Central-Alberta Village Championing Municipal WTE Facility

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As reported in the Red Deer Advocate, the Mayor of the Village of Caroline is championing the concept of a centralized waste-to-energy facility as an alternative to landfilling municipal waste.

Mayor John Rimmer gave a presentation to the Town of Rocky Mountain House council recently that the goal is to seek out private backers to own and operate a plant that would take garbage municipalities now truck to landfills and process it into a product that can be used to create energy.

The Mayor envisions the proposed WTE facility to use similar technology to that promoted by Fogdog Energy Solutions , which is working on a waste-to-fuel project for the Town of Sylvan Lake. The company is still awaiting final provincial approval.

Fogdog Energy is developing a technology that converts waste into refuse-derived fuel that can be used for heating, electricity generation, and other uses. The seven-step process includes crushing, evaporation to remove moisture, superheating, sterilization, and cooling. The entire process takes 30 minutes.

Fogdog Waste to RDF Converter

“They’re in the running,” he said of Fogdog. “But we’ll have several different bids from different companies.”

The Town of Sylvan, with a population of approximately 15,0000, signed an agreement with Fogdog Energy in 2018. Instead of burying waste in a landfill, the company says it can convert solid municipal and medical waste refuse derived fuel. The project still needs approval of the Alberta Environment Ministry.

Once the Fogdog Energy Converter system get government approval, it will take two years to get the system up and running. The Town of Sylvan’s Chief Administration Officer, Wally Ferris, believes there is potential for the town to save about $227,000 each year in waste management costs utilizing the converter vs. landfilling.

Albertans create about 3.4 million tonnes of waste yearly — or about one tonne each. A little under one-third of that is recycled, leaving about 2.5 million to be trucked to the province’s 162 landfills.

Smart Waste Management Market Outlook: 2019 to 2024

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According to the World Bank, across the globe, about 1.3 billion metric tons of waste is generated every year and is expected to reach 2.3 billion by 2020. This increase can be attributed to the rapid urbanization and industrialization, across regions.

According to a market study report prepared by Market Insights Reports, the smart waste management market was valued at $1.41 billion (USD) in 2018 and is expected to reach $5.19 billion by 2024, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.68%, during the forecast period of 2019-2024.

There are two innovative functions of smart waste management:  operational efficiency and waste reduction.

Smart waste management is a key aspect in the development of smart cities (along with water management, energy management, traffic management, etc.,) in order to provide improved lifestyle in the urban areas. The increasing adoption of smart city initiatives across regions supports the growth of the smart waste management market.

The waste management industry involves various activities, such as collection, transportation, disposal, and recycling. The industry has been facing efficiency issues at different stages of waste management, specifically, the operational costs corresponding to the collection and transport of the waste, thereby leading to the increasing adoption of smart waste management.

The growing complexity in the logistics of waste collection and the need to comply with regulations pertaining to waste processing demand better waste management solutions, which are made possible by the use of technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, RFID, GPS, and other technology advances.

GFL to Acquire Canada Fibers Ltd.

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GFL Environmental Inc. (“GFL”) recently announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Canada Fibers Ltd. 

Based in Toronto, Canada, Canada Fibers is an operator of material recovery facilities for the recovery and processing of recyclable materials for more than 28 years.  Canada Fibers provides recycling processing services to municipalities across Ontario, including the City of Toronto at its Arrow Road facility in Toronto, and to its institutional, commercial and industrial customers. Canada Fibers has also been awarded the contract to design, build and operate an advanced single-stream material recovery facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which will commence operations in the fourth quarter of 2019.

“Given the current state of commodity markets, we believe that now is the right time for GFL to acquire Canada Fibers, with its long established relationships with recyclable material buyers and its expertise in operating single stream material recovery facilities,” said Patrick Dovigi, GFL’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer.

GFL, headquartered in Vaughan, Ontario, is the fourth largest diversified environmental services company in North America, providing a comprehensive line of non-hazardous solid waste management, infrastructure & soil remediation and liquid waste management services through its platform of facilities across Canada and in 20 states in the United States.  Across its organization, GFL has a workforce of more than 9,500 employees and provides its broad range of environmental services to more than 135,000 commercial and industrial customers and its solid waste collection services to more than 4 million households.

The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019, is subject to customary regulatory approvals.

GFL Environmental Inc. files for IPO, seeks to raise $1.5 billion

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Written by Abimbola Badejo, Staff Reporter

GFL Environmental Inc., a Toronto-based environmental services company specializing in solid and liquid waste management, hazardous and special wastes management and infrastructural services, has been rapidly growing its base since 2007 by acquiring environmental solution firms across Canada and abroad; and building its employee and customer base across North America.

With giant shareholders such as BC Partners and Ontario’s Teachers Pension plan, the privately-owned company is planning to recapitalize by releasing about $1.5 billion (USD) in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and fund the company’s future growth. According to the filing, the company will be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange starting in September. This move by the company will value GFL Environmental Inc. at about 15 billion US dollars.

GFL has facilities across Canada and in 23 U.S. states, serving 4 million homes. The company, which has more than 9,500 employees and 135,000 business customers, provides services including solid-waste hauling, soil remediation and liquid-waste management.

Even though the number of shares offered, and price range have not been determined, the IPO is already planned to be underwritten by financial houses which include Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia.

Solid Waste Management System Upgrade at The Six Nations Community

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Written by Abimbola Badejo, Staff Reporter

The Government of Canada recently announced it was contributing $8.3 million to the upgrade of the waste management system at The Six Nations of the Grand River. The government contribution will go towards funding the closing of an in-community landfill site and construction of a new transfer station at Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.

The Six Nations Community of the Grand River First Nation is located 20 kilometers southeast of Brantford, Ontario, along the Grand River. The reserve community encompasses about 71 square miles  in the northern portion of the province of Ontario, Canada; and the residents manage their own municipal solid waste at a landfill site in the same area.

With dwindling land resources at the Six Nations Reserve, there is the need for a better solid management system so that the available land can be preserved for other uses such as agricultural, residential, commercial and community uses.

In a media release, Chief Ava Hill stated: “The new transfer station will allow us to meet our community’s immediate and future waste management needs which is critical to support our growing and progressive community.  Our community has recycled over four million pounds over the last six years with our waste diversion rates increasing year over year.  We are committed to diverting as much waste as possible in order to reduce the global waste burden which is negatively impacting our ecosystem, lands, waters and contributing to climate change.”

Besides the $8.3 million invested in the project to date by the Canadian government, an additional $378,188 from Indigenous Services Canada was used in the preliminary feasibility and design phases of the project.

The waste management plan is to build a new transfer station on the existing site that consists of an old landfill and a recycling facility. The transfer station will operate as a temporary solid waste collection site where various material recovery pre-processing activities such as sorting, separation and compaction of metals, cardboard, paper; composting of organics and sorting of plastics can be carried out. These materials may be treated on site if the conversion equipment is available or they may be transported off the reserve for further processing. 

The improved solid waste diversion system which focuses more on recycling, composting and hazardous waste programs will not only help to preserve land resources, it will also help to protect sources of drinking water, prevent land contamination, reduce dangerous impacts to the environment, protect the habitat and reduce the risks to human health and safety. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2019.

Fun with Waste: UK Students create Boat Sculpture from Waste

Students from a School in Britain recently created a boat sculpture from waste. The sculpture, called HMS Revival, is made from discarded bottles, bin bags, shopping bags and plastic cups held together with bamboo, rope and glue.

The purpose of the sculpture was to raise awareness about the problem of litter in Henley and the River Thames. Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England.

It took the 12 teenage students a total of two days to create sculpture after spending the previous week collecting waste from along the river bank.

The sculpture will be displayed in the River & Rowing Museum‘s community gallery until December as part of its Nature on Your Doorstep exhibition.

Raining on the parade: A critique of packaging “take back”​ programs (Terracycle,Loop, Nespresso etc.)

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University 

I want to preface this post by saying that I wan’t to be proven wrong – while it may be a peculiar stance to take as a researcher, I want to believe in the environmental benefits of packaging take back programs offered by Terracycle, Recycle Bank etc.

The idea that we are now finding innovative ways to recycle problematic materials and transition towards reusable packaging is a breath of fresh air in an industry that finds itself in a waste crisis.

With that being said, it is important to fully understand what it is we are trying to achieve as we work towards a circular economy. A circular system is our end point, but the path that we ultimately take to get there is where we should focus our attention.

The following is an excerpt from the study (I have attached the full white paper for people to download). Please note that I welcome any and all questions, criticisms and comments – my goal is not to pick on any particular organization, but shed light on the challenges of using a decentralized network for waste collection.

Study Excerpt

In Spring of 2019, York University’s Waste Wiki team was asked to investigate the environmental and economic impact of take back programs involving coffee pods, and other reusable/recyclable items that have de-centralized collection networks (i.e. Terra Cycle programs for shampoo bottles, cigarette butts etc.)

It is a relatively recent phenomenon that consumer packaging goods companies are exploring end of life waste management solutions that exist outside of conventional curbside collection. Increasingly, CPG companies are announcing partnerships with “niche” recyclers (where niche is characterized as a company that specializes in the recovery of problematic/difficult to recover materials), enabling consumers to directly return used packaging to re-processors and have it be diverted from landfill.

However, scant attention has been paid as to whether these types of programs offer legitimate environmental benefits when taking a life cycle approach. While it may seem intuitive that keeping material of a landfill is a good idea, what constitutes recyclability is a much more nuanced question that requires a careful consideration of environmental benefits, costs, accessibility, availability and infrastructural capacity.

In the case of most take back programs offered by companies such as Terracycle, problematic materials are down-cycled into “one off” products. As an example, Terracycle presently has take back programs offered for a range of commonly used household products, including razors and other personal hygiene items, chip bags, multi laminate pouches, sharpies/markers and cigarette waste.

While this initially seems like a good thing, each of the aforementioned items are down-cycled, wherein the end of life secondary product cannot be subsequently recovered, and ultimately is disposed of (i.e. a shampoo bottle is converted into a running shoe, but that running shoe cannot be recycled at its end of life, and will either be landfilled or incinerated).

While Terracycle and their peers should be celebrated for their innovation and commitment to finding new uses for problematic materials, their approach to recycling and reuse creates a dangerous perception among the public about what items can (and should be) recycled/reused.

At present, the processing technology involved in any of the aforementioned take back programs is economically prohibitive, and is really only available in jurisdictions in which the collection program is being offered. Simply put – municipal waste management infrastructure is not designed to either collect or recycle problematic materials.

As an example, the only cost analog that can readily be found in a municipal waste system is for multi-laminate plastic packaging (chip bags, yogurt squeeze containers etc.). In 2018, for the limited number of municipal programs that accepted multi laminate materials as part of their Blue Bin, the cost of recycling exceeded $2000 a tonne.

While comparing Terracycle’s costs (which are not shared) with a public municipal waste management system isn’t a particularly useful comparison, it is done to highlight just how costly it is to achieve, even with established collection, consolidation and sorting systems in place.

Take back programs offered by packaging companies and their partners must find ways to economically consolidate and transport their material to specific facilities, and ensure that those facilities are readily equipped to process that material at scale. The economic and environmental impact of a decentralized logistics network is questionable – take back programs that ask consumers to ship things like coffee pods, chip bags, razors etc. hundreds of kilometers can be both inefficient and costly.

At this time, neither Terracycle nor their partners were willing to share their cost and diversion data with the university, limiting the ability to model our own costing scenarios.

However, as an intellectual exercise, let’s look at a take back program that we have a better understanding of – The “Nespresso” Aluminum Coffee Pod (also managed by Terracycle). 

Results  (See link below)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rfERnYLOIhPsHcPA7JHf-BxPvErSiezB/view

Closing Comments

For those of you who may not be inclined to read through the entire white paper (although it is a relatively light read at a little under 8 pages – with lots of graphs), the closing comments are as follows:

Nespresso should be applauded for finding a recyclable alternative and innovating in a way that moves us away from single use plastic pods. However, the danger of programs such as Nespresso’s mailer program is that it creates the illusion of being a good environmental citizen (from both the perspective of the packaging producer and the consumer). However, as both consumers and decision makers, we have to perform our due diligence when evaluating whether our actions (in this case, recycling) are achieving our intended objectives (preferable environmental outcomes).

What is perhaps most damning is that Nespresso Aluminum pods is one of the only environmentally friendly packaging types managed by Terracycle that can readily be recycled at a low cost. Table 1 below summarizes the known emissions credits and recycling costs for commonly found Blue Box Materials (managed via curbside).

Table 1: Comparison of Emissions Credits and Recycling Costs

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Please note that the costs per tonne DO NOT include collection costs – these are just the costs of sorting and processing materials at a material recycling facility, net of any revenue received from marketed materials. Curbside collection costs for Blue Box materials typically range from $150-$300 a tonne (as different municipalities have different collection infrastructure, housing densities, labor rates etc.).

While Terracycle did not provide a breakdown of their collection costs for any of their take back programs, the purpose of this study is to highlight that voluntary take back programs, particularly involving those using a mailer system, can only work when there is a critical mass of consolidated material, and that material is being collected at designated intervals. A take back program that leaves it to consumer discretion for how and when they will return end of life materials is in all likelihood significantly more costly from a transportation perspective due to the number of unique trips required. The only way for material to be efficiently transported is when there is a critical mass of material to transport.

As a secondary concern, important questions surrounding the accessibility and affordability of take back groups needs to be considered. Many of the programs offered by Terracycle and their partners exist largely in urban areas – the reason for this is fairly obvious, as it is simply not economically feasible to offer recycling programs to everyone, everywhere. As a tangent to this statement, the introduction of reusable packaging such as Loop has placed upwards pressures on the price of packaged goods – once again, a novel and unique design, but one that is not readily affordable or accessible to a significant percentage of Canadians.

A recent study from York University estimated that lower income marginalized households are those most likely affected by increases in packaging prices, as a greater proportion of their purchases are made up of pre-packaged items.

The findings from this study should be interpreted with a degree of caution – in the absence of having Terracycle’s data, we can only make best guess estimates based on the existing cost of managing a municipal waste system in Ontario. We welcome critics of these findings to share their data, such that we can all have a better understanding of what it is we would like to achieve from our waste management systems moving forward.  

Simply “recycling” is not enough, and we need to be both ready and willing to explore packaging alternatives that “think outside the Blue Box”.

British Columbia compost facility to close operations

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As reported by The Abbotsford News, a large composting operation is shutting down after the Ministry of Environment said it risked polluting the “highly vulnerable” aquifer beneath it.

The operator of the McKenzie Road site had previously told a government inspector that he didn’t plan to take any action until his facility was legalized by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and the City of Abbotsford. But according to an email sent to neighbours by a Ministry of Environment official, the company behind the facility now plans to immediately close the operation after being threatened with a fine.

Lifesoils Products had been operating at the site for years, despite contravening a host of provincial and city rules. In addition to the aquifer concerns, neighbours were upset about smells, pests and truck traffic and the Ministry of Agriculture said the chicken manure composting posed a biosecurity hazard, because compost piles were located right next to a poultry barn.

The ALC told the facility to stop more than two years ago, but lifted the order in early 2017 when a non-farm use application to legalize the site was submitted.

That application first went to the City of Abbotsford, and this February council agreed to forward it to the ALC this February. City staff suggested that a subsequent rezoning of the property would require the operator to fix the various problems identified by government inspectors.

“That tells me they’re moving in the right direction,” Mayor Henry Braun said at the time.

But Coun. Patricia Ross, the lone councillor who opposed forwarding the project, said the existing concerns were worrying.

“My concern is that past behaviour can be an indicator of future performance,” she said.

A month earlier, in January, a Ministry of Environment inspector had ordered Lifesoils operator Randy Dahl to control the leachate coming from the site in order to avoid a fine.

But when an inspector returned to the site in May, she found little had improved, with the composting area still uncovered and not on an impermeable surface, according to a report obtained by The News.

Lifesoils Compost Site, Abbotford, B.C. (Photo Credit: The Abbotsford News)

Lifesoils owner Randy Dahl told the inspector that the company “does not intend to register or implement changes to achieve compliance with [the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation] and thus [the Environmental Management Act], until applications with the City of Abbotsford and Agricultural Land Commission have passed,” the report says.

The inspector referred the matter for an administrative penalty – essentially a fine. The company was also ordered to hire an expert to determine if run-off and/or leachate from the site is affecting, or could affect, the aquifer underneath.

In 2012, experts had rated the vulnerability of one of the aquifers in the area as “high.” The aquifer was described as highly productive, with dozens of wells at homes, businesses, industries and farms drawing water.

This week, an environment official told neighbours in the area that Lifesoils had “decided on the immediate shutdown of the composting operation.”

The Ministry would be “discussing the decommissioning process and timeline” with the operator this week, according to an email.

It’s unclear whether the shutdown will be permanent, and The News has not been able to reach the operators.

Neighbours believe the move will be permanent because of the regulatory difficulties faced by Lifesoils. But the ALC said Wednesday that the file remained open and that it was proceeding with the non-farm use application. The city had not yet received notice of any changes to the application as of Friday.