Waste & Recycling

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Composting For GHG Credits

Up until now, the sustainability of centralized compost initiatives has been based on two revenue streams: tip fees and compost product sales. For the vast majority of compost facilities, the tip fees...


Up until now, the sustainability of centralized compost initiatives has been based on two revenue streams: tip fees and compost product sales. For the vast majority of compost facilities, the tip fees received from incoming organic residuals have been the “bread & butter” with bag and/or bulk compost sales being the “jam.”

While this “recipe” must form the basis for facility viability, a future opportunity to expand this monetary diet comes in the form of greenhouse gas emission (GHG) offset credits.

Measured in tonnes of CO2 emissions, the positive GHG reduction im pact from composting reflects the avoidance of methane production (that would otherwise be created through the landfilling of organic residuals).

Quantifying this impact based on verifiable data and measurement — as well as acknowledging the ineligibility of any waste streams whose diversion is required through regulation — are key steps in the process of eventually having GHG offset credits translate into dollars in the bank for individual composting programs.

To collectively move this process forward, The Compost Council of Canada (CCC), with support from Blue Source Canada, has embarked on the development of a GHG protocol to quantify composting’s impact on emission reductions.

Through the donation of a model developed by the City of Edmonton and with funding support from All Treat Farms, the Regional Municipality of Niagara and the cities of Calgary and Hamilton, a nation-wide set of experts has been assembled to review existing data, scope emission impacts for both baseline activity (landfilling) and diversion efforts.

The work done to-date is based on an existing protocol, Alberta Quantification Protocol for Aerobic Composting Projects, approved under the Alberta Offset System.

To fast track the way leading to the federal review process, the CCC’s draft protocol has been bundled into the Industry Provincial Offset Group’s (IPOG) initiative, a process involving a cross-section of organizations focused on developing technical elements of greenhouse gas (GHG) offset systems within the Canadian context. The Aerobic Composting Protocol is part of an IPOG Working Group focused on several waste diversion/landfill gas protocols.

Recently, the group has devoted considerable focus on how to calculate baseline emissions for activities that divert waste from landfill. At this point, the thinking leans towards a “normalized baseline approach” which will not require individual composting initiatives to document which landfill(s) their source material is being diverted from and what level of landfill gas capture was occurring at each source landfill. Instead, all projects will receive a certain offset discount to allow full participation.

Although there will be some overall assumptions, the specific GHG offset claims will need to be determined by each individual composting facility, necessitating record-keeping and data tracking to report on the following processing details:

1) Amount (by weight) of material diverted from landfill. Measurement of waste composition should include an assessment of the fraction of:

• Paper / textiles waste;

• Garden / park waste;

• Food waste; and

• Wood / straw waste, noting any changes in source or composition that may materially influence waste stream composition;

2) Amount (by weight) of residue organic material disposed in landfill post composting;

3) Volume of fossil fuels consumed for facility operation and material processing (fuel purchasing records may be used);

4) Electricity imported to the processing site (determined by direct in-line metering or based on monthly invoices from the supplier/utility company).

While not yet approved, for composting initiatives that started prior to 2002, the start-date year for which the first offset credits could be eligible would be 2007 (the year in which the Alberta GHG regulations took effect). For projects that have a start-date after 2002, the start-date year for first offset credits eligibility would be anytime after the start-date of the project (ie post 2002).

As part of the completion of this protocol initiative, the CCC envisions the creation of a GHG offset calculator which can be used by individual composting facilities to determine their reduction impact, helping in their assessment of potential financial gains from offset trading. The possibility of bundling offsets from various initiatives to attain trading efficiencies is also under discussion.

Susan Antler is Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada in Toronto, Ontario. Written with notes from the CCC’s GHG Protocol Development committee minutes and the “Draft Base Protocol for Aerobic Composting Projects” (prepared for submission to Environment Canada by Blue Source Canada). Contact Susan atsantler@compost.org


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