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Counter-top composter part of Lac La Biche pilot project

County purchases 100 'FoodCyclers' to sell to residents wanting to make a Green change

LAC LA BICHE - A little device — the size of a large toaster — on the kitchen counter of  a home in Lac La Biche County could reduce greenhouse gasses, extend the life of local landfills, cut waste management costs … and create nutrient-rich soil mulch for backyard green-thumbs.

Lac La Biche County is one of 70 communities across Canada to invest in a pilot study on food waste management that will see 100 FoodCycler machines offered to 100 households at subsidized rates.

The FoodCycler converts household food waste into nutrient-rich soil additive — at the touch of a button.

The button, and the product are the creation of Ottawa-based company Food Cycle Science. Lac La Biche County council members saw the technology in action at a conference over a year ago, and recently entertained a sales pitch from Jacob Hanlon, the company’s municipal program coordinator.

Food Cycle Science and its product are a finalist in the Impact Canada Challenge, a federally-funded initiative in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Food Cycle Science has already been awarded $500,000 by Impact Canada for their ‘desktop’ composter. A successful pilot study could earn the company $1.5 million more that will go to further research and development, says Hanlon.

Environmental, financial, and household costs can all be reduced with the FoodCycler, he told Lac La Biche County council at their recent meeting.

“When food-waste end up in the landfills, it’s responsible for generating harmful greenhouse gases… that organic waste in landfills actually produces methane gas when it is breaking down, and that is more harmful than CO2,” he told council.

A tonne of diverted food-waste, he said, is the environmental equivalent of removing one fuel-engine vehicle from the road for a year.

The technology will expand lifespans of landfills by diverting food-wastes. The technology will also reduce nuisance animals from landfill sites, drawn by the food. It will also reduce unpleasant odours made as organic food-waste rots.

The FoodCycler, which is available in two sizes, a 2.5 litre model and a five litre model, is advertised to be able to convert a kilogram of “wet, smelly food waste” into 100 grams nutrient rich soil amendment. Hanlon said the machine can convert all food waste, even bones, into the nutrient-rich by-product.

Reducing the amount of organics going to local landfills comes with municipal savings in waste transport of  $100 to $150 per tonne, Hanlon said, explaining that the FoodCycler can work in tandem with existing home composting program — but is much more versatile, being as it works indoors and isn’t affected by freezing winter conditions.

For sale

Hanlon, backed by the municipality’s Environmental Services department, was asking that Lac La Biche County spend $26,000 — including a $10,000 subsidy — to purchase 100 of the smaller machines. The units would then be sold to the first 100 residents to register into the pilot, with the municipality recouping the revenues.  With the subsidy, in addition to a 50 per cent discount in price from the Impact Canada award funding, residents can purchase the FoodCycler for $150. The retail value of the same unit, said Hanlon, will be $500.

Residents who join the pilot study will be asked to keep an updated report that will be shared with the municipality and Food Cycle Science. Once the 12-week pilot study is completed, participants can keep the FoodCycler.

Council approved the purchase and administration will be creating a registration program for the pilot study. An application process is expected to begin in the near future.

Only Mayor Paul Reutov and councillor Sterling Johnson were opposed to the purchase.

Reutov thinking the topic should get public feedback before going ahead, and Johnson questioning the overall costs.

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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