By Doug Hallett
A new, privately owned sorting plant for recyclables in Cambridge has prompted Guelph to look south of the U.S. border for customers for its own sorting plant.
City hall has asked the province to amend the agreement governing Guelph’s materials recovery facility to allow it to seek sources of recyclables beyond Ontario’s border in New York State and Michigan.
“One of the options we want to explore, if we have to, is bringing material from across the border,” said Dean Wyman, the city’s general manager of solid waste resources. “It is really no different than any business looking at contingencies.” “Hopefully, we do not have to cross the border. But if that is the only source we find,” he said, the city will do what is necessary – “we will continue to operate the plant.”
Wyman said recyclables collected from Guelph residences use 45% to 50% of the capacity of the city’s materials recovery facility, which underwent a $5-million revamp in 2003. The other 50% to 55% comes from third-party sources, he said.
Waste Management of Canada, a subsidiary of Houston-based Waste Management Inc., has been a “steady supplier” of recyclables to Guelph’s city-owned facility, Wyman said. But now the company has built its own recyclables-sorting facility in Cambridge.
The Cambridge plant, which is now in the commissioning stage, could be another competitor for the Guelph plant, Wyman said. There are already a number of recyclables-sorting facilities in Ontario, which compete against each other for material to sort.
This is the first time Guelph has looked south of the border for potential sources of recyclables, he said.
Asked why it’s necessary now, Wyman said it’s “a contingency we may get into. We are just trying to ensure we have as many options as possible.”
Until the city’s new composting plant opened, Guelph sent organic material for a few years to be burned in an energy-from-waste facility in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Asked about the optics of Guelph now potentially having recyclables from south of the border trucked to the city, Wyman replied: “We are conscious of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and ideally we’d like to source tonnage as close to our facility as possible.”
However, it can be necessary to go further afield when there’s a lot of competition to attract recyclable material, he said.
Waste Management of Canada says it owns and/or operates 20 recycling recovery facilities and 18 landfills in Canada.
The company’s new Cambridge facility is “directly impacting the amount of tonnage” coming into Guelph’s materials recovery facility, Wyman said.
The Guelph plant has been doing well, he said. “We are diligent in sourcing material. Customers come and go. We have never had any trouble replacing what we’ve had.”
The Blue Box system used in many Ontario municipalities involves some curbside sorting. But with Guelph’s system, all the sorting is done at the materials recovery facility – which was once referred to as the “Dry” plant after Guelph adopted its Wet-Dry waste system in 1995.
The original Dry plant was designed to handle not only recyclables, but also any other waste that couldn’t be turned into compost in the Wet plant. However, the Dry plant’s equipment was unable to handle some of the garbage that came in the blue bags, and this led to equipment breakdowns.
As city officials came to believe the Dry plant’s equipment was doomed, they started to plan for the current three-stream sorting system under which people put leftover garbage into a clear bag instead of the blue bag. The revamping of the Dry plant into the current materials recovery facility, which can sort recyclables faster and with fewer employees working as sorters, followed in 2003.
Anyone who wants to comment on the city’s application to the Ministry of the Environment has until Oct. 12 to do so.