Like any industry, waste management has its leaders and followers. The leading companies are the ones that go beyond compliance, do things right because it is the right thing to do and strive to do better. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with two companies that show the leadership and vision needed in the waste management sector.
Walker Environmental Group
The Walker Environmental Group facility is located in Thorold, Ontario (about 15 kms west of Niagara Falls). The company recently received environmental assessment approval for the expansion of its landfill. The EA is noteworthy due to the relative speed it took from the time the Terms of Reference were approved to the time the company received approval from the Ministry of the Environment.
When I toured the facility and interviewed staff, I was really impressed with their operation and business philosophy. The company looks at their facility as a 3Rs R&D centre. (They call the cluster of administration buildings a “campus.”) In addition to a quarry and landfill, they do composting and have a biosolids treatment plant. They sell landfill gas to the nearby pulp and paper mill and also get GHG emission credits that they sell.
There were three things that struck me during my tour of the Walker site. First thing was the smell. I was approximately 30 minutes into to my tour of the landfill when it struck me — the smell. There was none! We were navigating an active landfill and there was no odor. Mike Watt, the General Manager, concedes that odors are occasionally an issue but states that the company has a good rapport with neighbors.
The second thing I noticed was the birds; there weren’t any of the nuisance sea gulls that you see at other landfills. I hadn’t realized that fact until Joe Lyng mentioned it to me.
Finally, the people struck me. I have never seen waste management professionals so proud of their facility. Tim McVicar, Director of Landfill and Transfer Operations, beamed as he showed me is pride and joy — the municipal landfill. The Compost Manager, Ed English, a veteran of composting since his days setting up the first municipal facility in Guelph 15 years ago, showed a similar passion as we toured the windrows that made up the municipal waste composting facility.
From an economics standpoint, Walker bases its operation on the tipping fee/treatment costs. In this way, it doesn’t run into the problem of having to cut corners treating incoming material when the market for finished product fluctuates.
No operation is without some need of improvement. The biosolids facility utilizes alkaline stabilization along with mechanical drying to produce a fertilizer approved under the federal Fertilizer Act. However, an open bed biofilter with a bark media is used to treat odors. I would have considered a more advanced system.
The Laflche Environmental facility is located outside the Town of Moose Creek in Eastern Ontario, approximately 60-km southeast of Ottawa. The company sees environmental sustainability as the first objective in waste management.
Andre Laflche, CEO of the company, views his facility as an integral part of a much larger eco-industrial development. The anchor operation is a bioreactor landfill, which speeds up the generation of biogas for electricity generation. (For a comparison, see the “Landfill Technology” article, page 17.) The other operations the surround the landfill are a composting, leachate treatment, soil treatment, and a recycling.
A strong supporter research and development, Laflche funded a study of peat moss filters in leachate treatment, and the use of shredded tires in drainage systems. Future projects include research on new ways to process and reuse old plastic. Partners in the R&D include the University of Ottawa and the University of Guelph.
Future plans for the eco-industrial park include the construction of anaerobic digesters to handle farm and septic waste. The biogas generated would be used for either electricity generation or for heating greenhouses. The treated biosolids would be used as fertilizer.
When you arrive at the site, it hardly looks like a landfill because the slope of garbage doesn’t reach the tree line. The landfill is being worked in sections and won’t rise above 15 metres.
There must be room for improvement at the Lafleche eco-industrial development as the landfill has, in the past, had some opposition from neighbors.
Across Canada, some companies and municipalities are realizing the synergies created by grouping waste management activities into an eco-industrial park. Done right, such a park can be a source of pride in the community where jobs are created, R&D is performed, and products and energy is created.
John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at email@example.com