Foodservice Equipment Reports

Notes From Vancouver: Waste And Wages

Metro Vancouver restaurants are bracing for a July 1 deadline to divert and dispose of food waste that used to go to the landfill. The six-month grace period for new regulations that kicked off Jan. 1 means that come July 1, operators in the Canadian city will have to start paying extra if more than a quarter of their garbage is organic material.

Restaurants and supermarkets are the two major contributors of organics to the landfill.

“Right now, one-third to one-half of the landfill is compostable organic material,” says Andrew Marr, who oversees Metro Vancouver’s solid-waste planning. “The first part of the mandate is to reduce the amount of waste—buy smaller servings, eat what you have, eat your leftovers.”

Most of the city’s 6,000 affected operators are unaware of the regulations, according to the city’s newspaper, The Province. Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant & Foodservice Association, told the paper that most restaurants recognize the new regulations as the right way forward, but require help to meet the rules. Many are calling in consultants to explain how to sort and store organics. “Most restaurants are very small businesses, and they’re being asked to do a lot of research,” Tostenson told The Province.

He predicts an extension for businesses that are trying to adapt to the new imposed reality, and he hopes to see more information and discussion so the affected restaurant owners have a helping hand. “I believe we can go to our members and say, ‘You can make money with this.’ There is a commercial value to the product.”

Beyond waste issues, Vancouver restaurant operators also are anticipating a slow but steady increase in its hourly general minimum wage. The wage is to rise to $10.45 on Sept. 15.

“The restaurant industry already struggles with intense cost pressures, and any bump in labor costs is challenging to absorb or pass on to customers,” says Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s v.p.-Western Canada. He expressed confidence in the government’s move to align the minimum-wage increase with inflation. “It provides employers with some degree of certainty. Slow and steady wins the race.”

British Columbia’s restaurant industry is the third-largest private-sector employer in the province, directly employing more than 178,000 workers. In 2014, the industry created 4,200 jobs.