Metro food waste ban opens doors to entrepreneurs

Local business booms for some companies in wake of January food scraps prohibition   

BioClens Environmental co-founders Andrew Pavlik and Dave Abercrombie are capitalizing on the recent food waste ban that went into effect in Metro Vancouver at the start of 2015 | Chung Chow

Businesses praising red tape happens about as frequently as a gourmet chef tossing ketchup on a Kobe steak.

But the ban on dumping food scraps in the garbage, which went into effect January 1 in Metro Vancouver, is invigorating some companies even as others contend with added costs and regulations.

BioClens Environmental originally launched in July 2013 as Food Waste Recyclers, hauling organics from businesses and offering bin cleaning as an extra service.

“But we quickly realized we were going to be fighting against all the giants doing exactly the same thing,” co-founder and CEO Dave Abercrombie told Business in Vancouver. “So we figured, why fight with the giants when we can help them?”

The company shifted its core business and now works with the “giants” by washing bins that have been cleared of organic waste.

“The food waste ban is driving the business,” BioClens co-founder and president Andrew Pavlik said.

Any given evening after an event at Rogers Arena, one of the large haulers will clear bins filled with half-eaten hot dogs and other leftover food. BioClens workers clean the emptied bins on site and recapture all the water (rats are attracted to fluids sweetened by organic waste).

“Instead of working against these large guys, trying to compete for a small market share, we’re looking at a wide-open market that doesn’t have a lot of competitors,” Pavlik said.

Although large haulers are also benefiting from the organics ban, they have faced difficulties persuading clients to get on board.

Waste Control Services (WCS) began sending out letters to customers, warning them of the impending food waste ban a year before it went into effect.

WCS recycling services manager George Jasper said it was “very challenging” to persuade clients to stop tossing organic waste in the garbage before the ban officially went into effect. Since October, demand for food waste disposal services has experienced a “huge increase” at WCS, Jasper said. But it came only after the company sharpened the language of its letters and told customers they’d face additional service charges if excessive organic waste remained in the solid waste bins. Haulers carrying more than 25% organic waste in garbage loads won’t face fines from landfills until July.

Kate White, a University of British Columbia professor at the Sauder School of Business who specializes in marketing and behavioural science, said financial penalties sometimes work but usually only when combined with other types of incentives that change people’s habits.

“Anything that makes it more efficient, makes it easier to do, is certainly positive.”

BioClens, meanwhile, is partnering with property managers to introduce compostable organic waste bins into units. The bins don’t need to be cleaned, can absorb food scrap odours and are tossed out after two to three weeks. “It makes it easier for people to recycle organics; it just simplifies everything,” Pavlik said. “Because of the food waste ban and because of the growing concerns of the general public, it’s presented a great opportunity to create a solution.”