City of Surrey – RETHINK WASTE !

Taking the concept of a closed loop one step further, The City of Surrey is planning to power their garbage trucks with… Garbage!  The project description below is long, but a worthwhile read- and a case study for the textbooks.  It’s also the best write up we had this year.     Kudos to the team who did the work – and who took the time to share it!   The metrics in this one are buried – but outstanding!

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment mandates all of BC’s Regional Districts to establish solid waste management plans for their respective regions. The Metro Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver), in which the City of Surrey is a member municipality, recently revised its “Integrated Solid Waste Resource and Management Plan”, establishing a target to divert 70% of all regional municipal waste from landfill by 2015 . The diversion of food and other organic waste is viewed as a key strategy for meeting this goal.

In addition, the City of Surrey’s own Sustainability Charter, which was endorsed by Surrey Council in September 2008, reflects guiding principles in achieving economic, environmental and social sustainability within Surrey.

On the basis of both the above noted Metro Vancouver and City of Surrey policy documents, the City initiated careful planning to establish a a fully integrated model for organic waste management that:

1.Maximizes the diversion of household organic waste from landfill;

2.Leverages the best end use of diverted organic waste; and

3.Is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Surrey’s vision in this regard is “To fuel Surrey’s waste trucks with renewable biogas generated from curbside organic waste”.

Phase 1

Between 2009 and 2010, the City conducted seasonal waste composition studies to determine the percentage of organic (kitchen) waste contained within its residential garbage waste stream. This was necessary as it would provide us with the required data to:

a) design an optimal waste collection process geared towards maximizing the diversion of organic waste; and

b) determine if we produce sufficient organic waste feedstock that would justify the establishment of a municipal organic waste biofuel processing facility

The season results consistently reflected that approximately 65% of Surrey’s waste was comprised of food waste that was discarded into the landfill bound garbage stream.

The next step, which commenced in the spring of 2010, was to gauge the public’s receptivity to separating out their food waste from their garbage stream. In this regard the City engaged a public consultation process throughout Surrey supplemented by surveys. The feedback received from customers was overwhelmingly positive for an organic waste collection program with support at 88%.

In late 2010, the City initiated a 2,000 household pilot waste collection program. Pilot households were provided 3 waste carts, one each for organic (kitchen & yard) waste, recyclables and garbage. During the pilot, organic waste was collected weekly, while recyclables and garbage was collected biweekly on an alternating schedule. The City carried out surveys with the pilot group to gauge satisfaction levels. This allowed City staff to make adjustments to the program to ensure that customer concerns were addressed.

Between November 2010 and August 2011 waste composition studies were carried out to gauge the effectiveness of the pilot program, the results of which reflected a significant (50%) drop in garbage tonnage after 8 months. Based on these results, the City engaged a market proposal call seeking a service provider to deliver the same cart-based waste collection service to Surrey’s 100,000 households using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuelled trucks. The City awarded a contract to BFI Canada in late 2011 to carry out the waste collection services accordingly (for services commencing Oct 2012).

Over the course of the spring and summer of 2012, the City initiated a comprehensive communications and public education campaign informing its customers of the new waste collection services. The City also carried out the delivery of 300,000 waste carts to its 100,000 customer base during this time (3 waste carts per household: one for organic waste, one for recyclables and one for garbage).

On October 1, 2012, the City rolled its new “Rethink Waste” collection program. The comprehensive interactions with our customers during the planning and pilot stages proved effective. While there were a few growing pains to overcome in the few months of the program, the new services clearly hit a cord with customers. Participation levels for organic waste diversion far exceeded the City’s initial estimates. In just the first three months of the program, (from October 1st to December 31st, 2012), the City’s residential waste diversion levels jumped from 52% to 70%, with a 43% drop in garbage tonnage.

Phase 2

During the time that the City planning its new waste collection program, as described above, it was managing a parallel process with regards to the establishment of an organic waste biofuel processing facility

Once established, the facility will process Surrey’s kitchen and yard waste into both a renewable fuel and a compost and mulch material. The renewable fuel will be used to power vehicles, including the City’s fleet of CNG waste collection trucks, while the compost and mulch will be sold through local retailers and used by the City for application in Surrey parks, streetscapes and facility landscaping. Based on the organic waste processing capacity of the future facility (at 80,000 metric tonnes/year), it is estimated that the City will produce enough clean renewable gas to fuel over 4 times the size of our CNG waste collection fleet per year.

The Organic Waste Biofuel Processing Facility will be situated on Surrey-owned property located in the Port Kells industrial park area of the City (adjacent to the Surrey Transfer Station). The facility will be developed as a Public Private Partnership. Under this model, the City will choose a private partner to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the facility in a long-term agreement. As an added financial benefit, in September 2012, the Government of Canada announced that it had approved the City of Surrey’s application to the PPP Canada Fund where it will contribute up to 25% (or up to $16.9 million) of the capital cost of the future biofuel facility.


An open Request for Qualifications process was initiated in May 2013 and will close in mid-July 2013. A short-list of proponents will be selected and subsequently invited to participate in a Request for Proposal process. The City expects to engage a successful proponent by late 2013 and commence development of the biofuel facility immediately thereafter, with full commissioning of the facility by 2015.

Describe the results achieved

A:Since the implementation of the Rethink Waste collection program, the City of Surrey has seen tremendous economic, environmental and operational results.

Since the roll out in October, 2012 the City has seen an average monthly reduction in garbage volume of 43%; from approximately 5,300 tonnes/month to approximately 3,000 tonnes/month.

Conversely, monthly organic waste diversion has jumped 81%; from approximately 2,400 tonnes/month to approximately 4,300 tonnes/month.

It has been estimated that the diversion of this residential organic waste alone will reduce CO2e emissions by ~9,000/year. This CO2e impact is the equivalent of taking 1,700 passenger vehicles off the road annually.

The Rethink Waste collection program implemented a more efficient collection system, which is saving the City approximately $3,000,000/year compared to the previous waste collection service where waste was collected manually and on a weekly basis. These savings are realized via:

• The weekly-biweekly collection schedule (less trucks);

• The usage of CNG trucks is highly beneficial due to significantly less expensive fuel, i.e. the diesel litre equivalent price for natural gas is more than 50% cheaper than diesel. To this end, we estimate the fuel saving to be in the vicinity of $800,000/year (these savings are included in the $3 million total savings per year associated with our new waste collection service).

In addition, the use of CNG trucks reduces the City’s emissions relating to waste collection by 23% compared to the use of diesel waste trucks.

Also the reduced tipping costs of disposing the diverted organic waste at a compost facility, rather than landfill is saving the City approximately $1.5 million year. This is due to the relative high cost of garbage disposal at regional transfer station, the current rate of which is $107/tonne, versus separating out organic waste from the garbage and paying an organic waste disposal rate which is presently under $50/tonne.

The Rethink Waste collection program differs from the City’s old collection service in three highly sustainable ways.

The new program requires that customers separate kitchen waste from garbage. The kitchen waste, along with yard and garden waste is required to be placed into an organics cart and is collected weekly. Presently, the organic waste materials are taken to a compost facility for processing into a mulch, fertilizer and soil amendment products. recycling and garbage is collected on an alternating, biweekly basis. Taking this step not only provides additional incentive to Surrey’s residents to properly divert their organic waste, it also reduces collections costs incurred by the City as noted above.

Waste that enters the garbage stream is eventually disposed of at Metro Vancouver Regional Transfer Stations then hauled away to the Cache Creek landfill located 350 km northeast of the region. By separating out organic waste, we have significantly minimized the transfer of this waste thereby reducing emissions associated with trucking this material.

When organic waste is buried in a landfill it generates methane gas, the carbon emissions impact of which is 22 times higher than gasoline or diesel. By separating out organic waste from the landfill bound garbage stream, we minimize this impact.

As noted above, Surrey is taking this one step further: We are in the process of planning the establishment of an organic waste biofuel processing facility that will accept organic waste and generate biomethane. We intend to convert this to a grid quality renewable gas that will fuel our CNG waste trucks. As per the City’s requirements, our waste hauling contractor (BFI Canada) is operating a fleet of 100% compressed natural gas (CNG) waste collection vehicles. Taking this step not only reduces the City’s overall corporate carbon footprint, it also significantly reduces fuel costs incurred by the City. In effect, the City will be operating a wholly sustainable, closed loop waste collection system; where the waste trucks will literally be collecting their fuel from Surrey’s residents.

Name of executive or team leader who managed the project

Rob Costanzo, Deputy Manager of Engineering Operations

What 3 things in your mind makes this project most worthy of recognition

1. Economic sustainability often comes with an upfront cost, above and beyond the status quo. Through rigorous analyses and consultation, the Rethink Waste project has seen past these upfront economic and operational hurdles to realize the actual lifecycle savings of organic waste diversion.

2. The potential environmental benefits of both Phases 1 and 2 are significant. The diversion of residential and private organic waste from landfill and operating a fleet of waste collection vehicles on 100% renewable biomethane will have an estimated net carbon reduction impact of 10,200 tonnes of CO2e per year. This would be the same as taking roughly 2,000 passenger vehicles off the road every year.

3. Taking the steps that the City has taken with Phase 1 of the Rethink Waste program, and the steps that the City will take with Phase 2 of the program are already being seen as revolutionary within the solid waste industry and amongst peers from other local governments. While this wholly sustainable solid waste management model has been proven successful in Europe, Surrey’s Rethink Waste collection system will represent a first of kind in North America, and will certainly act as a catalyst project on the local, regional and national level.