Southgate Township (northwest of Toronto, Ontario) has announced plans to partner with a private company to build a gasification facility to burn garbage and produce a gas that can be turned into electricity.
A demonstration facility will be built in an industrial park south of Dundalk, 45 kilometres northwest of Orangeville. This will be followed by a full-scale facility that will accept garbage from nearby communities, but not the Greater Toronto Area. The technology the company, Greey CTS, wants to burn garbage at 550 Celsius in an oxygen starved environment. The gas and steam produced can generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes.
Plans to build waste-to-energy plants are being considered by communities across Ontario since it’s difficult to site and build landfills, and capacity is therefore limited. Municipalities and businesses export nearly four million tonnes of garbage to Michigan each year. Also, the province faces a shortage of electricity generating capacity, so waste-to-energy is seen as a possible double-win, disposing of garbage while being paid for power.
Next month, York and Durham Regions will host public meetings to discuss a recommendation to build a waste-to-energy incinerator. Currently, Ontario’s only residential waste incinerator is in Peel Region.
In the Southgate deal, the company has agreed to lease the land, pay the costs associated with getting provincial approvals for the project and build the $15 million 400-tonne-per-day demonstration facility. In exchange for providing a site, and putting in $1.4 million of municipal infrastructure to service the industrial park, Southgate will get a per-tonne royalty and the ability to close its existing landfills.
Southgate faces some obstacles. It wants to have the 24-tonne-a-day demonstration plant running within a year, but to do that the Ministry of the Environment needs to waive the lengthy environmental assessment process. The province can chose to do this given the small size of the plant. The full size plant could be built within two years. The full-size plant would handle 254,000 tonnes of waste per year, or 6.35 per cent of the waste currently being shipped from Ontario to Michigan.
Although waiving the requirement for an environmental assessment is unusual, a precedent was set recently when the environment minister permitted a thermal waste treatment plant — that uses a different technology — to be built in Ottawa without an EA.
Southgate is a community of 7,000 people that produces just four tonnes of garbage a day, so a plant designed for 400 tonnes a day would rely on garbage from elsewhere. Last year, Southgate said it would build a landfill to take Toronto’s garbage, but two days later council shelved the idea in the face of public opposition. Five years ago members of a citizens’ coalition used a roadblock to get council to renege on a deal to spread Toronto’s sewage sludge on fields. But things will likely play out differently this time, as the proposed thermal treatment plant is local in nature, uses an advanced technology, and Southgate residents are educated about waste issues since becoming among the leaders in the province in waste diversion, thanks to a cart-based recycling and composting program recommended by consultants from R.J. Burnside & Associates.
Editor’s Note: The forthcoming April/May edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine features an update article about Southgate’s waste diversion program.