Written by John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., Editor
The days of disposing of organic waste in landfills in Canada may soon be coming to an end. As a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord and with the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030, the federal government has just focused its attention on Canada’s landfills and the methane they release.
A 2021 report from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) stated municipal solid waste landfills are responsible for almost 23% of Canada’s emissions. It should as no surprise that the government wants to lower these emissions as part of its commitment to honour the Paris Accord.
The ECCC recently took the first step to curbing emission from landfills with the recent release of a discussion paper on new measures to reduce pollution from landfills. Included in the proposed measures is increased diversion of biodegradable waste from landfills.
The organic waste sector in Ontario has long been a proponent for the diversion, if not outright ban, of organics to landfill. With the increased focus in a growing number of jurisdictions across North American on renewable natural gas and growing interest in green hydrogen, the calls for organic waste as a feedstock for generation of these two fuels is beginning to be heard by investors, politicians, and the general public.
Ontario’s Policies on Organic Wastes
In Ontario, the current government has been slow to the understanding that organic waste is a valuable feedstock in the production of energy. The Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement was released in 2018 under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016. It includes resource recovery of food and organic waste.
The outright banning of organic waste from landfill is currently being practice in some countries in Europe and even in five U.S. states. With Canada’s international commitments, the release of the ECCC discussion paper, and growing voices from industry and environmentalists alike, the day a landfill ban for organics may be coming in Ontario sooner than later.
Ontario’s Organic Waste Industry
It’s one thing to ban organics from landfill, it’s another to prepared for utilizing it as a feedstock. As of today, Ontario does not have the capacity to manage all the organics that could be utilized as feedstock for anaerobic digestion or composting.
A recent report on Ontario’s organic waste industry by Ecostrat Inc. for The Atmospheric Fund (January 2022) provides an overview or the total amount of solid and liquid recyclable organic feedstock (“ROF”) and source-separated organics (“SSO”) generated in the province. It also assesses the current capacity for recycling and disposing of the feedstock and related tipping fee costs.
In summary, the report identifies a potential surplus supply over one million tonnes per year of organic waste in Ontario. It counts a total of 24 ROF-consuming anaerobic digesters in the Ontario that can have an intake capacity of approximately 360,000 tonnes per year with four more AD’s currently under construction. It also identifies
Evolutional and Pro-Active Thinking
One company that didn’t make the latest Ontario sector report is a new and intriguing player, in name, but comprised of some of the most seasoned professionals in the industry. One could almost say the new company, Evergreen Environmental Inc., is made up of an all star cast of professionals from Ontario’s organic waste industry.
Evergreen was founded by Ward Janssens and Richard Weldon. Ward was the major catalyst behind a few of Ontario’s first, large scale industrial-sized composting facilities and several other facilities in Canada and US. Richard Weldon, a Managing Partner at Romspen, is an experienced in financing and a proven property and waste sector entrepreneur.
Evergreen also has a battle-tested and proven technology in its arsenal as it recently acquired CCI BioEnergy. For those unfamiliar with CCI BioEnergy, its anaerobic digestion technology, The BTA Process, has been very successfully treating Toronto’s green bin/source separate organics for many years at the two separate facilities and at a municipal consortium, SÉMECS, in Quebec.
Between Evergreen’s leadership team and other very experienced team members, Evergreen has over 50 collective years of experience in managing organic waste, both internationally and in Canada. Utilizing this experience and knowledge, Evergreen is in the process of constructing a new state-of-the-art industrial anaerobic digestion facility in Oshawa that will be capable of managing up to 200,000 tonnes of organics annually.
Having recently received all the environmental approvals (which includes the first flexible permit of its kind in Ontario) and other required permits, Evergreen is in the early stages of construction. When fully operational in the fall of 2024, this robust-designed facility will be the first of its kind in Ontario in that it will be capable of accepting the widest possible range of organic wastes. It will also include a combination of best management practices and technologies, including a high-end odour treatment system.
Covid has made publicly funded Anaerobic Digestion projects more challenging and more expensive. As municipal projects get squeezed with tighter budgets, more public agencies are considering private sector solutions. Evergreen’s model of building a merchant plant which will provide much needed capacity to customers in the Greater Toronto Area, including municipalities, could be the way of the future.
The threat of global warming has created an opportunity of a greener future. Ontario just needs to make some bold steps to be a leader in the new circular economy.