Durham Region, in the east-end of the Greater Toronto Area, is planning a new mixed waste pre-sort anaerobic digestion (AD) facility to convert organic waste into renewable natural gas (RNG). The facility will remove organics, non-combustible material and recyclables from garbage bags to further increase diversion from landfills. The mixed waste pre-sort AD facility will work in tandem with Durham’s Energy from Waste (EFW) plant and will be a first-of-its-kind fully integrated waste management initiative in North America.
The motivation behind this innovative approach stems from a “no new landfill” resolution passed by the Durham Regional Council in 1994. The Regional Council focused on developing a Long-Term Waste Management Strategy plan to investigate waste reduction and disposal opportunities.
Durham Region opened the EFW plant in 2016 to handle waste at the Durham York Energy Centre. However, the EFW facility is only part of the solution for waste diversion. Durham Region’s population is growing and expected to be more than 1 million people in the next decade. More residents will mean more garbage created for the Region to manage. Right now, the Region generates 125,000 tonnes a year of organics and residential curbside garbage and the 20-year projection is nearly double at 223,000 tonnes a year.
In 1999 less than 30% of the Region’s waste was diverted from landfill. The Green Bin program for organics introduced in 2005 has helped the Region achieve over 50% diversion. Currently the organics are processed at an aerobic composting facility. Utilizing anaerobic digestion will increase organics diversion and allow for more types of organic waste to be accepted. A composition analysis of black bag garbage shows that nearly half of materials in Durham’s residential garbage is organics, so a mixed waste pre-sort AD facility will also be a big contributor to Durham’s 2008 target of 70% diversion.
In 2018, Durham Regional Council approved mixed waste pre-sort and AD as an approach for waste management. In June 2019, the council approved proceeding with the capital project using a two-stage design-build-operate-maintain procurement model. In May 2020, the council approved the development site for the facility at the Durham York Energy Centre in the Energy Park, and in August 2020 they issued an RFPQ for a mixed waste pre-sort and wet anaerobic digestion organics processing facility. The new facility will only accept waste from Durham Region and will delay the need to expand the DYEC facility.
The biggest benefit of the Region’s aggressive approach to waste diversion is that it gives residents of Durham 20-year strategic security for waste generated in the region. An immediate benefit of the AD facility is allowing expansion of the Green Bin program to accept more feedstock, such as pet waste and diapers, that can now be collected weekly in the green bin instead of bi-weekly in the black bag garbage.
Peter Veiga, Acting Manager of Waste Management Operations for the Region shares “Durham has surveyed residents and they are overwhelmingly supportive of treating waste as a resource and getting the maximum benefit out of the waste”
Durham Region has been a member of the CBA since 2019. Veiga says “Joining the association was a no-brainer. We were looking to get into this business so we wanted to learn as much as we can about the industry and players, as well as be involved in moving the industry forward. Being a part of the CBA is a great fit for all of those things”