Green cones will soon be gobbling up organics at 20 sites around the Royal City.
Green cones are a food waste digester system that’s currently being used by the Glenbrook North Zero Waste Challenge pilot project. As part of that initiative, a representative from the organization that distributes the green cones locally demonstrated the units to some employees at the city’s works yard.
“We thought it was interesting to give it a shot, try it out and see how it works,” said Kristian Davis, the city’s supervisor of solid waste and recycling.
Coun. Bill Harper had learned about the green cones at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention and felt it was something council should hear about, as it may have citywide implications.
“I thought this is like a revolution of composting organic waste,” he said. “You can put in chicken, cooked food, paper napkins.”
It’s estimated that food waste accounts for up to 30 per cent of residential garbage that ends up in landfills. The city believes green cones may provide an alternative way of dealing with food waste, by breaking these materials down in a safe way.
“It’s a food waste digester. It is not a composter,” Davis said. “It is being digested into the ground.”
Using solar heat, the contents are broken down into nutrient-rich water that drains into the soil around the green cone unit. The product that’s drained into the ground is safe.
“It’s all food that you have in your kitchen,” Davis pointed out. “It would accept anything from pasta, meat, bones, dairy.”
A staff report notes that the green cone is being used worldwide, including places like England, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the United States. More and more Metro Vancouver communities are considering them as a way of reducing the waste going to the landfill.
“The green cones have been around for more than 20 years,” Davis said. “It hasn’t really caught on here. In Europe, people, their attitudes are a bit different over there. They realized years ago there was an issue, we are going to just be coming to that point now that there is a need to dispose of our food waste.”
Staff at the city’s works yard are excited about putting the green cone to use and seeing how it works. All totalled, the city has purchased 20 green cones that will be used to determine whether more should be purchased.
“These green cones are meant for a family of about four to five,” Davis said. “They are basically on trial purposes.”
According to Davis, the green cones retail for about $140. It’s believed the city could purchase them for about $100 and subsidize the cost, a process that’s been done in the past with composters and rain barrels.
“They are supposed to be able to be used all year round,” Davis said about the green cones. “They do work with solar energy. It would be best located in a sunny area of the garden. They do work well in winter time.”
Because heat speeds up the degradation process, the green cones should be placed in the sunniest place in the yard.
“It is so warm (inside) that in the middle of winter, snow will melt on it,” Harper noted.
To install the green cone, a hole is dug in the ground, and the “digestion chamber” basket is buried below ground level.
“They don’t ever fill up is what I’ve been told,” Davis said. “They are constantly under this degradation process.”
A staff report notes that raccoons, coyotes and other animals are unable to tip over the green cones because they’re partially buried in the ground.
Because a hole is dug into the ground and the exterior has no ventilation, Davis said all smells from the food products are contained.
“The one downside is flies,” he said of a pest that can be treated. “That is inside the cone. There are sprays that don’t harm the bacteria.”
Harper believes the green cones could be helpful in reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfills.
“If you could get organics out of your garbage, that is a huge reduction in tipping fees,” he said.
If the pilot project has positive results, Harper would like to see the green cones offered to residents at a subsidized rate.
“We do the subsidized program now for regular composters,” he noted. “We want to see that they work, the way they work.”
Although commercial operators in the city don’t have recycling services, Harper believes the green cones could have implications for restaurants. “Just think about how much organic (waste) is thrown out at a restaurant.”