The Westmorland-Albert Solid Waste Corporation, which provides wet/dry processing services to New Brunswick’s City of Moncton and surrounding areas, has emerged as a leader and innovator in recycling and composting in Atlantic Canada. The organization’s success is especially significant because of challenges overcome when it first started to recycle and compost materials through a mixed-waste facility seven years ago.
In 1994, the Westmorland-Albert Solid Waste Corporation contracted TIRU Corporation of France to own and operate a mixed-waste processing plant, complete with recycling, composting and landfill disposal. TIRU designed and constructed the facility, which began operation in 1995. As part of the 20-year contract TIRU agreed to provide all of the resource recovery and disposal services for the same cost of disposal as the previous landfill system.
However, after two years of unsuccessfully trying, TIRU was unable to meet their obligations under the terms of the contract, and in mutual agreement with Westmorland-Albert, abandoned both the contract and its facility. Westmorland-Albert took over and the entire facility was redesigned and restructured. It emerged as a wet/dry processing plant and the new facilities and new management have proven to be a winning combination.
In the bag
Westmorland-Albert services 80,000 households in 14 communities, with a weekly bag-based wet/dry collection service provided by the municipalities. The voluntary program is currently supported by over 80 per cent of residents.
“We are constantly encouraging more residents to take part in our program,” says General Manager Bill Slater, “and we’re always looking for more material to divert from the landfill.”
The proof seems to be in the bag…or bags. Mr. Slater has taken advantage of the fact that, unlike other collection systems, he doesn’t have to re-educate his customers to recover more materials. He simply instructs his staff to start removing them from the material recovery facility, as he did last summer when Westmorland-Albert launched the first curbside sneaker-recycling program in North America.
In fact, Mr. Slater’s staff had already pulled 10,000 shoes off of the sorting line when the program was officially launched last year. In only six months, Westmorland-Albert recycled 30,000 sneakers, which will find new lives as sports flooring and turf.
Westmorland-Albert is also a leader in recycling rechargeable batteries. In April 2001 the community was recognized by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation as the first in Canada to participate in its “Charge Up to Recycle” program. Residents drop their end-of-life batteries to Westmorland-Albert’s Mobile Household Hazardous Waste Depot, or to participating retailers throughout the community who voluntarily provide drop-off containers at their stores.
The mobile depot is an innovation in itself; it is the only one of its kind in operation in New Brunswick. A tractor-trailer specially outfitted with safety and lab equipment, the depot is also a community ambassador for all programs.
“When we get out into the community to collect hazardous waste, we take the opportunity to tell our residents about the rest of our programs,” says Mr. Slater, adding, “And we ask the people what they think of the services we provide. It gives us an opportunity to evaluate how we can do a better job.”
This effort to constantly improve is evident at the waste management facility. Visitors are not only treated to tours of the state-of-the-art MRF and composting plant, but also many other waste reduction facilities.
The latest initiative is the hiring of part-time community ambassadors to visit the homes of people not participating in the program and help them get on board.
“We ask them what is preventing them from participating, and then we remove those barriers.”
After only two months, the effort is already showing results.