Barry Orr is the Sewer Outreach and Control Inspector for the City of London and a creator of the Your Turn project. We sat down with him to talk about how the Your Turn project is progressing and what we can expect from his Hot Topic Session at #WEAO18.
Tell us about yourself:
Aside from being a Sewer Outreach and Control Inspector for the City of London, it seems I’ve become a voice for the wastewater outreach sector internationally. Whether it’s talking about fats, oils, and grease, or how toilets aren’t garbage cans, I’ve been able to communicate with citizens about how valuable it is to protect our sewer system infrastructure. I’ve worked with the Water Brothers on their episode “The Big Leak,” been interviewed by Steve Paikin, and I’ve done a lot of work with CBC. I enjoy talking about the fascinating world of sewers and wastewater!
What impact has the WEAO had on you professionally?
The networking opportunity at the WEAO is phenomenal because there are so many likeminded people who are all passionate about protecting water and the environment. It’s crucial to be exposed to other professionals, to hear about their trials, tribulations, and solutions.
What is the 'Your Turn' project?
In 2013 we launched a labeled cup educating people on the importance of properly disposing fats, oils, and grease. We asked residents to collect them into the cup and then throw it into the garbage. Through pilot testing in one neighborhood we saw that people were actively using the cups. For the next area we tested, we asked residents to drop the cups off at an environmental depot, assuring them that once they were dropped off, we would deliver all the cups to a facility that would turn the FOGs into energy.
What has the impact of the Your Turn project been so far?
Instantaneously we saw changes in the neighbourhoods and a strong community engagement. We received inquiries from people all across the city. Our local media picked up on it and wrote an article, and from the article the London Fire Department reached out to partner up on this initiative. They wanted to spread awareness not only about FOGs but also about cooking fires, as they are the number one cause of fires in Ontario. That partnership allowed for more cups to be distributed because the fire department started handing them out during their programs and events. We then partnered up with our London libraries so all library locations now hand out cups.
What about the energy savings?
Last year was the first year that we started to monitor the quantity of FOGs collected, and it amounted to over 6,000 kilograms of fats oils and grease. That’s enough to run an entire house strictly off of FOGs! It’s amazing to think that bacon fat could be powering and heating a house for a year.
What does the future have in store for Your Turn?
At this point we’ve handed out over 100,000 cups here in London. We have been lucky to get some interest from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to explore the greenhouse gas reduction that this program has managed to achieve. We just received the funding so we’ll be working towards implementing a plan for this in 2018.
Last year we partnered up with Fluks Aqua. They created a website (www.getyourfogcup.com) to expand the concept across the nation in a cost effective way. They’ve gained interest from the East Coast to the West Coast.
What can we expect from your talk at the WEAO?
I’m going to be talking about how much our community has engaged in this program, how it is saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and how we’ve been able to convince residents that this is a convenient thing for them to do while also ensuring that we can supply them with all the cups they need.
Barry’s Hot Topic Session, called “Public Education, Your Turn updated 2018” will be taking place on Monday April 16thbetween 2-5pm. To learn more about Your Turn visit www.london.ca, click here. Or better yet register for the 2018 WEAO Technical Symposium and OPCEA Exhibition and sit in on Hot Topics!