COLUMN: Turning garbage into innovation

Surrey plans to build a new biofuels processing facility.

Surrey is well on its way to being the leader in B.C. in dealing with organic waste.

The city has selected Iris Solutions to finalize an agreement to design, build, partially finance, maintain and operate the Surrey Biofuels processing facility.

This comes as Metro Vancouver begins its program to get organic material out of the garbage stream, as part of its efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste being generated.

Metro Vancouver will begin enforcing its new rules about separating compostable material out of garbage in July 2015, and many businesses and property managers of multi-family housing are scrambling to find out how they can comply with the new rules.

While businesses in Surrey face those same challenges, the city is well ahead of the region in dealing with kitchen and yard waste with the curbside pick-up system instituted several years ago. The green bins distributed to residents are being used at a pace that city officials did not expect, making the biofuel project even more feasible.

The plan is to take that green waste and convert it to renewable natural gas. This gas will fuel the waste collection trucks that pick up green waste, recyclables and garbage at the curb side.

The facility will also produce a compost product, usable for both landscaping and agriculture.

The city expects to finalize a fixed-price, performance-based agreement with Iris Solutions in early 2015, with design-build activities getting underway shortly thereafter. The facility will be in operation by late 2016.

The funding will be via a public-private partnership (P3), with the federal government contributing 25 per cent of the capital costs through its P3 Canada Fund.

When it is complete, the facility will be the largest of its kind in Canada and will go a long way towards helping Surrey meet the Metro Vancouver target of diverting 70 per cent of waste.

It will be designed to receive and process 115,000 tonnes of organic waste each year.

While we all take dealing with trash of all kinds for granted, we shouldn’t. When travelling in Africa last year, it became obvious to me that garbage collection is not handled well (or at all) in many parts of the world. This leads to pollution of oceans, foul air, added sickness, spoiled landscapes, polluted rivers and water sources and many other consequences.

Surrey has long had an efficient waste management system. It was the first city in the region to contract out garbage collection back in the 1970s. For many years, it stayed out of what was then the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s solid waste management system, operating its own dump at Port Mann, but when closure of that loomed on the horizon, it had no choice but to get involved with the regional system.

Perhaps Surrey can show more leadership at the regional level and work hard to get the region off the incinerator track. Burning garbage is offensive to the environment and has a particularly negative effect on the Fraser Valley airshed.

Given that one goal of the biofuel processing plant is to reduce emissions, perhaps the next step is to get the region to see that incineration does not add to emissions.

Surrey residents should be proud of the innovative leadership shown in handling our garbage and should look forward to the day when garbage trucks are powered by the waste we generate.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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