The Bow Valley is one step closer to seeing municipal waste thermally treated instead of going into the landfill.
The Southern Alberta Energy from Waste Alliance (SAEWA) met last Friday (Feb. 25) and determined there is enough garbage produced in the region to move forward with a project to find a thermal treatment option as an alternative to using landfills.
Vice-chair of the board Paul Ryan said an engineering report was presented and accepted unanimously by the board that determined there is 366,032 tonnes per year available in various waste streams, including municipal solid waste.
“There is more than enough waste generated in Southern Alberta to support an energy from waste facility,” Ryan said.
In addition to the board determining the waste generation rates are enough to pursue alternate technologies for waste disposal, it also unanimously accepted draft bylaws as well as a governance model.
In February, Ryan was in front of the Bow Valley Waste Management Commission, on which he also sits as a board member, with an update on the group’s work.
“Pretty soon it will come to some hard decisions and that is when you need a governance and voting model,” he said. “From now on, decisions we make and who gets to make them are going to become more and more important.”
Ryan said at this stage the group is moving forward with determining what combustion technology would work best for the waste streams identified in the $68,000 study.
“We are looking at what is out there and what is the best way to handle waste,” he said. “That is when it is going to hit the fan because no matter what technology we pick, someone is going to object.”
He added the group is looking for a proven technology to thermally treat waste, not a theoretical one.
The variety of waste that can be processed at such a facility could be of benefit to other industries in Alberta, added Ryan.
He said, for example, Alberta currently transports 800,000 railroad ties a year to the Dakotas to be thermally treated there. With a facility in Southern Alberta that would no longer be necessary.
Biosolids and livestock waste, even cattle suspected of coming into contact with BSE, could be handled said Ryan, while there are spinoff industries that can use steam generated by an energy to waste facility.
The energy from waste alliance began when the municipality of Vulcan began looking to find space for a landfill for solid waste.
Ryan said the town found strong opposition to the idea of a landfill, something other municipalities have also experienced.
He said when Vulcan began looking at alternatives, it discovered it couldn’t do it alone and began the alliance.
Now the group’s membership is a coalition of 57 municipal entities representing a population of approximately 225,000 people in Southern Alberta. Its mission is to find a technological application for recovering energy from non-recyclable waste material and reduce the reliance on landfills.
“We do not want to compete with any other company out there,” Ryan said. “We need to find an environmentally sustainable way to handle our waste… we cannot continue to keep landfilling.”