Talking trash

Waste management in boom times

Although Alberta is a leader in waste management practices, it is among the largest generators of waste, producing 800 kg per capita. That's a far cry from the province's target of 500 kg per person by 2010.

While Alberta grapples with how to manage wealth and waste, Nova Scotia just raised the Canadian green bar by announcing its commitment to reducing the Nova Scotian average, 427 kg, of materials sent to the landfill to 300 kg per person per year by 2015.

For Alberta to achieve its 2010 target, the province will need to find ways to divert the estimated 80 per cent of re-coverable material from landfill through composting and recycling. It should come as no surprise to ACM's readers that the pressure is on to reduce waste. The industry currently generates 600,000 tonnes of waste per year. According to Alberta Environment, the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector generates 40 per cent of Alberta's waste; the construction, renovation, and demolition sector generates 27 per cent. The remaining 33 per cent is residential waste.

Dan Zembal, chair of the Construction and Demolition Waste Reduction Advisory committee, says the amount of material going into landfills in Alberta wastes valuable resources and space. So why all this waste? It comes down to economics.

"You can encourage people to divert, but if they can't get it to a viable market, what's the point?" asks Dan Zembal, vice-president of business development at Budget Waste Inc. "The fact is even with tipping fees, sending materials to the landfill is still the cheapest option."

But waste management practices are evolving and new markets are opening up. In pictures and words, we'll highlight a few waste management success stories from ECCO Waste Systems LP and the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. You'll also hear from Rob Renner, Alberta's environment minister, about how Alberta will achieve sustainable development.

Compaction is one way to preserve valuable landfill space.

ECCO Waste Systems is the only privately owned exclusive C&D facility in Alberta. It handles about 150,000 tonnes of ICI waste per year. About 75,000 tonnes, or half the ICI material, is wood. ECCO uses waste wood, including dimensioned lumber scraps from construction sites, mill ends, and wood pallets, to create environmentally friendly wood mulch chips used for landscaping.

Extracting gypsum from drywall for use as a fertilizer is a viable market that makes recycling economical.

With tipping fee increases and value recovered from raw resources, concrete and asphalt nearly disappeared from ECCO's site. Current ECCO recycling efforts include concrete stockpiled and crushed for re-use on site, limited metals (aluminum, copper, and lead) hand-picked and sold, paint consolidation, limited gyproc, and electronics. On top of other recycling incentives, a tipping fee in the range of $70/tonne (2007) that reaches $100/tonne over the next decade is necessary to increase the level of recycling.

The enormous mixing drums help produce 80,000 tonnes of compost annually.

Every year, the Edmonton Composting Facility, the largest in North America, processes 200,000 tonnes of residential waste and 22,500 dry tonnes of sewage biosolids annually. It can produce approximately 80,000 tonnes of compost each year. Biodegradable residential waste and biosolids from Edmonton's wastewater treatment plant get mixed together and serve as feedstock for the composting facility.

GEEP's new e-waste processing facility will keep electronics out of landfills.

Currently under construction, GEEP Inc.'s 42,000 sq. ft preengineered structural steel building will house an electronic waste recycling facility. At start-up, scheduled for October 2007, the facility will have the capability to process 6000 to 7000 tonnes of e-waste per year. When the facility is fully operational, that capacity will increase to 20,000 tonnes per year.

The planned "gasification" plant at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre will allow Edmonton to divert 90 per cent of its waste from landfill.

Through the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence, public, private, and academic bodies joined forces to find a better way to handle residuals left over from solid waste after recycling and composting.

The Gasification/Cogeneration Project strives to find a cost-effective process that will convert residuals into synthetic gas-a clean energy alternative. If all goes as planned, by 2009 the Edmonton Waste Management Centre will house the first gasification facility for residential waste in North America.

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