Breaking down waste


City looks to Manitoba for example of emerging zero-waste tech

Could ash, metal, glass and plastic be part of St. Albert’s economic future?

As the city continues investigating the prospect of zero-waste facilities in St. Albert, the economic development department has deemed that future feasible.

The department has released a 15-page discussion paper on zero-waste, looking at the potential opportunities St. Albert could have with a zero-waste facility of its own.

That facility would break down garbage through gasification, leaving behind ash, metal, glass and plastic that can be sold to manufacturers. And the heat and power generated by gasification could flow to commercial and industrial businesses, bringing down servicing costs – or even to high-density residential areas.

Aside from being better for the environment, that could bring the city in revenue as well.

The city currently diverts 64 per cent of its residential waste – organics and recyclables – away from landfills and has a goal of reaching 75 per cent by 2020. On Monday, economic development director Rod Valdes presented a question to council:

“Why would we go after 75 per cent and not 100 per cent?” he asked.

“Zero-waste, with new emerging technology, gives us this opportunity.”

Councillors agreed on Monday to include a conceptual design for zero-waste into the city’s examination of a potential city utility corporation. They also voted to have an initial engineering design done for a zero-waste facility in or next to Lakeview Business District.

But the city isn’t interested in your run-of-the-mill zero-waste facility. Valdes said Monday the city is looking at emergent technology that is currently being tested in Manitoba: modular, scaled-down zero-waste facilities instead of one large facility.

“The fact that it’s scalable and we could plop them down in certain areas of St. Albert, instead of having one centralized larger one and trucking everything … We can take advantage of this on a small scale, and I think we can be a leader,” said Mayor Cathy Heron.

“If we don’t do this now, we’re going to be really far behind. It’s not that we’re ahead of the game – we’re just trying to keep up with the game.”

Although pricing for scaled-down facilities aren’t certain, city manager Kevin Scoble said based on his past experiences with zero-waste, it would cost the city under $10 million.

That’s compared to an estimated $25 to $35 million if the city were to pursue a large, centralized zero-waste facility.

Scoble said the city has an opportunity to monitor a scalable zero-waste pilot project happening in Manitoba to better understand the costs, pros and cons of such a facility here.

Coun. Sheena Hughes, who put forward a motion last year to have the city draw up a feasibility report on zero-waste, said she has concerns about zero-waste, in part because a zero-waste initiative in Fort McMurray has taken seven years so far to get off the ground.

She added being able to monitor Manitoba’s efforts comes as a consolation.

“This lets us see that it’s working and how it’s working, what costs will be, before we go forward,” she said.


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April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette