Solid Waste & Recycling


Refuse-Derived Fuel

The municipal solid waste "crisis" in Ontario is not one of lack of landfill space or technology. The two main barriers are the approvals process and finding a treatment and disposal site....

The municipal solid waste “crisis” in Ontario is not one of lack of landfill space or technology. The two main barriers are the approvals process and finding a treatment and disposal site.

As an example, over 1,000 residents wrote in opposition to the terms-of-reference document prepared by Waste Management Inc. (the largest waste management company in the world) for the proposed expansion of an existing landfill. The major fear of the residents is that the Carp Landfill near Ottawa will receive Toronto’s garbage.

Two separate companies believe they have found the solution to the regulatory approval hurdles and problems associated finding a site for a waste management facility. They both have agreements with regional municipalities who will supply waste to produce a fuel product for further sale.

AmbientEco Group

The founders of AmbientEco are Dick Pallett, a former Region of Peel councilor, and Warren Hyland, a businessman with experience in construction management and business consulting.

The company, based in Mississauga, was the successful respondent to a Region of Peel RFP for new and emerging technology. The company will construct a 60-tonne-per-day facility in the Caledon Waste Management Facility (approximately 30 minutes north on downtown Mississauga). In exchange, the company will receive $65 per tonne for treating the municipal solid waste. The projected cost to produce fuel is $50 per input tonne.

The AmbientEco process involves several steps. First, waste is shredded and then fed into a drier where moisture is removed. Then, metals, glass, and other inert material is removed using classification and separation equipment. The remaining shredded waste is further dried. This refined biomass product, called EnviroFuel, is approximately 50 per cent of the mass that was brought to the plant, and can be sold as fuel.

In the case of the Peel plant, the plan is to sell the fuel under a 10 year contract to St Lawrence Cement as a cost effective and environment-friendly alternative to coal. (For more on waste and cement plants, see cover story, page 8 and “Blog” column, page 38.)

In order to meet its agreement with Peel, the company will require financing to build the plant. The company is currently in search of financial backers.

Dongara Development

In December 2005, York Region (immediately north of Toronto) was in the process of finalizing an agreement with Dongara Developments to ship 100,000 tonnes of residual waste per year for 20 years to Dongara for conversion of the waste into an alternative fuel. Under the terms of the tentative contract, the facility will be in operation by early 2008.

Dongara Developments is finalizing zoning with the City of Vaughan to construct a processing facility at the northeast corner of Highway 407 and Highway 27 to receive and manage waste from curbside garbage collection. The facility will remove contaminants from the residual waste and grind it down into pellets that can be used as a burnable fuel.

Dongara’s for turning municipal waste into fuel is similar to that of AmbientEco. In the Dongara ENERPAX+ method, municipal waste is received and recyclables (i.e., aluminum and glass) are removed. The residual is then dried. The dried residual is mixed with high-heat value ingredients and then palletized. The front-end removal technology is supplied by Bollegraaf in Holland; the pellet-making technology is from Kahl in Germany.

MCW Engineering, the engineering firm associated with Dongara, estimates that processing will costs about $55 per tonne.

The main difference between the Dongara/ York arrangement and the AmbientEco/Peel contract is that Dongara already has financial backing, in the form of Borealis Infrastructure Corporation. Borealis is owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) that seeks to invest in projects in excess $100 million projects such as transportation, energy and infrastructure.

The key to success for waste-to-fuel producing companies will be if they can convince regulators and the general public that they’re producing a fuel that really burns cleaner in cement kilns than coal. If not, they could be stuck in a lengthy approvals process, a hearing under the Environmental Protection Act or be subject to an Environmental Assessment.

One jurisdiction that will likely not require regulatory approval to burn as fuel is the U.S. However, factoring in transportation costs may make that option economically non-viable.

John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at

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