District studies composting

The District of Ucluelet is considering the possibility of implementing a curbside compost pickup program.

Composting in Ucluelet is currently restricted under the district’s Bear Aware protocols but Irving said the district is seeking out ways to open it up.

“The smell is an attractant so we’ve got to find a way to not send out odor that would ask a bear to come and look at what’s going on,” he said. “It’s one of those juggling acts, there’s not an easy solution but I think we’re sensitive on council (that) we’ve got to move forward; just restricting is not a solution.”

He said the district is also considering the possibility of hiring a contractor to run a composting facility on the outskirts of town potentially near the junction where waste would be recycled into topsoil.

Ucluelet’s current composting restrictions stem from a Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan the district produced and adopted in 2006 to reduce the potential for human-bear conflicts.

One of the architects of this plan was Crystal McMillan, who initiated the West Coast Bear Aware committee in 2004. McMillan won Ucluelet’s citizen of the year award in 2006 and was hired by the BC Conservation Core to be Ucluelet’s Bear Aware program delivery specialist.

She has since moved to Port Alberni where she serves as the executive director of Bear Smart BC.

McMillan told the Westerly News a curbside composting program could co-exist with Ucluelet’s wildlife management protocols but careful monitoring would be needed.

“While we want to have zero waste we need to be extremely aware and diligent about effectively managing our wildlife,” she said.

She said curbside compost bins will be full of alluring odors that draw bears into town.

“Curbside compost people are going to put everything in there… all of their food waste is going in,” she said. “It smells strong and bears can smell up to 20 miles away.”

The curbside bins of attractants will be a major concern if residents fail to keep their bins secured inside between pick-up days, according to McMillan who added Ucluelet will need to enforce this through bylaw.

“I really do believe that garbage and compost are always going to be the death of our bears… There are always going to be those people that are going to leave out their garbage and leave out their compost,” she said.

“You can have bylaws until you’re blue in the face and they’re pretty documents but that education has to go with warnings and it has to go with fining eventually.” She said Nanaimo’s recent venture into curbside compost pick-up is being monitored for effects on wildlife.

“There is no compost container that is bear resistant for curbside as of yet,” according to McMillan. “We recognize that communities are now starting to go curbside composting and we want to start gaining data so that we can get a better look to see if bears are getting access to curbside compost containers,” she said.

McMillan said Ucluelet would need to invest in state-of-the-art technologies and that fencing off an area would not suffice.

“If you’ve got a community that’s working towards a goal of zero waste and a goal of zero conflict with bears why not do it right to start,” she asked. She touted Whistler BC’s composting facility . “It’s 100 per cent bear resistant,” she said. “They’ve done a bang up job there.”