The Municipality of French River cost-effectively consolidated its five landfills into one and optimized its waste collection and handling efficiency using an innovative semi-automated container and collection system.
Located half an hour south of Sudbury, French River is a rural community of 2,800 people spread over 735 square kilometres, including the Towns of Noelville and Alban. In the summer months, this tranquil northern Ontario cottage destination sees its population swell to 7,000. In the spring of 2003, the French River introduced a new solid waste drop-off collection program to its citizens, equalizing service levels and effecting the consolidation of five landfills into one.
Prior to 2003, French River operated five landfill sites, one of which was owned by the municipality and the balance by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Facing expiry of MNR land use permits in 2002, a cost analysis was prepared by the solid waste committee that reviewed and provided the updated terms of reference for continued operation of all sites according to the latest environment ministry regulations. If accepted by the community, the MNR would transfer titles to the municipality effective December 31st, 2002.
The committee report concluded that future projected costs to operate the five landfills would increase by 265 per cent largely due to the assumption of post-closure obligations by the community. This included annual reserve funds for closure and post-closure maintenance costs as well as operational, monitoring and expansion costs charged over the useful life of the sites. The landfill cost increase would translate into an 8.8 per cent municipal tax hike, making French River one of the highest property taxed communities in the region.
The question then was, can the municipality afford this liability?
Due to budget constraints, town council recommended closure of all the MNR dumps. The only site to remain open was the Noelville site owned by the municipality.
New program challenges
The new program was the result of a mayor’s task force, formed to review its system and explore available options.
The closure of the four MNR landfills sites created new challenges. Waste services were varied. Noelville offered curbside collection provided by municipal employees on a user-fee basis while the Town of Alban had a volunteer curbside program provided by a private contractor that directly billed its clients. The remaining population brought their own waste to one of the five available landfills.
Existing issues included animal intrusion, the high costs of curbside collection, cottage properties located on private roads, sparsely populated areas spread out over 220 kilometres of road, limited service hours for weekend cottagers, inconsistency of program delivery to equal ratepayers and the needs of the commercial sector.
French River evaluated different options including two types of drop-off bin systems, municipal curbside and contractor curbside. Since disposal was consolidated to one landfill, the committee needed to add a collection component to its plan. Drop-off options included a front-end loading bin and compatible packer system to accommodate eventual recycling, and an integrated, semi-automated, animal-proof containment and collection system.
Other alternatives included selective curbside pickup for Alban and Noelville (which proved unfair to excluded residents) or curbside collection for the entire municipality, which was economically and logistically unfeasible, especially in the summer when the population almost triples with vacationing cottagers.
The most sustainable long-term option involved a waste, recycling and organics drop-off collection system from Lethbridge, Alberta-based, Haul-All Equipment Systems.
Haul-All’s sealed containment and flexible modular design was a deciding factor behind the unanimous decision to opt for the new system, especially since the six cubic yard HL6 bins can be sited outside closed landfills. Due to their small footprint and efficient use of space, eight HL6 satellite sites were strategically placed within two and five kilometres of 80 per cent of the population, thus minimizing travel distance for residents. Haul-All’s RP235 dual-stream semi-automated side-loading collection vehicle services the bins daily on regular collection routes.
After 16 months of operation, actual drop-off collection and disposal costs decreased by 50 per cent over municipal curbside collection. French River now delivers a more equitable system that’s much cleaner and easier to use since residents are not exposed to the landfill face, and more convenient thanks to increased locations.
“Our goal was to provide a consistent level of service for all ratepayers, with the ultimate goal of implementing recycling,” explains Mike Monette, treasurer for the municipality, adding, “The Municipality is confident that our new system will allow us to comply with upcoming regulations on waste diversion.”
Key elements in the new system design include: excess container capacity for seasonal residents departing on Sunday; excess collection vehicle capacity for program expansion; and, flexible routing design with vehicles continuously passing high volume sites to collect the material. Thanks to a scalable and flexible modular design, the bin system, which is now used to capture solid waste, will be modified to collect recyclables later this year as well as organics collection in the future.
“We’ve consolidated our five waste disposal sites to one central landfill. We’ve eliminated animal intrusion and the waste is easily managed by our new RP235 collection vehicle,” says Jim Sartor, Public Works Superintendent. He concludes that with the additional depot sites and 24/7 convenience for seasonal residents, the new system will be effective.
Staff from VQuip (a Haul-All distributor) handled the system design, permit negotiations, sale and installation. The company crews placed 12 containers a day on the municipal sites and provided initial technical assistance as well as staff and operator training. The entire system was installed, commissioned and operating in approximately two weeks.
Alan Charky is marketing manager for VQuip in Burlington, Ontario. Contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org