Pilot project, study results to advance composting plans

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Whitbourne organic waste project still an early concept

Eastern Waste Management’s plan for a new waste recovery facility, not far from Whitbourne, includes the outline of an add-on composting pilot project.

A study on potential ways to deal with the province’s organic waste has been extended, but expected later this year. Composting of organic waste including everything from apple cores to coffee grounds would cost, but also quickly cut the amount of waste heading into provincial landfills. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

It would be larger than other composting projects undertaken in the province to date, according to those familiar with the plan, accepting household organic waste from the area’s residents as collected by contractors and brought to the site. It would also take organic waste from businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants.

“It will be configured to handle up to an estimated 1,000 tonnes of organic waste material,” states the documentation held by the Department of Environment, submitted for an environmental assessment required for the construction of the larger waste recovery facility.

Eastern Waste Management board chair Ed Grant said having a composting pilot project at the site is not a done deal.

A waste recovery operation, taking in the area’s bulk garbage, will be a priority if the site plan is approved. Construction required for the bulk garbage work is scheduled to be undertaken late this summer.

There is no estimate as to how much the addition of a composting project might cost. And any move for a provincial-level composting facility might yet de-rail the pilot project near Whitbourne.

Regardless, Grant said he sees composting as the next step for the waste management authority.

“It would reduce the amount going into Robin Hood Bay dramatically,” he said. “Organics really does change the whole waste management outlook.”

About 300 tonnes of organic waste is produced provincially on any given day, according to past government statements on composting test programs.

When organic waste — coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peels and other biodegradable items — are buried and break down, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas and, in landfills, unused waste product.

Composting the same material can result in a nutrient-rich soil product, allowing governments to use the product to cut their own costs or profit from the product’s sale.

The Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB), the Crown agency involved in composting pilot projects in the province to date, advised Eastern Waste Management on its plan and sees a provincial benefit in any project scaled a step up from the past and current composting test programs.

“Right back to the early days of this organization, we’ve been involved in a variety of initiatives — everything from backyard composting program, where we partner with municipalities; the pilot project that we’ve been involved in the last two or three years in Grand Bank; we have a pilot project ongoing at Grenfell College in Corner Brook — so we have a background in composting and organics waste management,” said MMSB CEO Mike Samson.

The future of composting in Newfoundland and Labrador, both he and Grant said, will depend largely on the outcome of an ongoing provincial study, looking at “viable options” for dealing with the province’s organic waste.

That study being completed by Dillon Consulting, under a $160,000 contract awarded in June 2013.

The expected to completion date was December.

The government issued the original announcement on the Dillon study contract. 

On Friday morning Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Kent said the initial piece of work was completed as per schedule, with a draft report submitted to government. But the province has asked for more information.

“It was decided that, along with the content of the report, there were some other scenarios that needed to be considered in the analysis,” he said.

“We suspect to receive a revised draft report by the end of March.”

He said there will be additional cost with the added work, but could not provide an estimate.

Yet, with the report in hand, the plan is to go on to develop a provincial composting plan.

In his latest report stemming from review of various provincial government departmental activities, auditor general Terry Paddon wrote about the provincial government’s overall waste management strategy.

It now includes a goal of diverting 50 per cent of all materials deposited into provincial landfills by 2020.

“Officials of the MMSB have indicated that in order to meet the goal, all province-wide infrastructure, including composting facilities, would need to be in place,” stated the auditor general’s report.

At the MMSB, Samson said organic waste accounts for about one-third of all garbage generated in the province and the right infrastructure, and the right plan, will be key to dealing with it.

“What we all recognize is that there will not be, at the end of the day, there will not likely be a one-size-fits-all solution to organic waste management in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said, noting the mixture of urban, rural and isolated areas.

“At the end of the day, I would anticipate that a variety of technologies will be applied in finding a provincewide solution.”

The exact technologies and exact cost of managing organic waste have yet to be determined.



Organizations: Grenfell College, Waste Management, Department of Environment Crown agency Grand Bank

Geographic location: Whitbourne, Robin Hood Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador Corner Brook

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