Prince Albert city council members are learning alternatives to more landfill space are not cheap, however they appear eager to chase cleaner options.
“We may not be able to afford to do a full-scale organic composting right off the hop, but we also cannot afford to do nothing,” Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp said at this week’s council meeting.
The city is due to buy a new $3.5 million landfill cell in two years, but other options council hoped could divert some of that waste are proving prohibitively expensive.
Having received a report from city staff in May detailing the hefty price tag of implementing a compost program, councillors asked for an analysis of cost-savings. On Monday the city’s Operations Manager Mohammad Kraishan presented those findings along with information on a waste incinerator and a machine that would convert plastics into diesel fuels.
Looking at a 10-year period (the average lifespan of a landfill cell), city staff found that setting up and running a compost program would come at a net $3.7 million loss to the city. That number assumes everyone in Prince Albert would participate. However, the report indicates that a 60 per cent rate is more likely, for a net loss of $4.1 million.
Lennox-Zepp asked the city to prepare a report on the cost-breakdown of the first year of the program with an option for a graduated start, including perhaps targeting only businesses at the beginning.
“I wonder if there’s even some small steps for the organic waste,” she said. “Maybe instead of the whole pie, a small piece of the pie that could be chewed off for budget deliberations in 2020.”
Kraishan told the council that 10 per cent of Canada’s waste gets incinerated to generate power, but that those machines are in much larger urban centres. The annual volume of waste needed to run an incinerator efficiently is around 70,000-260,000 tonnes. Prince Albert’s landfill only generates 33,000 tonnes every year. Furthermore, the capital cost to buy such a machine could be up to $40 million.
“You’ve got to remember there’s all measure of landfills that are being shut down now by way of regulation from the province,” Coun. Don Cody told paNOW. “There’s garbage in all these towns that certainly could be here. Secondly, we’ve got fires in the North, we’ve got slash in the North and there’s nothing better in an incinerator that wants to make energy than wood as a hog fuel.”
In terms of a machine that could convert plastics and other waste to diesel fuel, Kraishan told councillors that he couldn’t find any municipality in Canada using the technology because it was still under development. He recommended P.A. not pursue the idea at this time because it was still largely unproven.
The way forward
Despite the heavy financial costs illustrated by staff, the city’s politicians voted to continue to investigate all three options, including trying to involve partners.
“We’re certainly not an island here and the only thing holding us back as we learn about this technology is cost,” Coun. Ted Zurakowski said during council.
“I see a sign, send your garbage to Prince Albert, let’s use plastics to create energy, let’s use waste to create energy, we could be the center of that here in Western Canada,” he said.
The city will look into federal and provincial grants to invest in more environmentally friendly technologies to deal with waste.
“I do strongly believe we will be securing some funding, if the city chooses to go that way,” Kraishan said. “However probably something to consider is these are multimillion-dollar projects.”
With landfill cells becoming more expensive, markets for recyclable plastics drying up, and public interest landfill alternatives building, the conversation on the city’s waste is sure to continue. Cody told paNOW he hopes that as new technologies to deal with waste become more widespread they will also become more affordable.
“We’re prepared to look after the environmental portion of it as best we can, but we can’t do it at great expense. I mean if it’s going to double the cost or something like that, well the taxpayers wouldn’t be very happy with us, I’m sure.”