Pollution Probe is urging Ontario to consider waste-to-energy as an option for cement producers to help meet the province’s waste diversion ambitions, while ensuring environmental protection and waste reduction at the source.
The newly-published Report on Energy from Waste in Ontario’s Cement Sector: Finding Worth in Waste expresses concern that new versions the proposed Waste Reduction Act, 2013 and Waste Reduction Strategy, 2013, will not consider recovery from waste as a component of accepted waste management options.
The concern stems from the fact that more than 15 million tonnes of cement are produced in Canada each year, and over four million tonnes are exported, for a total contribution of over $3.2 billion to Canada’s GDP. The sector employs over 27,000 Canadians in its 17 plants, 45 distribution centres, and 1,100 production facilities nationwide.
“[Legislation] may be failing to address Ontario’s pressing landfill capacity issue in a timely manner, and may be missing out on realizing substantial emissions reductions in the waste management and manufacturing sectors,” states the Pollution Probe report. “The cement sector is currently one of biggest users of coal and petroleum coke in the province, but with forward-thinking policy initiatives the province could help to eliminate the combustion of these fossil fuels altogether.”
The report finds that each tonne of cement produced leads to the production of roughly 0.8 tonnes of CO2, roughly 40 per cent of which stems from the combustion of fuels used to produce clinker, 10 per cent of which stems from the transport of fuel and raw materials, with the remainder coming from the calcination of limestone in kilns.
There are currently seven municipal solid waste thermal treatment facilities operating in Canada that have a capacity greater than 25 tonnes per day. All of these facilities were built to address landfill capacity and/or greenhouse gas emissions issues. Five of these facilities, profiled below along with a sixth facility currently under construction, recover energy from the incineration of undesignated wastes.
Overall, these case studies demonstrate the following:
- Energy from waste can complement recycling and composting programs, and can help to improve recycling rates;
- Energy from waste is increasingly seen as a viable and desirable method of managing waste by Canadian municipalities and waste management experts;
- Energy from waste can create new employment opportunities in host localities;
- Energy from waste using the best available technologies can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions than landfilling, irrespective of the offsets resulting from the displacement of fossil fuels in electricity production.