Recycling for the Future (part two)
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Fort McMurray's Landfill has a room to educate tour visitors.
Fort McMurray AB – The Fall conference of Alberta CARE held in the RM of Wood Buffalo was rich in interesting topics and like the recycling industry itself, it was focused on networking and sharing initiatives.
The Alberta Coordinated Action for Recycling Enterprises is all about sharing ideas: as this Industry constantly changes and presents new technology, it is important for municipalities, Waste Management Commissions and landfill operators to compare their projects, listen to feedback and learn from other’s successes and challenges.
Alberta CARE, through its executive director Linda Macdonald, is based in the City of Leduc; she tirelessly plans two Alberta CARE conferences each year, and is also a dynamic member of LEAB (Leduc Environmental Advisory Board) and an educator on recycling practices.
The RM of WOOD BUFFALO greeted conference delegates and sponsors as the first exhibit among ten others in this spacious banquet room of the Sawridge Hotel. A display rich in color and many items tells a tale of a community focused on doing all that it can to protect the environment that it pulls resources from… From Communities In Bloom that helps with beautification, the Litter & Graffiti Control programs and community clean-up, the EnviroMentor to the Zero Waste Initiative that is a model to other communities across the country, this RM has created some unique recycling practices and educational programs that are envied and eventually ‘borrowed’ by eager municipalities.
Travis Kendel, environmental engineer for the RM of Wood Buffalo (which includes the City of Fort McMurray) delivered a fascinating talk on creative measures to ensure that a recycling frame of mind be adopted by the younger generation. Mr. Kendel explained the huge success of his RM’s AMAZING WASTE RACE, a colorful and smart program geared at K- 6 grades that enjoyed the participation of 6,300 students from 17 out of 28 RM schools during the last school year. The goal is clear; educate them, convert them to a recycling mentality, and hope that the message will find its way into their homes. A solid partnership with Oil Sands producers and Keyano College promotes waste reduction and elimination, hoping that someday no waste will make it to the landfill.
Phase One of the ZERO WASTE INITIATIVE collects and fires gases from the landfill site to warm a year-round greenhouse and pond: nitrogen-rich fish waste is used to feed the greenhouse vegetables. This AQUAPONICS program is widely popular worldwide, especially in Asia and Europe.
The COLD LAKE RECYCLING SERVICE is the largest recycling center north of Edmonton, processing 5,000 tons of waste each year: its founder and owner is Hussein Elkadri, a passionate believer in educating youth to safeguard our environment. Each year, Mr. Elkadri personally conducts popular school tours, explaining the recycling process and making a lasting impression on young minds.
Rick Robinson with the TOWN OF ST-PAUL, a dynamic recycling community, shared that bottle collection at large community events can benefit local service organizations, a concept that is growing.
Now that some landfill sites are reaching their maximum life expectancy and others are already shut down, it is imperative that governments worldwide deal with these sites appropriately. John Baxter, president and founder of SALT CANADA Inc, delivered a fascinating and complex talk on his technical patent of vertical injection wells inserted at 3 different levels into mature landfills that introduce aerobic bacteria into the waste piled underground, causing the waste to decompose thirty times faster. Carbon credits collected through this method can also be a huge economic benefit to the participating community.
A protocol established by SALT can calculate the amount of carbon avoided: in Fort McMurray, SALT’s methane avoidance project is the largest of its kind in Canada. This cutting edge technology is valuable, as the landfill sites of this country are aging and their proper handling can diminish the effects of global warming. SALT is based in London, ON and has conducted similar projects in Nashville and Georgia, with more projects in the works in Alberta. On a local note, Mr. Baxter shared that his first job after graduating from University was in Alberta’s central region, in Wetaskiwin.
Many regions pool their resources and share technology and initiatives among their municipalities: the Leduc & District Regional Waste Management Commission encompasses Leduc County, City of Leduc, Devon, Calmar and Beaumont. MCL is the recycling contractor for this Commission and it is evident when you meet its CEO, David Maplethorpe, that he has a passion and a vast knowledge of all aspects of recycling and waste management. The successful “Take It or Leave It” program at the Leduc Landfill stores re-usable household items that young families and newcomers to the community can come and appropriate for free.
Since 1985, this Leduc-region Commission has operated a Leachate Collection program - the chemicals produced by underground waste piling- that collaborates with a University of Alberta research program. Alberta CARE’s strong educational component has created precious alliances with NAIT and with the Waste Management Centre of Excellence.
It was rewarding to observe the contributions and passionate input of many conference delegates. For example, three landfill operators for the MD of Bonnyville, Cynthia Pawluk and her colleagues John and Brenda were not only fun people to visit with but also very focused, taking notes at each speaker’s presentation.
AQUATERA is a great example of sharing initiatives, as this company is co-owned by the City and County of Grande-Prairie and the Town of Sexsmith, providing them with water and wastewater treatment as well as recycling services: it also owns a unique process that compresses Styrofoam into ‘ingots’, at a 50:1 compression ratio. Resource pooling seems to have been a successful formula for this trio of dynamic municipalities.
The Alberta CARE Fall Conference offered two interesting tours: packed coaches traveled slowly all over the SUNCOR site with articulate tour guides, and delegates got to visit the SUNCOR Interpretive Center, where a giant tire at the entrance and the Maintenance Shop fully occupied with gigantic equipment offered popular photo opportunities. At the Fort McMurray Landfill, the MURF (really is the MRF, the Materials Recycling Facility) proudly opened its doors to CARE members and impressed them with its tidiness and cleanliness, and its bright education room, designed to accommodate large groups of students. At the Outdoor Waste Sorting site, smart and colorful designs promoted community recycling services.
Many more topics and presenters enlightened Alberta CARE conference participants : hopefully this report has introduced interesting recycling and waste management facts and practices to our readers!