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2014 Waste

City of Surrey, British Columbia

Rethink Waste Collection Program

Population:  Project duration:  Total project value:
502,010 2012–ongoing $17.5 million


The City of Surrey has scored a triple win with a composting program that diverts kitchen waste from landfill sites, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and cuts fuel costs for waste collection vehicles.

Within the first year of the program, the city reduced waste heading for landfill by 43 per cent, meeting 2015 targets laid out by the Metro Vancouver Regional District. By composting kitchen waste, the city is cutting methane gas emissions from its landfill sites and reducing waste disposal costs. To multiply these benefits, the city contracts a waste collection company that uses trucks fuelled by compressed natural gas. The fleet helps reduce Surrey's carbon footprint as well as its operating costs.

The next step in the Rethink Waste program — a public-private partnership to build a bio-fuel plant that will power the city's waste collection fleet — is already in the planning stage.


Environmental Economic Social
  • 27,000 tonnes of food waste (14,000 tonnes of CO2e) diverted from landfill in first year

  • Vehicle emissions reduced by 650 tonnes of CO2e

  • $4 million annual savings in waste collection

  • Reduced landfill tipping fees

  • Payback period of less than 5 years

  • Engaged residents have become "front line" agents in environmental change

  • Diversion rates are twice as high as anticipated


  • Launching the program city-wide made it challenging to provide more than 300,000 recycling carts in time. The city allowed two to three months for this task; four to six months would have been more realistic.

  • Plastic bags were an unexpected challenge, with initial contamination rates of about five per cent versus an acceptable 0.5 per cent rate. City-hired bin checkers identified carts left at the curb because of too much plastic. Within months, contamination rates were within an acceptable range.

Lessons learned

  • Start planning as early as possible and conduct a pilot program. Success comes from lessons learned by testing the program in your own community.

  • Plan for glitches in the roll-out. The city assumed that some households would be missed during early pick-up cycles and had alternate waste contractors on standby.

  • Look for a reliable, experienced contractor. The program's success depends on a contractor who can manage the work in a timely fashion and help educate the public when necessary.

  • Marketing is key. Surrey hired a communications firm to develop an awareness campaign that made the program easy to understand.

Page Updated: 27/04/2018