door knocking. In February 2014, we started a foodscraps recycling program in our building (or rather strata of 4 buildings) in anticipation of the City of Vancouver’s 2015 bylaw banning foodscraps in landfill garbage.
One of our key engagement and education tactics was going to be good old fashioned door knocking. We knocked on every door in our 186 unit building to talk to our neighbours about the new foodscraps collection bins in our garbage room, and invited questions and participation. We handed out some FAQs, a list of “What’s Accepted and What’s Not (in the foodscraps bins)”, took some kitchen catcher examples, and gave out compostable liners as “swag” (don’t get too excited now).
We tried to hit the sweet dinnertime slot when more people would likely be home, but still, the combination of unoccupied units (which is a whole other topic) and just busy vancouverites meant a lot of unanswered knocks. We tracked those unit numbers so we could try another time and moved on to the next door. Of those that did answer the knock, which was probably 20%, responses ranged from someone yelling from behind the closed door, “go away!” to, “come in for a glass of wine, we’re just making some food, have you had dinner yet?”. Thankfully, of the doors that I knocked on, the former response only came once, and unfortunately, the latter offer of wine and dinner only came once.
The rest of the responses fell in between.
Mostly, people were surprised that someone would be knocking on their door in a multi-unit residential building where entry was accessed by key or granted by buzzer only; but once they opened the door and realized we weren’t trying to sell them anything, and that we also lived in the building, dialogue flowed; and in fact, it was hard to stop talking. There is certainly a desire for neighbours to connect with one another and on a continuous basis. Personally for me, in addition to being happy about having more people recycle foodscraps and making new friends in my building, I feel safer living in a building where I know my neighbours. It’s much more than just a cuppa sugar.