Guy Crittenden: Advanced Waste Solutions and its Evolution in Canada

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by Guy Crittenden

Three years ago I left a very satisfying 25-year career editing business magazines focused on environmental protection in order to pursue a fresh opportunity. For more than two decades I edited the publication of record for the Canadian waste and recycling industry; when one leaves such a position, one might stay closely affiliated with the industry, e.g., working for a major company, becoming a consultant, or serving on the board of a trade association. Many are the times I witnessed people retire only to return after a short respite to such a position.

When I left, I truly departed! I haven’t attended conferences or trade shows, and have only met a handful of times in the past three years with former professional colleagues. Yet I think about waste and recycling issues often, and sometimes comment to a friend or relative upon an innovative waste recycling bin or gadget, or a truck driving along the highway with the logo of a past advertiser. One never fully leaves the waste industry; the impact of understanding its issues and strategies is permanent.

The Amazon River (Photo Credit: G. Crittenden)

So I was happy to learn recently that my former colleague and publisher Brad O’Brien and our regular technology columnist John Nicholson have paired up to launch this new online publication, to continue into the future the tradition of publishing excellence we established back in the early 1990s. Over the years, apart from the many wonderful people I befriended in the industry, my main interests were the innovative strategies to reduce or eliminate waste in the first place (e.g., European packaging ordinances), product and packaging re-design, and (especially) environmental technologies and automation.

There’s no doubt the future of waste management will incorporate “leapfrog” technologies and solutions unimaginable when we launched our first publication in the early 1990s. Computers, GPS, real-time monitoring and billing, automated sorting, new products made from discarded materials… it’s an interesting time to be involved in this rapidly-changing industry, and I offer my best wishes to my former colleagues in their exciting new venture!

If you’re interested in learning what I’m up to myself nowadays, I invite you to visit my brand new website


About Guy Crittenden

Guy is freelance writer who recently retired from a 25-year career in the business-to-business press in Canada, where he edited two trade magazines, Solid Waste & Recycling and Hazmat Management Magazine, that he co-founded with partners in 1989. He and his partners  sold the business in 1999 to a conglomerate for which he worked for the next 15 years.

Guy is now pursuing other writing interests, including books, magazine articles and blogs. To his long-held environmental themes he recently added adventure travel writing and a range of other topics that include spirituality and shamanism.

Guy is a graduate of the University of Toronto, earning a Honours BA in English Language and Literature/Letters.

Montreal Borough to Launch Reusable Diaper Pilot Project

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When my first child was born in the late 1990’s, my wife and I utilized a diaper service that would supply new diapers and take used ones back for recycling.  The service was not the lowest cost option but I felt a personal conviction to help out a start-up in the recycling business (it was also very convenient).  When my second child was born in the 2000’s, I sadly admit that I did not pay the extra money for the diaper recycling service.

Montreal Borough Launches Diaper Reuse Project 

The latest attempt to apply the 3Rs to the diaper business can be found in Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.   The borough is launching a two-year pilot project to subsidize the cost of reusable diapers and feminine hygiene products.

According to a report by CBC, the diaper and sanitary napkin recycling pilot project will start in mid-October.  The Borough will subsidize the cost of reusable diapers and feminine hygiene products, offering citizens up to $200 a year for cloth diapers and $100 every two years for menstrual products like reusable pads, sponges and cups.

“There are two things we’re looking at here: we want to do all we can for the environment, but we also want to help families save money,” said borough Mayor Sue Montgomery.

Mayor Sue Montgomery

In late June, the borough agreed to launch a diaper subsidy program in the fall — a program adopted by a number of municipalities across the province, including Verdun and Mercier—Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

When the project gets underway, anyone living in the Borough who is interested in claiming the subsidy can file a request with the borough along with their receipts for reusable products. The subsidy will be offered on a sliding scale, with more to lower-income families.  The subsidy can also be used to cover the costs of used cloth diapers and material purchased to make cloth diapers or reusable menstrual products.

Before approving the measure, the borough compared the use of 1,000 disposable diapers to 1,000 reusable diaper changes — studying the impact from production to landfill.  Overall, cloth diapers use considerably less material, water and landfill space, producing 27 kilograms of solid waste versus the 200 kilograms produced by disposable diapers.  Cloth diapers, the borough found, have the potential of saving parents more than $2,500 in the long run despite the added laundry costs.

Region of Peel Experience with Recycling

For approximately a decade (1999 to 2009), the Region of Peel attempted to divert diapers from the waste stream.  Based on data from the Region of Peel (comprising the Cities of Mississauga and Brampton along with the Town of Caledon), diapers make up approximately 4.5 per cent of the waste stream.

By 2009, the Region of Peel came to the conclusion that there was no existing technology or business model in Ontario that would make the practice of recycling diapers feasible. Over the decade that it tried, the Region tried several measures to deal with diaper collection and recycling.  In 2009, the Region of Peel was spending more than $3 million a year to collect, transfer and dispose of diapers, incontinence and sanitary hygiene products.

The first attempt to collect diapers for recycling in the Region of Peel was in 1996.  The Regional Municipality enlisted the help of Mississauga-based Knowaste Technology, the only diaper recycling facility in the Greater Toronto Area.  The plant closed in 2008 due to poor market conditions (residents, like myself) had to pay extra for pick-up of diapers for recycling.

Knowaste is currently operating in Europe, where it owns and operates recycling facilities.  It also grants a license to use its pioneering technology and know-how to carefully selected local companies, on an exclusive basis.

Knowaste’s West Bromwich plant in the UK

When the diaper recycling program first started in Peel, residents were able to drop diapers off at public waste depots. However, that practice was scrapped a year later because of poor participation rates and rising collection costs.


Canadian WTE energy scores big with the U.S. Military

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Anyone familiar with the procurement process for the U.S. Military can attest that it can be time-consuming and byzantine.  With the buy-America/America First politics that currently exists south of the border, the contract signed between PyroGenesis, a Canadian company based in Montrel, and the U.S. Department of Defence is nothing short of amazing.

PyroGenesis recently secured contracts with the US Military totaling US$509,000 for general ongoing upgrades and maintenance.  The company said that work on these contracts has already begun, and all the contracts will be completed by the end of the year (Q4-2018).

“These contracts are a further testament to the level of confidence military organizations have in our experience and expertise,” said P. Peter Pascali, President and CEO of PyroGenesis. “It further underscores our ability to perform to the highest standards, military standards, and this is serving us well as we expand our other business segments into industries which have similar exacting demands.”

P. Peter Pascali, President, CEO, and Director of PyroGenesis

The company’s APT torch is at the heart of its plasma waste processing and waste to energy technologies and have been deployed by the US Department of Defense. Developed initially as a solution for waste destruction and subsequent energy recovery, the plume from an APT can reach more than 5000 degrees C, making it excellent tool for the transforming of materials to value-added products.

The torch can be modified for uses with different gases and reach power levels ranging from 50 kW to 500 kW.

“More than 20 years of working with the military has provided us with the credibility few, if any, companies of our size have,” commented Pierre Carabin, Chief Technology Officer of PyroGenesis.

This is the latest contract with the U.S. military for the company.  In January 2018, the company announced it had signed a number of contracts with the U.S. military totaling US$218,000.  As of January 2018, the combined value of PyroGenesis contracts with the U.S. military were in excess of US$1.4 million.

Florida WTE Installation

PryoGenesis WTE Plasma System at Hurlburt Field, Florida

An example of the work performed by PyroGenesis for the U.S. Military includes a Transportable Plasma Waste-to-Energy System at the U.S. Air Force Base in Hurlburt Field, Florida.  The system became operational in 2010.  It can handle a mixture of Municipal, Industrial, Hazardous and Biomedical Waste at a rate of 3,100 metric tons per year.  PyroGenesis provided a turnkey delivery of the facility, including building and infrastructure, project manager, equipment provider, and a subcontracted operator of the facility.

About Pyrogenesis

Pyrogenesis designs, develops, manufactures and commercializes advanced plasma processes.  The company provides engineering and manufacturing expertise, contract research, as well as turnkey process equipment packages to the defense, metallurgical, mining, additive manufacturing (including 3D printing), oil & gas, and environmental industries.  Pyrogenesis employs engineers, scientists and technicians who work out of the company’s Montreal office and 3,800 m2 manufacturing facility,

The core competencies of PyroGenesis is providing innovative plasma torches, plasma waste processes, high-temperature metallurgical processes, and engineering services to the global marketplace. The company’s operations are ISO 9001:2015 certified, and have been ISO certified since 1997.

PyroGenesis Canada Inc. is  listed on the TSX Venture Exchange (Ticker Symbol: PYR), and on the OTCQB Marketplace (Ticker Symbol: PYRNF).


Saskatchewan Municipals Renew Focus on 3Rs

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Two Saskatchewan municipalities, Saskatoon and Regina, have recently intensified their focus on the 3Rs in an effort to divert more waste from landfill.


In June, Saskatoon City Council voted to move gradually to composting of source separated organics and a Pay-as-you-Throw garbage collection model.  According to a consultant’s report commission by the City Council, Saskatoon was lagging far behind other municipalities in Canada.

The City is one of the last communities of its size to introduce blue bin recycling.  Saskatoon diverts less than a quarter of all waste from landfill while many other Canadian cities have been above the 50 per cent mark for years.

Saskatoon has a population of approximately 270,000 and is the largest City in the province and and the 17th largest Census Metropolitan Area in Canada, with a population of approximately 300,000.

One of the challenges of recycling in Saskatoon is the low density of the population.  The City has a density of 1,200 people per square kilometre.  Comparatively, Canada’s largest City, Toronto, has a density of over 4,000 people per square kilometre.

Under the proposed Pay-as-you-Throw Program, households would be charged a utility fee instead of paying for garbage through property taxes.  When implemented, households will pay a variable utility fee depending on the size of their garbage cart.

In early September, Saskatoon’s Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities and Corporate services meeting heard administration recommend bi-weekly pickup, and dropping waste collection from property taxes, with residents instead paying a monthly utility bill.  According to an administrative report, there is an estimated property tax rate reduction of 3.5 per cent under this model. However, because the city is proposing a 4 per cent overall increase, the net effect under this model would result in a 0.5 per cent property tax increase in 2019.  The PAYT system is expected to go before city council for a final decision on Sept. 24.

Saskatoon Council also voted in June to develop an organics program that will operate year-round using a single green cart for food and yard waste.  The current cart size and frequency of curbside recycling will remain the same, but councillors deferred a decision on how much to spend buying green carts.

Brenda Wallace, the City of Saskatoon’s director of environmental and corporate initiatives, stands next to three different garbage cart sizes at city hall (Phot Credit: Phil Tank/The StarPhoenix)

An Administration Report released in early September estimated that the new waste and organics program in Saskatoon could cost residents an additional $20 to $30 per month.  City administration recommended $13.6-million in capital funding be approved to implement a year round, bi-weekly organics and waste collection program for curbside residential households.  Administration also recommends that compost depots continue operating with no changes to existing service levels.

The City Administration recommended organics and waste be collected bi-weekly. It estimates the utility cost for residents would be $20 per month based on the use of a medium sized waste cart. Weekly collection of organics and waste would cost around $33 per month.


Recently, the City of Regina introduced a pilot project to roll out an organic waste program over the next four years. Lisa Legault, director for Regina’s Solid Waste, said the city’s goal has been to divert 65 per cent of household waste from the landfill. The city began its blue bin recycling in 2015, but is still stuck at the 20 per cent mark in its diversion goal.

The proposed pilot project, which would take effect in 2020, would see compost picked up weekly with garbage eventually being picked up biweekly. A final implementation plan will be presented to council in spring 2021 with a city-wide implementation starting in 2022.

According to Legault, the annual cost of the organic waste service would be $7.9 million. However, she added, $4.6 million would be saved from garbage collection, cutting the cost to $3.3 million. Homeowners would pay between $36 to $51 extra on their property taxes.  The pilot project would cost the city $3.5 million.

Lisa Legault, the City of Regina’s director of solid waste, (Photo Credit: Jessie Anton/980 CJME)

Coupled with the organics program, the Solid Waste Department is proposing a new funding policy for curbside waste services.  The proposed model would fund curbside recycling and future diversion services, like organics, through property taxes and curbside garbage collection through user fees. Currently, residents pay for curbside recycling services through a monthly fee on utility ‘water’ bills. This fee would be eliminated. It is reasoned that the proposed approach will motivate residents to reduce their waste generation and focus on diversion.

Under the proposed new financial model, curbside garbage collection will be based on the size of garbage cart the resident requires and will be billed through a monthly fee on the City’s utility bills. Residents who reduce waste and continue to take advantage of waste diversion services will have the opportunity to choose the lowest cost service option.

In June, Regina City Councillors delayed plans for a price on garbage bins until Waste Department staff came up with more details on the cost of the plan.  “It’s difficult to make a decision on a fee structure when I don’t know what it is,” said Councillor Andrew Stevens.  “User fees, flat-rate user fees, generally function as a regressive taxation system,” he said. “You’re going to see low-income people paying more.”  Lisa Legault noted that requiring residents to pay for the cheaper program (recycling) through property taxes and the costlier one (garbage pickup) through fees could help lower taxes.

At a Public Works Committee meeting in June, City staff told Councillors they’ll be ready to report back on fees around October of this year.



B.C. Proposes Changes to Organic Matter Recycling Regulation

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The British Columbia Ministry of  Environment and Climate Change Strategy (the “Ministry”)  recently introduced proposed changes to the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR).  The Regulation itself governs the construction and operation of compost facilities, and the production, distribution, storage, sale and use of biosolids and compost. It provides clear guidance for local governments and compost and biosolids producers, on how to use organic material while protecting soil quality and drinking water sources.

The Ministry is currently conducting a comprehensive the OMMR to ensure it remains protective of human health and the environment. The Ministry recently published a 2018 Intentions Paper for review. The Intentions Paper is the result of policy development following
three previous policy intentions papers (October 2006, July 2012, and September 2016) with consultations, a follow up Summary of
Public Input and Policy Update (March 2017), and policy work completed this past year by the Ministry.

The policy intentions paper presents the Ministry’s policy intentions for proposed revisions to the OMRR. The policy intentions paper reflects details and further policy development completed since March 2017, including in topic areas that had been identified for further exploration or policy development in the Summary of Public Input and Policy Update.  The policy intentions paper is developed for the purpose of consultation.

The ministry’s proposed revisions to the OMRR are intended to address advances in science, feedback from stakeholders, policy direction, and operational issues or gaps that have been identified through implementation of the OMRR. Proposed OMRR revisions will be in keeping with the ministry’s approach to develop legislation, regulation and policies based on evidence and sound scientific knowledge and expertise.

Vancouver Compost Site

The Intentions Paper contains specific policy intentions and details that have changed since earlier consultations or are new policy proposals which were not discussed in previous intentions papers.  They are are follows:

  • Improving government authority with a shift from a notification process to a registration process (Section 1);
  • Classifying composting facility size by the amount of feedstock received (i.e., input) rather than the amount of
    compost produced (i.e., output) (Section 1);
  • Requiring that a notice of operation be given by facilities producing BGM and using more than 5 m3 of biosolids at a
    site per calendar year (Section 1.1);
  • Specifying requirements for engagement with First Nations (Section 2);
  • Enabling substitutions (Section 3);
  • Enabling fee payments for substitutions and registrations (Section 4);
  • Addition of new feedstocks for composting, including raw domestic sludge and used mushroom growing substrate
    and (Section 5);
  • Establishing timelines for composting facilities under permit, approval or operational certificate to adopt higher
    performance standards (Section 6.2);
  • Improving standards for compost quality criteria, including a new limit of 0.25 percent by wet weight for plastics
    (Section 6.3);
  • Specifying mandatory setbacks for composting operations (Section 6.4); and
  • Enabling a director to request post-application sampling for each site and occurrence of the land application of
    managed organic matter (Section 7.4).

The Ministry is encouraging comments regarding the information outlined in the 2018 Intentions Paper. The deadline for responses is November 8, 2018.  The Ministry has stated that it will consider all responses as it prepares the proposed revisions to the regulation.


Weather Stations for Public Safety/Emergency Management

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WeatherHawk meets the requirements of first responders with a cost-effective, easy-to-use weather monitoring and data logging system.  Available at preferred Federal Government pricing under EPA BPA #EP09W000552.


WeatherHawk-Pro software is CAMEO/ALOHA compliant (NOTE: Specify 2 sec scan update program at the time of order).

WeatherHawk is lightweight and portable, so it’s easy to move into remote or treacherous areas.

WeatherHawk doesn’t need to be placed near a power source because the system is battery powered and can operate for up to 4 days without an external power source. An optional solar panel enables unlimited operation in remote areas or where electrical power is not available.

The wireless WeatherHawk can operate independently at a distance of a line-of-sight range up to ½ mile from the base computer, ensuring the safety of personnel. Optional high gain directional antennas can increase that range to over 7 miles under most conditions.

Portability, quick installation, rugged construction, automatic data storage, and Internet compatibility make WeatherHawk the choice for first responders with limited equipment budgets and minimal time to train on special equipment.  Save property, save lives. Choose WeatherHawk.