The Comox Valley Waste Management Centre contains a new landfill cell. Photo supplied

Officials continue to assess waste technologies

Many landfill items can be diverted

About half the waste that comes to landfills cannot be diverted. Non-recyclable plastics, treated/painted wood, textiles and construction waste belong in the dump. Food and yard waste, drywall, metal, paper, electronics and beverage containers don’t belong in the dump.

A 2017 audit found that about 60,000 tonnes of waste per year was disposed at North Island landfills. It costs about $77 per tonne to continue burying garbage — but landfilling is still the most cost-effective way to dispose of waste, says the Comox Valley Regional District.

Staff and elected officials have been assessing technologies to deal with waste disposal. Sustane Technologies, which is building a plant in Nova Scotia where waste will be transformed to fuels and recyclable materials, offers the lowest cost option of technologies considered. Regional directors have agreed to monitor the plant for a year once it’s up and running. The Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) board intends to ask regional districts in Nanaimo and Cowichan to share the costs of monitoring Sustane’s facility.

“If they go with this technology, they’re on the road to zero waste,” said former Area B director Rod Nichol, who has spent the past five years researching alternatives to garbage disposal.

Nichol notes the Solid Waste Management Plan aims to work towards a goal of zero waste, and to minimize the amount of waste buried in landfills.

“This is what Sustane does,” he said. “They (district) continue to bury garbage. They’re having trouble reaching 70 per cent (diversion)…If any person or organization considers themselves environmentally responsible and concerned, there’s no possible way that they can say that this technology doesn’t answer many questions.”

Charlie Cornfield, chair of the Solid Waste Advanced Technology (SWAT) Select Committee, which met Friday, says Sustane requires a certain amount of feedstock to be economically viable.

“The question is, can we supply the volume needed from our service area?” he said. “If not, then we need to consider working with our neighboring jurisdictions to see if that would be a valid option.”

Cornfield said non-recyclable plastics comprise about seven to 10 per of the waste stream. Globally, he said there’s a move to convert them to natural gas, kerosene, oil and diesel fuels. He notes that Sustane uses technologies that can remove non-recyclable plastics from packaging, producing environmentally sound fuels from the plastic.

Along with waste to energy, Cornfield notes that SWAT is considering various new and emerging technologies, such as pellet production from wood waste.

Marc Rutten, the CVRD’s general manager of engineering services, said the CSWM board is interested in the beneficial reuse of landfill gas (LFG). At present, the district is flaring the gas. He said the technology that provides the most financial return to the service is to upgrade LFG to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). Rutten notes a 2017 provincial grant application to instal an LFG upgrading system was not successful. The next best option is to sell the raw LFG to Fortis, which could upgrade the gas with their own equipment. The district is pursuing this option.

The board is also pursuing a regional organics project to turn food and yard waste into compost. The recommended technology for the project is called ‘aerated static pile’ composting.

The district implores the public to understand what to do with items once they are no longer useful, rather than just dumping them in the garbage.

Visit cswm.ca or call 250-334-6016 to determine what you can do to reduce waste going into the landfill.

“We want to help the public improve and understand it can seem confusing, but there are many options to get rid of your waste, many costing nothing but a little extra time or planning,” said Andrew McGifford, senior manager of CSWM services.

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