Less than two years ago, Alda Nicmans, Emily Chu from In.tent Planning, and a few others attending the 2014 Coast Waste Management Association conference, came up with an idea.
While the INAC had been converting rural and remote First Nations landfills and dumps to modern waste management systems, people who worked in the new facilities had no formal training.
Nicmans, executive director of the Pacific Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America, could see that SWANA was the right organization to deliver the needed training.
“We wanted to provide basic operations training for remote communities opening Eco-Depots,” Nicmans says.
Government and private industry stepped up to provide support and funding. The Canadian Plastics Association put up funding for course materials, and BC First Nations came forward with financial support for course and program development.
When it came time to review the course prior to launch, the review panel included 10 solid waste managers from First Nations communities. “The review process and input from First Nations was integral to a successful launch,” Nicmans says.
As a result of the development process, SWANA launched its first course in September 2015 with First Nations in the Whistler/Pemberton area, followed by Prince George and then Nanaimo. A total of 10 communities have participated in the program, all from First Nations. “We’ve started with First Nations, but the training program is applicable to any group in the province when they upgrade from landfills to transfer stations and Eco-Depots for their waste management systems,” Nicmans says.
The training and certification program is run over two consecutive days. The first day, a classroom session, is more than simply lectures. “We involve people in discussion; we don’t just
deliver information. It’s interactive and uses everybody’s different experience as a learning tool. The experience is in part about building lasting connections,” Nicmans says.
The second day is conducted in the field, with a visit to an operational facility. “It’s a practical, hands on approach and again is partly about building connections, so that after they’ve completed the course people will have a group to rely on for questions and advice in future. We want them to be able to pick up the phone and make a call if they have questions,” says Nicmans.
She notes that rural communities have their own, specific challenges when it comes to the waste stream. The switch from landfilling to transfer stations and Eco-Depots means operators have to deal with a range of materials, some of them more hazardous than others, particularly in remote communities.
Tires, car batteries, engine oil, whole vehicle hulks—there’s a lot more to deal with than there is in a regular municipal waste stream. “Some of the waste materials from industry in these remote areas can be dangerous and toxic. It’s an everyday problem in rural BC communities along the coast,” says Nicmans.
In addition, trainees need to know the details of programs such as the Return-It program for computers and electronics recycling and the Regenerate Program offered by Product Care for the management of household hazardous wastes.
To date, around 50 people have been through the program from 10 rural First Nations communities, with another 18 remaining.
SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications, and a large offering of technical training courses starting with LOB, Landfill Operations Basics and Manager of Landfill Operations Basics, the MOLO.
The SWANA LOB course is a basic course for landfill operations staff and is a good primer course for those professionals interested in acquiring their Manager of Landfill Operations
(MOLO) Certification. The course teaches landfill staff how to operate a modern sanitary landfill. Issues covered include waste receiving and scale house operations, spotting and waste screening, equipment selection, operational and compaction issues and techniques, safety, special operations and littler control, as well as environmental monitoring and control of landfill gas, leachate, and surface runoff. The course usually includes a site visit and tour of an operating landfill if within easy distance and availability of the course teaching location.
Offerings also include a course on managing transfer station systems. This course addresses the factors in the design, operation, and management of a transfer station. It deals with how to effectively communicate and overcome the challenges in planning and operating a transfer station and how planning and design affect construction and operation.
Another course, Managing Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems, is designed to improve the knowledge of individuals that manage municipal solid waste management systems, addressing the many and varied duties of the solid waste system manager. Master concepts of planning, developing, and managing solid waste systems are discussed along with specific system management issues.
“All of our course offerings are designed to help us meet the ultimate goal of zero waste in the municipal waste stream,” says Nicmans.