Publicity about landfill shortages, possible border closings and environmentalist opposition to thermal treatment of any kind has companies with new and innovative waste treatment technologies hoping their time has come.
The question is, however: Do they work?
In this magazine edition and future columns, I’ll profile some of the companies vying for contracts with Canadian municipalities and the IC&I sector. I’ll investigate whether or not any supposedly superior technologies provide the solution to our waste woes, and will “kick the tires” of some of the “black boxes” out there. And I’ll try to get some kind of estimate on the cost per tonne for treatment.
Before a municipality commits to a new technology, it should be satisfied that four basic questions are answered.
* Is there proof that the technology works (and at what scale)?
* How much does it cost?
* What might be the level of public acceptance?
* Is it a total solution or is there residual waste?
Downstream Waste Recovery Inc.
Downstream Waste Recovery Inc. (DWR), is an Ontario-based, privately-owned company with roots in California. DWR is currently introducing its patented Steam Classification Process (SCP) to the Canadian market (first in Ontario and then in other priority markets across the country).
SCP evolved from the common use of the technology in autoclaves. Using a combination patented and proprietary process involving steam, pressure and agitation, SCP separates municipal solid waste into a number of sterilized resource streams for further manufacturing of new products.
The resource streams include recyclables (e.g., ferrous materials, aluminum cans, plastics and glass), and cellulosic biomass (approximately 60 per cent by weight of the input).
The first commercial application of SCP technology to the municipal waste market is a system currently being constructed in Anaheim, California. It’s scheduled to be commissioned in March of this year. It will consist of a 90-foot sealed and rotating vessel. The vessel is loaded with 20 to 25 tonnes per cycle and can run at 11 cycles per day (for a total processing of 220 to 275 tonnes per day [tpd]). The process can be scaled up to 2,000 tpd with additional vessels.
DWR would not provide a per-tonne cost estimate. Instead, the company stated that costs would be in the range of typical full cost disposal.
Since SCP is not incineration and the technology diverts materials destined for landfill, DWR holds the view that public acceptance will be high. An added level of acceptance could come from the fact that the facility is completely enclosed, thus minimizing odor issues. SCP is not a total solution. A portion of waste residue will still require landfill disposal.
Global Warming Prevention Technologies
Global Warming Prevention Technologies (GWPT) is an Ontario-based company focused on research and development of alternative waste treatment technologies. It has its own patent-pending technology built around the thermal oxidation process.
The technology was proven at Anchorage, Alaska in the 1990s with a system that processes 25 tonnes per day. It has received approval from U.S. EPA.
The company was a successful respondent to the Regional Municipality of Peel RFP for new and emerging technology. Peel Council, in principal, approved the construction of a 60 tonne a day facility. The cost proposal to Peel was for a system treating municipal waste at $65 per tonne. In order to meet its agreement with the Region of Peel, the company will require financing to build the plant. (For more about Peel Region’s waste diversion projects, see the article on page 14.)
Residue remains after GWPT’s thermal oxidation process. The company claims that the gasified residue does not necessarily need to be landfilled. Since it passes the leachate tests, it can be utilized in road construction or the manufacture of cement.
President and CEO Steven Poulis claims the system will be publicly acceptable. The system meets the U.S. Air Quality Environmental Standards and Ontario Ministry of the Environment air standards. However, many anti-incineration activists and NIMBYs may not care to understand the difference between thermal oxidation and incineration and protest any large-scale implementation of the process.
Both DWR and GWPT have innovative ideas and energetic people looking to solve our waste woes. If they can show that their respective technologies make environmental and economic sense, they have a shot at success.
John Nicholson is a management consultant with Environmental Business Consultants based in Toronto, Ontario. E-mail John at email@example.com