Calgary restaurants urged to divert food waste away from landfill

April 27 2017

All foodservice operations in Calgary will be forced by law to keep food and yard waste separate from regular garbage destined for landfill from November this year.

It’s down to a new bylaw connected to the city’s waste reduction strategy, which has already dealt with paper and cardboard recycling for businesses and organizations by introducing a higher fee for commercial loads containing these items, with a landfill ban set to follow in 2018.

This approach will be applied to organics, such as food waste, with initial steps requiring businesses and organizations to provide recycling for employees and customers from November 1st.

A fee increase will come into force from October 2018 for commercial loads containing food waste, with a landfill ban the following October.  

In 2014, a study within the City of Calgary estimated that more than 40 per cent of garbage from the accommodation and food service sector is food waste, which gives restaurants a lot of opportunity to divert waste and reduce costs.


Leanne Michie, a waste diversion specialist with the City of Calgary, told that there is a common misconception surrounding how food waste breaks down in landfill.

Due to the absence of oxygen, food waste doesn’t break down into soil or compost when it is buried, instead releasing methane gas and creating leachate, which is a liquid from garbage that has to be managed and treated.

Ms Michie believes chefs and restaurateurs are responsible for having measures within their daily operations that adhere to the new bylaw.

She noted eateries should ensure food waste and yard waste is collected and stored separately from garbage and recyclables before arranging for material to be composted. All restaurant staff should be educated about the program too, she added.

Speaking to, Ms Michie said: “We set it up, following years of engagement with stakeholders, to provide flexibility and choice to the businesses and organizations so they can find a service provider and a program and different types of bins that work best for them.”

Restaurant operators should speak with their current commercial collection company to discuss options and find the solution that works best for the business, Ms Michie advised.

“There are so many private haulers within the city that have a niche they work in, and they really understand how much volume a restaurant might have or how to creatively set up the bins in the kitchen; they may even supply those bins,” Michie said.

Some restaurateurs often think they are going to need a larger space to store the separate waste. However, with no extra volume being generated, the waste doesn’t take up any more room than it would usually.

One way of driving recycling within a food service environment is to appoint a recycling ambassador who will lead the program.

Despite the proposed incremential fees for food waste going to landfill, restaurants are actually in a decent position to save money, or at least come out cost-neutral, under the new bylaw.

“Food waste is quite heavy and you often pay by weight when it comes to garbage, so by removing that from your garbage, your garbage costs will go down significantly,” Ms Michie concluded.