Why does compost matter?
In Nova Scotia organics (i.e. food and yard waste) are banned from disposal in landfills. The Halifax region was the first large municipality in Canada to implement a source separate organics program in 1998, including curbside collection of green carts. Over 53,000 tonnes of organics are processed annually at one of two centralized compost facilities and other third party entities.
Why are we talking about it now?
On October 27, 2016 Nova Scotia Environment confirmed “no deadline has been set for complying with the guidelines, and there are no proposals being brought forward at this time to establish one".
How can I get involved?
What is composting?
the process by which organic material breaks down into a product that can be
used to add nutrients and moisture to soil. Many residents manage organic waste
on their properties through backyard composting, mulch mowing and grasscycling.
Are there different systems for composting?
- Our current facilities process material inside a building. Material remains in the building for up to 28 days, after which it is transported off site for further processing.
- Open windrow operations are an outdoor process where material is piled in rows and turned by machines. The material stays in these rows for up to 12 months before it is ready to be used.
- Biogas can be an energy source when captured and converted to electricity or a form of natural gas. Anaerobic digesters optimize conditions and help reduce odours. The end product (digestate) can be composted and used as a fertilizer. Anaerobic digestion facilities generally accept materials not traditionally captured in an aerobic process (i.e. plastic and compostable bags and pet waste).
Why isn't compost currently available to residents?
The compost end product is managed by a third party who owns the material. This means the product is not currently available to be returned to residents as is the practice in many other municipalities.
Where will compost facilities be located?
to manage organics that maximize resource value and minimize impact on our
neighbours is essential. Organics processing facilities
generate odours and noise as a result of operating equipment and
managing green bin material. This has the potential to negatively affect the
local community if not well managed.
The municipality currently operates two compost plants (in Burnside and in Goodwood, Halifax) located within a 10 km radius of the centre of where the majority of organics are generated.
Existing facilities may be used with the new processing solution, the current sites may be used for new infrastructure, or other approved sites may be used. New sites are subject to approval by Nova Scotia Environment and must comply with municipal land use By-Laws.
How large a facility will we need?
Facility size will
vary depending upon the technology
selected. Aerobic composting typically requires a larger facility footprint
than a fully mechanical process such as anaerobic digestion. Accommodating a
new plant or process on an existing compost facility site or the need to
develop a new location will largely depend on the technology selected.
What is the cost of processing organics?
Processing organics costs the municipality approximately
$9 million per year ($170/tonne). A new system
is estimated to cost between $150 - $210 per tonne, depending on the technology
and process chosen.
What about new technology?
New composting technologies exist but some are unproven.
Using unproven technology increases the
financial and operational risk. The
Halifax Regional Municipality has been a pioneer and leader in organic waste
management. Our future may include selecting commercially proven technology for
processing source-separated organics, or less tested and perhaps more
innovative solutions that can also meet our needs
What if regulations change again?
important that any proposed technology is robust enough to potentially meet
future requirements. This can be accomplished through developing a system which
exceeds current standards, or ensuring the proposed solution can be
convienently upgraded. Stricter compost quality requirements recently
introducted in Ontario could forseeably be applied to Nova Scotia over the
operating life of the new facility.
How large a facility will be required?
The current capacity of each
facility is 25,000 tonnes, but the municipality generates over 53,000 tonnes
annually. This means during high-volume periods (spring, fall and Christmas tree
removal), material must be re-directed to alternative sites. Future planning
will allow for potential tonnage of 60,000 to 75,000 tonnes.
Is a new facility necessary?
necessarily. One consideration is
determining whether expansion can occur at existing sites. This could occur
through expanding the current process technology or perhaps adding new
technology to co-exist on one of the existing sites and work in tandem with
current facilities. Alternatively, an existing facility could be demolished to
facilitate a new operation. Other options include a new site and facility or
keeping an existing facility operational through renovation.
How long would it take to have a new site operational?
site identification, permitting and zone approval and community consultation may
be required to ensure the proposed development is consistent with land use in
the area. This affects project deadlines, operations and cost. It is likely
that this process will take a few years depending on the planning and approval
process through various levels of government.