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Surrey earns national recognition for its waste program

The City of Surrey has won a national award for its
The City of Surrey has won a national award for its 'Rethink Waste' collection program.
— image credit: City of Surrey image

Recently, Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne accepted a Sustainable Communities Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on behalf of the City of Surrey for its "Rethink Waste" collection program.

The program, which was launched in October of 2012, aims to become North America's first comprehensive, closed-loop, fully integrated organic waste management system once the the biofuel facility scheduled for construction in Port Kells is completed next year.

The 70-per-cent diversion from residential waste, which was outlined by Metro Vancouver as a goal for 2015, was achieved within a matter of months, pushing Surrey ahead of the curve in sustainability practices.

"It's very gratifying because I think it's something that we take very seriously," said Coun. Hayne. "As we grow and develop as a city, everything we do has to be sustainable for the future generations."

Project manager Robert Costanzo credits the city's sustainability charter for paving the way for iniatives such as the Rethink Waste Program.

"It's a great feeling to know that we've got this wonderful sustainability charter that was adopted by our council in 2008," said Costanzo. "It's a great policy document in terms that it helps to really guide our thinking in any of the major decisions that the city makes ... certainly on major issues such as waste collection, it's really helped set the pace in terms of what we need to achieve."

Sustainability manager Anna Mathewson said the project's success can be attributed largely to the amount of preparation put into it.

First, a pilot project was run through engineering, which included different approaches for the waste collection system.

"Having done the pilot, I think we learned what worked and what didn't work and then we took a lot of time as a city to prepare properly for rolling that information out to people," said Mathewson. "A second success that I would highlight in addition to the prep was really the rollout and communications of what it meant."

Another key to the program's success, Mathewson said, was the way it was marketed to the public. In addition to offering a free app for download on smartphone, the city showcased the soon-to-be self-sufficient nature of the new system once construction of the biofuel facility is complete.

"The waste will eventually go there and then that facility will produce the biogas that will run the trucks that collect the waste," said Mathewson. "So we did visuals around the linkage between all those things."

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