The City of Airdrie’s Waste and Recycling Services department is advocating for the establishment of a regional network of properly managed organic processing opportunities – in an effort to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.
“The flow of waste and recyclables is continuous,” said Susan Grimm, team leader with Waste and Recycling Services, in a presentation to Airdrie City council Oct. 7. “Municipalities require security in having locations to manage this constant flow and in knowing that there are reliable markets for the processed material.”
As an active participant in the Southern Municipal Waste Managers Advisory Committee (SMWMAC), the City is familiar with the issues, opportunities and challenges with respect to solid waste management in the region. But according to Grimm, food and yard waste makes up a significant portion of the materials generated within communities.
“Municipalities are working to ensure that organic waste is diverted from landfill disposal; however, the success of programs and policies rely on the availability of viable processing facilities that have access to markets for their products,” she said.
With the closure of Thorlakson Natures Call and Green for Life (GFL) in Strathmore, Grimm said, Airdrie’s material is all being transported to the GFL Nutrient Recovery Centre in Calgary. While the arrangement is effective in its current state, she noted, there is a growing concern among area municipalities that there is insufficient local capacity to address regional organic waste processing needs in an environmentally-responsible, cost-effective way.
But with little policy in place to guide the relatively-new organics processing activity within municipal and regional land-use planning and recent “negative public experiences related to diverting organics” from the landfill, Grimm said, opening a new facility in the area isn’t a particularly attractive option for a developer.
For this reason, she added, the City needs to continue working with the other member municipalities of SMWMAC to come up with a regional solution that will take into account issues like environmental sustainability, impacts to area residents and taxpayer expense.
“The collaboration includes developing a scope to address the concerns,” she stated in her report, by working together on a regional organics facility feasibility study – the shared costs of which, she added, are expected to be minimal.
“The results of the study will be provided to council, and any commitment to participate in a regional organics facility would be subject to support from the Environmental Advisory Board and council approval,” she said.