Solid Waste & Recycling

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Halifax's Organic Cart System

The 1998 June/July issue of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine reported on waste management in Nova Scotia and specifically the Halifax Regional Municipality (population 350,000) and its highly lauded w...


The 1998 June/July issue of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine reported on waste management in Nova Scotia and specifically the Halifax Regional Municipality (population 350,000) and its highly lauded waste management strategy. The following is a brief update on this newly implemented system with a focus on carts.

All the facilities for Halifax’s new waste resource management system are now in place and in operation. Waste from residences and businesses are separated into three major streams: recyclables, organics and residual waste–each collected and directed to a different processing facility. The goal is to achieve 65 per cent diversion from the residual waste stream and utilization of these valuable resources.

The key to Halifax’s growing diversion rates is wide public acceptance of the source-separated organics program which uses 90,000 SSI Schaefer Systems “Compostainers” and in-house “mini bins” as well as 10,000 Rehrig carts.

A good container system provides for collection, containment and pre-conditioning of waste. Schaefer’s compostainer has these elements: it contains waste for 14 days without offensive odour and its steel grate allows water to drain to the bottom of the cart where it evaporates. Reduced water content means less mass, weight and transportation costs. Pre-conditioning of the organic waste inside the container reduces the composting duration at a central facility and results in a cleaner more marketable end product.

Residents have shown a 90 per cent acceptance and participation rate, and the IC&I sector is also slowly starting to separate organics in adherence to the recently implemented provincial landfill organics ban.

For the organic stream, two 25,000 tonnes-per-year capacity in-vessel composting plants–one operated by Markham, Ontario-based Miller Waste Systems, and the other by Halifax, Nova Scotia-based New Era Farms Ltd.–have been constructed and have been operational since January 1, 1999. They accept 40,000 tonnes per year of material from the residential and IC&I sector, and early test results indicate that the compost will be top grade.

The upgraded material recovery facility (MRF) currently processes about 18,000 tonnes of recyclables per year. The facility can process up to 28,000 tonnes annually and the quantity that arrives at the gate is steadily increasing.

The residual waste is processed at the Otter Lake Facility which has a front-end processor that separates the waste into four streams. These are: the hazardous waste stream (for processing and disposal offsite); the remaining marketable recyclable fraction; inert material sent directly to landfill; and, organics sent to the waste stabilization facility. Inert and stabilized waste is landfilled.

The facility has been operating at full capacity (120,000 tonnes per year) since January 1, 1999. However, these quantities are expected to diminish in the near future as the various diversion programs mature. A Community Monitoring Committee has deployed and monitors several environmental protection features at the facility to ensure continued public acceptance.

The Halifax community still faces numerous challenges to ensure that diversion programs mature and improve and to allow the facilities to operate at optimum design capacities. These include: improvements in the quantities of and quality of residential organics and recyclables; expanded IC&I sector and apartment organics separation; enforcement of the waste resources bylaw; control of illegal dumping; maximization of revenue; and, most importantly, continuing strong communication and educational programs.

Mark Bernard, P.Eng. is manager of waste resources at the Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia.


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