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Don Downer, chair of the Western Regional Waste Management board, says Grenfell Campus’s decision to suspend the operation of its industrial composter is a step backward when it comes to waste management.
Don Downer doesn’t have any doubt that Grenfell Campus’s decision to suspend the operation of its industrial composter is a step backward when it comes to waste management.
“When you hear of something like this system at Grenfell closing down you’d like to be in a better position to either incorporate it directly into what we’re doing … or do something to help it,” said Downer, chair of the Western Regional Waste Management.
But that, he said, is decision the board has to make and it’s too early to say if it could play a role in getting the composter back turning.
“There’s a lot of factors here,” said Downer on Thursday.
From his observation of the operation of the composter and the statistics on waste diversion and output, Downer said it was more of a demo than an actual composting site.
In three years of use, 87 tonnes of waste was diverted from the landfill, roughly 30 tonnes per year. The yearly operating cost of the composter was $90,000, meaning it cost about $3,000 per tonne.
Economically the numbers would not be feasible for the board, but Downer said it’s not just a monetary cost that the board has to consider. He said there’s a 50/50 split between environmental and cost considerations.
In the meantime, the board is seriously considering putting a composting facility here instead of hauling compostable material to central Newfoundland as part of the new waste management strategy, but “that’s not without significant capital input.”
He said even if the board stays with simple composting technology it would still need some sort of housing or covering for the material and it would take from $2-7 million to do it properly.
And there could be room in the plan for the Grenfell composter.
Downer said the capacity of the machine would not take care of the region’s composting needs, but if the board could keep it open and increase the volume of input and output it could be used as a viable and sensible educational tool.
The board is also looking at keeping the recyclable material here — sorting and shipping it for processing itself.
Downer said the board has collected data on the tonnage that would be generated in the region and is now looking at the business plan that would enable them to do it.
Such an initiative would also result in an increase in what can be recycled.
Downer said the board will be looking at both composting and recycling over the next few months.
“There’s no question about the environmental aspect, keeping cardboard, and paper and kitchen scraps out of the landfill is a major concern. The economic side of it is the one that would be of consideration, very careful deliberation, by the board.”