June 13, 2013
Paul Moloney, Toronto Star
All kinds of technologies are “on the table” as Toronto looks at what to do with its garbage after its landfill is full.
It was just six years ago that Toronto bought the Green Lane landfill, but the city is already considering a range of options for the day it fills up.
The city’s public works committee is thinking about hiring consultants to do a study on the possibilities: everything from boosting recycling to incineration and other disposal technologies.
“Everything’s on the table,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the committee’s chair, said Thursday. “This is an important study, how we’re going to move forward with our waste strategy.”
The study, to be completed by 2015, would cost $950,000.
The London-area Green Lane landfill, purchased in 2007 for $220 million, could be full by 2030. Its life could be extended to 2036 if the city manages to divert 70 per cent of household waste from landfill by 2016.
Toronto missed that target — which it had hoped to reach by 2010 — as apartment buildings lagged in recycling and green bin composting efforts.
While detached-home neighbourhoods achieved an impressive 66 per cent diversion rate last year, apartments only hit 24 per cent. The combined rate was 52 per cent.
The city wants to boost recycling, composting and other options to divert waste and thus extend Green Lane’s lifespan for as long as possible, according to a staff report. Another option would be to buy another landfill in Ontario.
Meanwhile, Green Lane’s neighbours are complaining about odours from the dump and protests have been conducted by Oneida First Nation youth.
The staff report will be discussed by the public works committee next week before moving on to council for a final decision on hiring consultants.
If the study is approved, the consultants would look at the feasibility of expanding Green Lane “while also taking into account the impacts to the host community and First Nations.”
Also up for review would be a wide range of disposal technologies, including incineration, the report said, noting that Peel and Durham regions have opted for high-tech incineration in energy-from-waste plants.
The staff report suggests other technologies to be examined, including:
-Pyrolysis, which involves thermo-chemical decomposition of waste. Currently, there are seven such plants around the world.
-Gasification, whereby waste is heated to produce a gas that can be used to generate electricity. Several facilities are operating in Asia.
-Plasma Arc Gasification: heat and electricity are used to break down waste into a gas.
-Pellets: Waste is turned into fuel pellets. York Region operates such a plant.
“The technological advancements in disposing of waste have come a long way,” Minnan-Wong said. “Incineration is almost an old technology right now.
“Things like gasification and other related technologies allow you to efficiently dispose of waste with very little impact on the environment. I think we need to look at those.”
Environmentalists fear Toronto is putting too much emphasis on disposal and not enough on diversion.
“A year ago, we couldn't put clear plastic clamshell food containers in our recycling bin — now we can,” said Emily Alfred, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
“Five years ago, they thought recycling carpet was going to be impossible. Now there’s a bunch of new companies opening up that can recycle carpet.”
Promoting recycling could pay real dividends, given that garbage audits conducted by the city over the past two years show that two-thirds of what’s thrown in the garbage could be recycled or composted, she added.
“That’s a huge opportunity to reduce waste. To me, it seems irresponsible to look at sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into disposal technologies when we could spend a few million to get those recyclables out of the waste stream.”
Alfred stressed that it makes sense to plan for the future but she’d like to see it done in a balanced way that takes a hard look at diversion and education as well as disposal.
“We’ve got a long way to go with diversion, so we don’t even know what we’re going to need to be disposing of in 20 years.”
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