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Turning poop into profitable products

Banff’s poop is starting to turn a profit. At the N-Viro processing facility at Banff’s wastewater treatment plant, cement dust is being added to dewatered biosolids, then mixed with organic food waste, heated and dried.

Banff’s poop is starting to turn a profit.

At the N-Viro processing facility at Banff’s wastewater treatment plant, cement dust is being added to dewatered biosolids, then mixed with organic food waste, heated and dried.

The end product, known as Banff N-Rich, has received approval for use as a fertilizer or soil amendment, and a distributor agreement has been signed with Strathmore’s Eagle Lake Turf Farm – the only customer so far.

Councillor Chip Olver said the Town of Banff’s partnership with N-Viro Canada is a good news story for Banff.

“We’re taking biosolids, diverted organics and waste from local businesses and coming up with what used to be garbage, and turning it into a product,” she said. “It’s a best practice story for other municipalities.”

The Town of Banff owns the plant and N-Viro Systems Canada manages and staffs the facility.

The municipality currently produces two streams of organic waste – treated biosolids from the Town’s wastewater treatment system and the other from restaurants and residential organic food waste collection.

The organic materials are mechanically blended with an alkaline mixture, cement dust, to produce the product. Previously sent directly to landfill, cement dust comes from the Bow Valley’s Lafarge and Graymont plants.

Once mixed, Banff N-Rich is cured when the natural reaction of the alkaline material with the organic material increases the temperature to between 52-62C and the pH to approximately 12.

The process virtually destroys all pathogens, while keeping beneficial microorganisms for plant growth.

Officials with N-Viro Systems Canada say the product is a good agriculture fertilizer, but also a soil amendment that can be used to reclaim lands lost to mining, refinery tailing ponds, aggregate extraction and over farming.

“The registered fertilizer replenishes vital soil nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to encourage strong crop growth,” said Rob Sampson, the company’s president.

The municipality gets a 50 per cent share of net revenue earned by N-Viro from the sale of Banff N-Rich.

Based on the current biosolid and recycled food waste amounts, the municipality expects to get about $15,000 a year, though this year will be less because it’s the first year.

At the start of the year, the fertilizer was being sold at a $1 per truck load – which carries about 18 tonnes – but as of June it’s being sold at $5 per tonne. The facility is producing about 5,000 tonnes of product per year.

Sampson said the Banff facility is currently running at about 25 per cent capacity.

“We have room to expand production. Increased production will result in greater revenue sharing with the Town of Banff,” he said.

“We’re extremely happy with our current customer, and we’ve been approached by other customers, but frankly, at our current capacity, I don’t have enough to sell. One customer is buying everything.”

Sampson said N-Viro plans to work with the Town of Banff to develop a communication strategy to reduce foreign objects going into the organics, as well as promote use of clear or transparent bags for source-separated organics.

“It is vital to have quality control in source-separated organics collection to reduce contamination to a minimum. We need and want organics, not discarded forks and spoons,” he said.

“We will work with the Town of Banff and with residents and the commercial businesses so they understand why it’s good to police what they put in the system.”

In Canada, N-Viro facilities are also operating in the Ontario cities of Leamington, Thorold and Sarnia, as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

“We are building a plant in India because people there got wind of what we were doing in Banff,” said Sampson.


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