Excerpt from Cool Companies www.coolcompanies.ca By Claudia Sammer
Landfills are old technology. They can pollute water and, as the organic material in the landfill decomposes, they emit the very potent greenhouse gas methane. Methane does 20 times more damage as a greenhouse gas (GHG) than carbon dioxide (CO2) and is the principal component of natural gas.
Our thinking is changing to see waste as a resource instead. Some Canadian waste processing facilities, for example, now collect the methane produced from landfills and sewage treatment plants to generate electricity. Biogas, as it’s called, is actually a renewable resource. In Canada, 25% of waste was diverted from landfills in 2008 (Statistics Canada) and this percentage will continue to grow as more advanced waste management technologies become more well-known and adopted.
Organics like kitchen waste and lawn cuttings are the largest component of residential waste (40%) followed by paper (25%) (StatsCan 2008). This makes composting and recycling big first steps in waste management. Every bit of recycling makes a difference. For example, every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees (US Environmental Protection). Making products from recycled paper instead of virgin wood pulp also uses 64% less energy (Energy Educators of Ontario). Greys Paper Recycling (profiled p.55) is building a closed loop paper recycling plant in Edmonton, Alberta, which will be the first facility of its kind in North America. The company collects paper from Edmonton organizations and recycles it into new paper products which are then sold back to Edmonton organizations who can recycle it again. This completes the closed loop; no more trees need to be cut.
Alberta’s city of Edmonton is a North American leader in waste management. Since 2000, the City of Edmonton has been capable of diverting 60% of its residential solid waste from landfill. It has the largest co-composting facility in North America—converting municipal solid waste and sewage biosolids into compost (pictured above). Through a partnership with Enerkem (profiled p.55), the City of Edmonton is currently building a waste-to-biofuels facility that will increase its waste diversion rate to 90% by 2013, which will be the highest in North America.
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Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC)
The City of Edmonton’s EWMC is North America’s largest collection of modern, sustainable waste processing and research operations. It includes facilities for composting, recyclables sorting, processing of electronic and electrical waste, landfill gas recovery, construction and demolition waste recycling and production of alcohol fuels from processed waste (Enerkem p.55). Visited by people from all over the world, call 780.496.6879 to book a FREE guided tour for 10 or more people.
Contact: www.edmonton.ca/waste, 780.496.6879
Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence (EWMCE)
Working together with its members such as the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence (EWMCE) is a world class waste management research and technology development facility. It advances knowledge in solid waste management, wastewater treatment and re-use, and resource recovery. It has research and full scale pilot facilities that provide access to both solid and liquid waste streams.
Contact: www.ewmce.com, 780.496.7316
The Recycling Council of Alberta (RCA)
In addition to education and facilitation, the RCA lobbies for the advancement of forward-thinking policies and legislation to enhance waste reduction and recycling in Alberta. The RCA is spearheading new policy to have recycling activities count towards credits in Alberta’s specified gas emission regulation (p.74). This means recycling activities within the province would count as credits, and large emitters could purchase recycling-based credits to offset their GHG emissions.
Contact: www.recycle.ab.ca, Christina Seidel, Executive Director, 403.843.6563