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Goal Setting in a post Covid waste world: How have our priorities changed? What comes next?

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

Prior to almost every facet of our world being upended by a terrible and unexpected pandemic, stakeholders were working closer and closer to what some may even call a consensus with respect to waste management. Terms like circular economy and zero waste were not just buzz words, but the cornerstone of emerging waste management policy at both local and federal levels. Both brand owners and municipalities alike scrambled to find ways to transition away from single use packaging, promoting sustainable, recyclable and reusable products to help break our addiction to disposable packaging. Plastics in particular was a term often viewed with derision, with the federal government announcing a Zero Plastic Waste initiative. Several large CPG companies followed suit, making lofty declarations of going “Plastic Free”.

It’s funny just how much can change in a matter of months.

COVID has given the entire industry (and world) a moment to pause and really ask ourselves “What it is that we want to achieve? What are the steps we need to get there? Who are the people/organizations/sectors that need to be involved? and What time frame are we operating under?”

Now some of you may be asking, why on earth would our goals change just because of COVID? Isn’t it best to keep working towards the goals and aspirations that we currently have? In short, the answer (in my opinion) is no.

While I don’t intend to come across as arrogant or some sort of authority on the topic, I have held (and voiced) significant concerns regarding existing approaches towards waste management policy and practices,  and attempted to highlight that the goals we actually had were more aspirational than pragmatic.

Consider the following statements (all actual goals)

1)    Canada will move to divert at least 75% of plastic waste from federal operations by 2030 (Canada)

2)    Canada will move to ban single use plastics by the year 2021

3)    Toronto will divert 95% of all waste by the year 2050

4)    The Province of Ontario will divert 30% of all wastes by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050

5)    The Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s goal is to ensure that 100% of all plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable and compostable (waste to energy DOES NOT count)

All of the above goals represent a tremendous amount of work and thought by individuals and organizations far smarter than me – however, when examining these goals through the lens of a sustainable framework, we see some of the practical challenges that arise, particularly in a post COVID world.

Where is the Data?

To me, the biggest challenge facing our waste management sector is a complete lack of data, most of which is necessary information before we can even begin designing policies and systems that are more sustainable in the long term.

As an example, if Toronto would like to divert 95% of all waste by the year 2050, it would seem prudent that we know just how much waste we are talking about. What so few people understand is that the figures we see regarding waste generation, waste recovery, percentage of material recycled/diverted etc. are largely based on best guess estimates.

Sometime last year, I remember coming across a news headline that boldly stated “Canada is only recycling 9% of its plastics”. The idea that a country as “green” as Canada could be doing such a poor job was almost unfathomable – both the public and policy makers alike demanded to know how we could do better. My response was perhaps more muted, and my first question was “How do we even know how much plastic we are generating the first place?”( ? (Please see my previous article https://advancedwastesolutions.ca/separating-fact-from-fiction-are-we-really-only-recycling-9-of-plastics/))

The picture that was painted for the public was heavily sensationalized – plastics are piling up in our landfills, in our waterways, and now, more than ever, consumers needed to stand up and say “NO MORE!” to single use plastics. It was an easy message to get behind, and suddenly, plastics was public enemy number 1.

Digging a little bit deeper into the issue (and the study behind the headline), it was quick to see that the projections surrounding plastic generation, recovery etc. were all modeled, using a set of heavily caveated assumptions. Without delving into an excessively long technical discussion surrounding how those figures were modeled, in short, I can say with confidence that we do not know how much plastics is being recycled – nobody does.

I don’t think many people, both within and outside the waste sector, truly understand just how little data publicly exists when it comes to waste.

As a thought exercise, which of the following information do you think we have?

1)    Total quantities of plastics (or any material) generated and sold into Ontario in the last calendar year (both residential and IC&I)?

2)    How many tonnes of potentially recovery materials ending up in landfills?

3)    The costs of attempting to recycle material at end life? (if recyclable)

4)    What quantities of waste are being self-managed on site for commercial generators which discusses on site material management in greater detail)

5)    Estimates to determine long term landfilling capacity for both residential and IC&I sources

6)    Detailed and methodologically defensible waste auditing strategies to approximate for the waste generation profiles of individual municipalities (both single family and multi-residential),

7)    A detailed overview of waste management infrastructure currently available. This includes the number of material recycling facilities, transfer stations, depots, as well as information regarding the operational capabilities of each of these sties (capacity, throughput etc.)

8)    A mass balance of where materials that is recycled, goes (what end market? In what application? Etc.)

9)    Credible and publicly accessible data pertaining to the waste generation and recovery from the IC&I sector

10) A common data repository managed by an independent body that is responsible for collecting, maintaining and analyzing data pertinent to the waste management sector that can be used to assist in policy formulation and decision making.

For all intents and purposes, we don’t have any of the above. You would be genuinely shocked just how many stakeholders overestimate how much data we have, or what can be done with it. My professional career is full of anecdotes involving stakeholders who would conduct waste audits with no consideration of sample stratification or how to develop a time series. Perhaps the most egregious example was working on a project that modeled future landfilling requirements and lifespans based on a single (and unrelated) variable. While we could probably spend a very long time debating who’s fault that is, and point fingers at one another, it doesn’t change the fact that the state of data in the waste management sector is poor. In many ways, policy planners have actually done a commendable job in doing what they have been able to given the patchwork of reliable information that exists.

However, if COVID-19 has given all of us a reason to pause, we may as well pause and see whether the data that we have, or have access to, is supportive of our ambitious goals. The lack of “good data” poses numerous challenges, namely, how we do we develop *realistic* goals that we can track, measure and work towards. What is of critical importance is that any discussions surrounding waste management policy and programming *must* be rooted in sound data. This is particularly true of any potential legislation that involves the IC&I sector – we cannot develop a potential solution for encouraging diversion in these sectors, without having a sense of the size and scale of the problem.

Vowing to keep all plastics out of landfills is a commendable goal, but only if we could tell you how much there is to actually keep out.

The importance of goal setting

The discussion surrounding data’s role in helping develop goals is a useful segue into the second part of this paper – the importance of goal setting.

As noted above, goal setting is critical for the success of a waste management program, however, goal setting should ideally address the following characteristics:

1)    What is the goal, and what am I measuring?

2)    Is my goal realistic given access to existing information, resources and infrastructure?

3)    Is there consensus about what the goal should be among stakeholders?

4)    If different stakeholders have competing goals/objectives, how do we encourage collaborative dialogue to avoid antagonism?

5)    Is there quantifiable metrics to track and measure progress towards my goal?

6)    Am I able to change my goal in response in new situations or information?

7)    How will I know if I have achieved my goal?

8)    How can I monitor the results of my goal over time to ensure continued success?

9)    How do set new goals once our initial goal has been reached?

What makes goal setting in waste management particularly problematic (beyond the lack of data), is the lack of consensus regarding what it is we are trying to achieve.

As noted earlier, there was a significant amount of momentum across the sector to work towards a circular economy and achieve zero waste – however, despite this seeming consensus, there are multiple paths to achieving a particular outcome, with very different sets of winners and losers depending on what we choose to prioritize.

To use a practical example, let’s revisit the City of Toronto’s 95% diversion target by the year 2050. In this case, our goal is diversion, and we are measuring % of total waste diverted relative to overall quantities of waste generated. As noted prior, we have acknowledged that there are data concerns regarding credibly quantifying total generation, but let’s set that aside for a moment.

In my opinion, while the 95% diversion target is certainly an ambitious and aspirational goal that we should strive for, it is not something that I would characterize as being readily achievable, for two reasons: 1) Weight based key performance indicators, and 2) The definition of diversion.

1)    The foremost issue is that diversion is a weight based KPI, in a world where our packaging and products is becoming increasingly lighter and lighter. This phenomenon, which has been characterized as the evolving tonne by the likes of industry experts @Chaz Miller and @Mariah Kelleher, shows that the proliferation of light weight, composite materials results in materials that are volumous, but not heavy. Compared to the average mix of materials found in the Blue Box a decade ago, current materials are anywhere from 15-25% lighter.

Why this maters is that a diversion target (measured against total waste generation), is inherently going to be handicapped by the fact that the total tonnes being managed in our waste management system is decreasing over time. It is also worth noting that the types of materials that will need to be collected to achieve incremental diversion will be difficult to recycle material. These materials are often incompatible with existing collection and processing infrastructure, with limited end market applications. In short, there is very little economic incentive to recover these materials – the economics of diversion, and more specifically, recycling, is often untenable (to be discussed in greater detail later in this paper)

2)    While other jurisdictions (i.e. Belgium) have significantly higher diversion rates for their residential recycling programs, the way we choose to define diversion in Ontario differs. In certain jurisdictions, waste to energy (the 4th R), is considered a viable method of keeping materials out of landfills. However, in Ontario, waste to energy is not considered a viable form of diversion. While this short article is not intended to debate the merits or viability of waste to energy, I do want to highlight that the goals that we set should be consistent with the infrastructure and rules we have in place.

In short, it is impossible for Toronto to reach their goal of 95% diversion without considering some form of energy to waste facility. Even if we assume an idealized scenario where all households put their waste in the appropriate Blue and Green bins, residue losses at sortation facilities often range from 8 – 12%.

Balancing goals with our budgets

Returning to the topic of economics, it is impossible to develop sustainable waste management goals without carefully considering the economic impacts of attempting to realize those goals.

As noted in an earlier section of this paper, some of the goals we have defined for the waste management sector include the recyclability of products/packaging. The Ellen MacArthur foundation has even gone so far as to say that ALL products must be made up of materials that can either be recycled, reused or composted.

While this goal is certainly commendable and something that should be worked towards, it is also not realistic given the practical constraints of existing waste management systems. Even prior to the COVID pandemic, the recycling industry for printed paper and packaging was already on extremely unsteady legs as a result of the Chinese National Sword. These effects were only exacerbated by the impact of COVID, which has essentially pulled the rug out on commodity pricing and adversely impacted the flow of markets. In some instances, virgin resin is cheaper than recycled resin, and is threatening to undo years of progress with respect to increasing recycled content in consumer goods.

What industry will do in response to this crisis remains uncertain – there is no guarantee that recycled markets will recover in the immediate future. Policy planners are now facing the very real choice of continuing to pursue a goal of recyclability/compostability/reusability, despite a rapidly changing landscape that is extraordinarily difficult to predict and plan for. In turn, manufacturers must make design decisions today that will have an impact on their operations for months, if not years to come.

Second chances: Plastics, can we try again?

While COVID has provided the waste sector with an opportunity to pause and evaluate both short and long term priorities, perhaps the most interesting (and unintended) impact is how attitudes towards plastics have shifted.  Historically, the characterization of single use plastics is that they are terrible and should be discouraged. However, in a post COVID world, both households and retailers are at a heightened state of anxiety with respect to product safety. Suddenly the individually wrapped cucumber and the plastic bag of apples doesn’t seem quite as silly as before, as it minimizes direct food handling and helps mitigate against the risks of contracting or spreading the virus. Increasingly, both consumers and retailers are looking for opportunities to minimize the risk of contamination (largely through direct handling of a particular item), while simultaneously increasing shelf life, both at the store, and in the home. The use of plastic packaging, particularly plastic film, has been shown to act as a barrier to bacteria and viruses, while also promoting product longevity and avoiding food waste/spoilage.

Plastic has also played a critical role with respect to personal protective equipment. While these items are largely characterized as single use (i.e. plastic gloves), the relative scarcity of PPE relative to the overwhelming demand demonstrates that there are no readily available substitutes that can be used in lieu of plastics. Whether we like to admit it or not, plastics plays a vital role in the war against COVID, and decisions to ban or limit the use of plastics can have detrimental and unanticipated impacts. Very rarely are material bans an effective long term waste management strategy – generally speaking, optimal outcomes are born out of giving manufacturers more options, not less.

What the COVID pandemic has demonstrated is that plastics have a role to play in our economy, but we need to recognize that not all plastics are created equal, and by extension, not all goals are going to apply to everything, everywhere. Perhaps one of the biggest failings of the prior framing of the plastics issue, is that the topic was often characterized in binary terms: Good/Bad, For/Against. No issue, particularly one as nuanced as product design for the environment and end of life, can ever be distilled into a clear black and white answer. The same consumers who were calling for plastic bans are now the same ones clamoring for plastic gloves. Of note, the momentum behind reusable and refillable packaging has also come to a grinding halt as a result of COVID. Many retailers have pressed the pause button on implementing reusable packaging at a wide scale, while many of the mediums in which reusable/refillable containers are encouraged (e.g. using a refillable mug for coffee) have been abandoned temporarily until the pandemic begins to abate. In addition to the normal risks associated with cross contamination when allowing used containers into a retail space, consumers have expressed ambivalence about the risks associated with COVID.

I use this aforementioned example to demonstrate that opinions and attitudes are often malleable, while infrastructure and legislation are not. Responding to changes in consumer sentiment or political will, must be weighed against what can reasonably be achieved given resource and time constraints.

While the COVID crisis will ultimately be seen as a black stain in our history, it does present a unique and fairly rare opportunity to take stock of our waste management system, and decide what should come next.  This unprecedented situation highlights that we need to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run. Setting ambitious goals is definitely something that should be encouraged – however, ambition is not the same as hubris. Without data, stakeholder consensus, jurisdictional harmonization and the ability to monitor, evaluate and re-calibrate our goals, we are setting the sector up for failure. Always keep in mind that the goals of today, are not necessarily the goals of tomorrow – as COVID has demonstrated, life can change when we least expect it.

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About the Author

Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior.

 

Free Webinar Impact of COVID-19 on Waste Management

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The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) is hosting a webinar on April 29th at 7 am EDT to discuss the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on waste management.

About the Webinar

What impact does COVID-19 have on waste management worldwide? How can we keep waste management uninterrupted, safe, and focused on protecting public health?

The webinar speakers, from the ISWA Board and Scientific & Technical Committee, will discuss waste management in these unprecedented times during this 1 hour roundtable.

This webinar is intended for all working in the waste management sector who want to get expert insight into the latest information, best practices, and recommendations of waste management and COVID-19.

ISWA and COVID-19

Over the last few months almost every country worldwide has had to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. The first wave of quarantines throughout the world will create serious social and political impacts, and have already required a quick response from the waste industry.

ISWA has gathered best practices from their national members and also created recommendation based on multiple expert collaborators within the ISWA network. Please take a look at https://www.iswa.org/iswa/covid-19/ for more information.

The ISWA is an independent and non-for-profit association working in the public interest to promote and develop sustainable waste management. ISWA has members in more than 60 countries.

COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie and Peter Hargreave, Policy Integrity Inc.

COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

In light of all the actions being taken by all levels of government to address the spread of the coronavirus, it is worth considering its impact on the waste management sector in Canada.  For most, how waste is collected and where it is taken, is not a daily consideration.  And yet, it is one of the most important public health and safety considerations.

Canadian Waste Industry Vulnerable to US Shutdown

In Ontario for instance, roughly one-third of the Province’s waste disposal needs are met by landfills in the United States.  That equates to 3.2 million tonnes of waste a year or roughly 9,000 tonnes per day. While other Canadian provinces do not have the same reliance on out-of-country disposal, many are reliant on a degree of waste materials being shipped across the border.

The free movement of these materials across the US border is an important element of the current Canadian waste management system.  In the last two decades, we have dealt with a few potential disruptions to this flow of materials.

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 provided a first indication of the potential vulnerability when US border access was constrained.  The immediate closure and proceeding long lines at the border lasted for several days afterward. The Ontario Ministry of Environment, for instance, had to facilitate emergency measures to ensure waste could be managed in the interim period.
  • After a number of waste truck rollovers in Michigan in the early 2000s, local Senators threatened legislative action to restrict waste crossing the border. This led to an agreement between the state of Michigan and Ontario municipalities in 2006, to end the export of municipal waste (specifically from the GTA) to Michigan by 2010. The province helped facilitate the agreement, and as a result, the state of Michigan dropped all legislative initiatives to stop waste imports. The agreement did not include non-residential waste. By 2010, Ontario municipalities had stopped sending residential waste to Michigan. For a time, overall waste shipments to the U.S. declined, but since 2010, non-residential waste export to the U.S. has steadily increased.
  • Concerns were also raised again as part of the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018 that there could be potential for restrictions on the movement of goods.

Any impact on the movement of waste as a result of a closure to the border, would necessitate the management of this roughly 9,000 tonnes of additional waste domestically.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures?

As in 2001, the inability to transfer waste to the United States would likely necessitate potential changes to environmental permits (such as Environmental Compliance Approvals in Ontario) or governmental emergency declarations / measures to allow for waste receiving sites to increase their annual daily maximum limits. Provincial regulators have been prepared in the past in granting the necessary permissions, and are likely doing similar work  now to ensure the waste industry is not at risk of willful non-compliance.

It may also be the case that some of these waste volumes don’t easily find an alternate receiving site, putting the collectors and/or haulers in the difficult position of potentially operating an unlicensed waste storage facility.  Provincial governments will need to think through these situations including requiring certain sites to accept materials.  In short, there are no simple solutions, but proper planning across the country can at least reduce risks.

Hazardous Recyclables and Hazardous Waste Movement Compliance

In the case of hazardous materials for which no clear alternate home is available in Canada, the situation is even more precarious.   Internationally, no less than 99% of all (lawful) hazardous recyclables (and hazardous waste) exported from, or imported to, Canada are with the United States.  International wastes are still regulated in Canada under the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations, which has yet to be replaced by the long-proposed and more business-friendly Cross-border Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations.  

The Export and Import law currently requires certifications from the holder that any recyclable or waste which is not successfully transferred across the border will be lawfully disposed of in Canada consistent with the approved recycling or waste activity under which the materials were to be transited to the United States.  

A closed border will, in at least some circumstances, put that certification to the test as not all materials exported to the United States have an alternate recycling or disposal facility in Canada.  This is increasingly so with the growth of more specialized and regionally-servicing facilities in US states which capture both Canadian and American materials.  

Some Canadian Recyclers Dependent Upon US Material 

The reverse also creates challenges for the waste industry as some Canadian recyclers are economically dependent on US material.   The disruption of the needed supply of US-originating materials into specialized recycling and disposal facilities in Canada can quickly create a situation where insufficient material volumes makes the facilities no longer viable, leaving the Canadian materials also without a home.

In other words, the growth of integration, particularly in respect of hazardous recyclables and discrete hazardous wastes makes a border shutdown acutely challenging for the Canadian recycling and waste industry.

Contingency Planning to be Developed?

It is likely an overreaction to anticipate that US-Canada integration in resource recovery and waste disposal will come to an end with the current closure of the border.   The economies of scale and lower cost disposal capacity in the United States will presumably reinvigorate this international trade once the worst of COVID-19 has passed.

There may, however, be a growth in contingency planning in respect of Canadian waste and recycling capacity, recognizing a myriad of events may give rise to future US border closures and the Canadian waste industry needs to be prepared.


About the Authors

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm’s Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. 

Peter Hargreave, President of Policy Integrity Inc., has over 15 years’ experience in providing strategic advice in the development, implementation and oversight of public policy. Over his professional career, he has developed a strong network of relationships with regulators, public and private organizations, and other key stakeholders involved in environmental issues across Canada, the United States and abroad. 

Saskatoon’s considering Recycling and Organics programs for IC&I Sector

The City of Saskatoon, is considering options for requirements for recycling and organics for the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (IC&I) sector. At present, the Administration is recommending that the IC&I sector be required to have separate containers for garbage and recycling and, if food or yard waste is generated as part of operations, a separate container for organics. Implementing this approach will involve an amendment to the City’s Waste Bylaw.

“A more comprehensive organics and recycling program is critical to achieving our waste diversion goals and extending the life of our landfill,” says Jeanna South, Director of Sustainability. “This cannot fall only on residents; Saskatoon businesses and organizations must participate when it comes to waste diversion and environmental leadership.”

The IC&I sector generates 68% of all garbage sent to Saskatoon and area landfills, with approximately 45% (75,800 tonnes) representing recyclables or organics that could be diverted.

“24% of what is landfilled by the City is from the IC&I sector, which represents a significant diversion opportunity that can’t be ignored,” adds South.

Option 1, being recommended by the Administration comes with the following requirements from members of the IC&I sector:

  • Separate and labelled containers for recycling and garbage
  • A separate container for organics if food or yard waste is generated as part of operations
  • Education on how to properly sort and store materials for employees and tenants
  • Ensuring removal and proper disposal of waste

To support this proposed program, the City engaged with 870 participants from businesses and organizations through workshops, online surveys, and face-to-face meetings.

The 2019 IC&I Waste and Recycling Survey and the 2019 Waste and Recycling Survey (residential) revealed high levels of support from residents, businesses and organizations for the implementation of recycling and organics requirements for the IC&I sector.  Saskatoon’s diversion rate is one of the lowest in Canada when benchmarked against other Canadian cities.

“The recommended option comes at a lower cost than the others, and has been successfully implemented in other municipalities,” says South. “It will give us the best chance of meeting residents’ expectations of the ICI sector and achieving our waste diversion goals.”

Option 1 was the most preferred mandatory approach by stakeholders. The Waste Diversion Options Fact Sheet provides a more detailed comparison of the options presented.

Montreal’s Zero Waste Master Plan

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The City of Montreal has started public consultations on its master plan for waste disposal over the next five years. The City has a goal of being a zero waste municipality by 2030. If successful, waste diversion from landfill will be 75% by 2025 and 85% by 2030.

Zero waste is based on the idea of a circular economy, where virtually everything is reused, recycled or composted instead of being sent to landfill.

The average Canadian generates approximately one tonne of waste per year. City of Montreal officials that the zero waste goal can be achieved by each citizen actively participating in the 3R’s and a reduction of waste produced by each Montrealer by about 10 kilograms a year.

The Average Canadian generates almost one tonne per waste per year

The proposed five-year plan marks a departure from previous efforts in that it seeks to reduce consumption at the source rather than solely focusing on pick-up, transport, recycling, and disposal.

Public education is high on the list of priorities for the City if it is to achieve its ambitious zero waste goal within 10 years. Officials say they are also hoping to encourage people to question their own consumption habits by opting for greener products and ‘reducing and reusing’ before buying.

A major part of the city’s plan on reducing waste is for an expansion of compost pickup to businesses , schools and apartment buildings with six or more units (approximately 50% of municipal solid waste can be classified as organic) and banning types of plastic that are hard to recycle.

Included in Montreal’s five-year plan is for gradually prohibiting grocery stores from throwing out unsold food and banning disposal of unsold clothing by garment manufacturers and retailers.

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.

Survey suggests some Ontario Municipalities are open to hosting a landfill

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A recent survey of municipal politicians and Chief Administration Officers commissioned by a coalition of over 70 Ontario municipalities has found that four in ten municipalities are open to the idea of acting as a host to a new landfill.

The coalition was formed to lobby the Ontario government into allowing more municipal control on the approval process for landfills in the Province. The coalition calls itself the Demand the Right Coalition of Ontario Municipalities. It commissioned Public Square Research to conduct the survey.

The survey involved a random selection process, with 325 participants. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to a list of over 1,700 Mayors, Reeves, Councillors and chief administrators in Ontario.

Currently in Ontario, a private sector company is required to go through an environmental assessment process and then a technical environmental approval process before being permitted to develop a landfill site. Both of the processes are managed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MOECP). No municipal approval is required.

The current timeline for approval for a new landfill in Ontario is anywhere from five to ten years. Extensive public consultation is required as part of the process as is discussions with municipal government officials. Many private sector proponents would likely see another level of government approval for landfill development as an added time and cost burden with very limited environmental benefit.

In November 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks published its Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan. The plan included a proposal to provide municipalities with the right to approve new landfills. Further details of the proposed change were released for public comment in the follow-up Discussion Paper on Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities, published in March 2019.

The results of the survey found that the chief concerns of municipal leaders for new landfill approvals are environmental (27%), site location (19%), and financial considerations (15%). Other issues of importance included resident opinion (9%), odour controls (9%), and public safety (8%).

“We can now confirm that municipal approval will improve landfill operations, not eliminate them,” said Ted Comiskey, Mayor of Ingersoll and Chair of the Demand the Right Coalition. “By placing municipal governments on a level playing field with private waste management companies, councils and staff can negotiate for enhanced environmental protections, better site selections, and improved financial considerations on costs such as tipping fees and municipal services.”

Comiskey said, “Municipalities want the right to say yes or no, as we do with casinos, cannabis stores, and nuclear waste sites. This will be good for all concerned, as it means that communities will be given real choices. There will also be a cost impact on waste management. If the cost of landfill goes up, there will be a financial incentive for everyone to reduce their waste. Currently, there is none.”

70 Ontario municipalities are members of the Demand the Right Coalition

 

B.C. Municipality considering N.S. waste technology

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Nova Scotia-based Sustane Technologies is being considered as the waste management solution provider for The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) in British Columbia.

As reported in the Cowichan Valley Citizen, The CVRD has decided to participate in an initiative to monitor and study how the new and innovative Sustane Technologies Waste Management facility, located in Chester, Nova Scotia, deals with its waste.

The CVRD has a population of 83,739 residents that reside in four unique municipalities It covers a land area of 3,473.12 km2 on the east coast of Vancouver Island and includes several Gulf Islands, including Thetis, Kuper, and Valdes.

The CVRD is governed by a 15 member board comprised of appointed directors from four municipalities, the Town of Lake Cowichan, the Town of Ladysmith, the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan (North Cowichan has three appointees based upon population) and an elected director from each of the nine electoral areas.

Sustane Technologies claims to have developed a set of disruptive separation technologies to transform municipal solid wastes (MSW) to high value fuels and recyclable materials at lower cost than landfilling.

Sustane’s first-ever North American facility in Nova Scotia, which has a capacity of 70,000 tonnes per year of solid waste, is undergoing its final tests and operations are anticipated to begin this year.

Sustane Technologies Facility, Chester, Nova Scotia

The CVRD will join the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Comox Valley Regional District in the performance monitoring program at the facility, at a cost to the district of $4,100.

“Like the CVRD, other regional districts on the island are interested in viable technologies to transform residual waste to marketable reusable products,” said Tauseef Waraich, the CVRD’s manager of recycling and waste management, in a report to the board.

“Since this is the first ever facility of its kind in North America, it is important to monitor the performance to determine its viability for local regional districts on the island.”

Since the closure in the late 1990s of the three incinerators and the regional landfill in the CVRD, the district has been in search of viable disposal solutions for its solid waste.

Waraich said the three incinerators were considered state-of-the-art facilities when they were constructed, but by the late 1990s, studies indicated they were adversely impacting the local air quality and their licences to operate were pulled by the province.

As for the landfill, Waraich said the old one was filled to capacity and no location within the CVRD could be identified for a new one.

Currently, the region does not have a disposal option for its solid waste other than export it to the Rabanco Landfill in Roosevelt, U.S. The CVRD relies on a central waste transfer station at Bings Creek as well as two satellite facilities at Peerless Road and Meade Creek for regional waste collection and transfer to the Rabanco Landfill.

The CVRD currently produces approximately 94,000 tonnes of waste per year, with about 64 per cent recycled or composted.

The district’s solid waste, with approximately 20,000 tonnes originating from CVRD-owned facilities and about 14,000 tonnes from other sources, is sent to landfills for disposal.

CVRD’s solid waste management plan, which was updated in 2018, has the following guiding principles:

Promote zero waste approaches and support a circular economy.

Promote the first 3Rs.

Maximize the beneficial use of waste materials and manage residuals appropriately.

Support polluter and user-pay approaches and manage incentives to maximize behaviour outcomes.

Prevent organics and recyclables from going to the garbage whenever practical.

Collaborate with other regional districts wherever possible.

Ski Slope on the roof the Copenhagen’s New WTE Facility

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The City of Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy facility has quickly become a popular destination with the city’s residents as it has a 600 metre ski slope on its roof.

The idea of topping a municipal plant with an urban ski resort won a string of accolades for the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The park itself was designed by SLA Architects. Two years ago the architectural model went on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In an interview with the Guardian, city resident Ole Fredslund said, “I live so close by that I could follow the development. I guess 90% of the focus is on the fact that there’s a skiing hill coming, so in a way it’s very clever. Everybody talks about the ski hill to be, not the waste plant to be.”


Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA

The entire WTE facility cost $840 million Canadian to construct. The facility sits on top of a plant that has been producing heating for homes since 1970. Work began on the facility in 2013.

Eventually, the entire ski run will be divided into three slopes with a green sliding synthetic surface, plus a recreational hiking area and an 80 meter (264 foot) climbing wall. Once the whole project is completed, the roof will contain ski slopes, green spaces and hiking trails. The slopes will have ski lifts to take people up to the top of the runs.

The innovative waste-to-energy plant can burn 31 tonnes of waste per hour while cutting emissions by 99.5%, which makes it capable of converting 360,000 tonnes of waste every year. Its total net energy efficiency of 107% is among the highest in the world for a waste-to-energy facility

The plant currently processes waste from 550,000 residents and 45,000 businesses and produces electricity and heating to approximately 150,000 households.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund designed and built the facility. It is owned and operated by Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC), a corporation jointly owned by five Copenhagen-area municipalities.


Image courtesy of SLA Architects

Toronto Offering Community Grants for Innovative Waste Management Ideas

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The City of Toronto recently released a request for applications to participate in its Waste Reduction Community Grants Program. The deadline for to submit an expression of interest is March 1, 2019.

The Waste Reduction Community Grants Program is part of the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy, which identifies the need to support grassroots initiatives that reduce waste. The program launched last year and awarded more than $116,000 toward ideas that included the development of signage and programming for tenants of a downtown building, establishment of a sharing library for special event materials for the community, educational training on reducing textile waste and making sustainable fashion choices, and a program aimed at reducing lunch packaging in schools.

Initiatives eligible for funding include those that promote waste reduction and reuse, increase waste management education and engagement, and align with the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy. Priority will be placed on initiatives that promote waste reduction in apartment buildings and condominiums, and involve multilingual communities, equity-seeking groups and Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. 


City of Toronto Campaign: What happens when you recycle wrong
 shows how bad things happen when you toss garbage into theblue bin

Groups eligible to apply for funding include resident, tenant, neighbourhood and business associations, service clubs, community organizations, registered charitable organizations, environmental organizations and school groups, clubs and councils.  The following eligibility criteria must be met to participate in the program:

  1. the project must demonstrate how it aligns with the Long Term Waste Management Strategy and supports the City’s aspirational Zero Waste goal;
  2. the organization must be incorporated and have non-profit status. Organizations without these prerequisites may apply if they enter into a trusteeship agreement with an incorporated non-profit organization; and
  3. your group/organization must fall into one of the eligible categories below.

The grants support the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy and reflect its guiding principles:

  • working with community partners to enhance access to waste diversion programs;
  • increasing public engagement; and
  • working together to deliver services.

The strategy puts priority on reducing and encouraging the prevention of waste, maximizing its value before disposal, and supporting the move towards a circular economy. Waste diversion, which minimizes the amount of waste sent to landfill, follows reduction and reuse in order of priority.

More information about the Waste Reduction Community Grants, the 2018 recipients and the application process is available at https://www.toronto.ca/wastegrants.

For a detailed program overview, please refer to the Application Guidelines.