February 25, 2008 | General

Nova Scotia Rates Soar Above National Average

BioCycle February 2008, Vol. 49, No. 2, p. 23
Logistics and statistics provide perspective on how Nova Scotia residential curbside composting and recycling rate became 68 percent higher than the Canadian average.
Bob M. Kenney

THE PROVINCE of Nova Scotia banned disposal of compostable organic material, including all food waste, in 1998. The ban – a single element of the Province’s Solid Waste Resource Management Strategy – was 1 of 13 disposal bans that also includes newsprint, cardboard, used tires, paint and a host of metal, glass and plastic containers.
The results have been dramatic! In 2004, the Nova Scotia disposal rate for residential, business, construction and demolition (C&D) waste was 427 kg/person/year (941 lbs/person/year), 45 percent lower than the Canadian average and over 50 percent lower than California’s rate. Overall, Nova Scotia’s residential curbside recycling and composting rate is currently 68 percent higher than the Canadian average. All residents of the Province have access to curbside collection of recyclables, and 90 percent have access to the curbside collection of compostable organic material (including food waste).
These developments have led to a drastic reduction in the number of municipal solid waste disposal sites by 83 percent. Prior to the Strategy, there were over 40 municipal solid waste disposal sites, including many that open burned the waste. There are now only seven second-generation municipal solid waste landfills. Comparatively, there are 19 composting facilities receiving residential and business sector food and yard waste (see Table 1).
Composting was in its infancy before the Strategy, and one municipality, Lunenburg, had just introduced the first curbside source separated organics collection system in the Americas in 1994. The latest composting facility was opened in 2007 in Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The 19 central composting facilities that service the Province process over 100,000 metric tons per year of residential and business sector organic materials. Most of the business sector organic waste is from grocery stores, restaurants and food and fish processing facilities.
Nine recycling facilities in the Province currently receive recyclable materials mostly from residential sources. In addition, there are 80 EnviroDepots collecting beverage containers, paint and electronic waste, a handful of private sector recycling and processing facilities (the Province does not require these facilities to obtain an approval or report recycling tonnages) and a used tire management system. The number of jobs in the waste-resource management sector has subsequently increased more than 60 percent.
Disposal bans are only one part of the picture that has driven waste diversion in the Province. The Strategy also includes a diversion credit system that mimics carbon trading systems evolving to reduce global warming gas emissions. As part of this credit system, Nova Scotia municipalities receive over $25 for every ton of material diverted from disposal. The calculation of tonnages diverted includes solid waste generated in the residential, business and C&D sectors. In short, the less waste disposed from all sectors located in a particular municipality, the more money a municipality receives.
In response to the diversion credit incentive, and municipalities’ desire to reap the environmental and economic benefits of diverting more waste, 30 of the 55 municipalities in Nova Scotia now require residents (and in most cases their businesses) to place garbage in clear bags. This provides municipalities with the ability to see any banned materials in the garbage. Municipalities can then use education and a variety of compliance measures to ensure residents and businesses recycle and compost properly. Recycling and composting rates have increased 20 to 40 percent, with corresponding decreases in waste disposal. Clear bag programs are relatively new and are expanding across the Province. The impacts will continue to be monitored to gauge their long-term impacts.
Funding for the diversion credit system originates from the Province’s beverage container regulation. The Resource Recovery Fund Board (RRFB) of Nova Scotia administers the deposit-refund program, which includes all beverages except for milk. The Province regulated that 50 percent of net revenues from the deposit-refund program must be provided to municipalities based upon their diversion results. The remaining 50 percent is dispersed through a number of outlets, including education, business development (Value Added), research and development (R&D), municipal capital and a handful of smaller projects.
The potential for R&D and Value Added projects is just beginning to be harnessed. A number of innovative projects have tapped into this funding to develop, or further enhance, recycling and composting systems. Current projects include the expansion of blue bag residential recycling to include empty aerosol and paint cans, and small pieces of scrap metal. Mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture are being dismantled through adult service centers. Gypsum/wallboard is being added to compost. And, asphalt shingles are being processed into two products: pavement and as an alternative energy source.
The asphalt shingle processor developed an innovative technology to separate shingles into two products. Asphalt grit, the sand coated with asphalt on the top of the shingle, is used as an ingredient in the production of asphalt for paving to replace virgin asphalt. The process meets existing specifications for pavement. And, asphalt flake, the asphalt covered backbone of the shingle (cellulose), is used for energy recovery at a local cement plant.
A number of compost innovators in the province developed high value composts. From vermicompost to designer soils (composts made for specific soils), the full benefits of composting are only beginning to be tapped.
The Province’s Strategy also reflects the need for stewardship. In addition to the current regulated beverage containers, used tire, paint and used oil programs, electronic waste collection and processing began February 1, 2008. TV’s, computers and printers are the first to be targeted. DVD’s, VCR’s, stereos, telephones, cell phones and other electronics will be added February 2, 2009. These items will all be banned from disposal when the program begins.
To further these regulated programs, voluntary stewardship exists for dairy containers, newsprint, telephone directories, used residential syringes/needles and used drugs. These complement national initiatives for rechargeable batteries and ink jet return collection systems. A very healthy used textiles economy also exists in the province.
As a path forward, Nova Scotia has recently adopted legislation with a new disposal target of 300 kg/person/year (660 lbs/person/year) by 2015, almost a 30 percent reduction from Nova Scotia’s 2004 rate. This target includes residential, business and C&D sector waste. The Province has committed to achieving its new disposal target through the development of new programs and product stewardship regulations. Additional focus areas identified for future efforts include research and development, best management practices (i.e. clear bag programs that maximize diversion and minimize costs), and education and awareness.
Given the municipal, private sector, local consultants, residents and RRFB of Nova Scotia’s response to the initial Strategy, the prospects look good for continued success.
Bob M. Kenney is a Solid Waste-Resource Analyst for the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment and Labour. For more info visit:
Sidebar, p. 24
NEW ERA Technologies is a composting facility located in Halifax, Nova Scotia that has been in operation since the late 1990s. With a throughput of 25,000 tons per year, it processes a full range of residential and ICI materials, from green waste to fish waste. In September 2007, New Era Technologies installed a HotRot composting unit, distributed by Hatch. It’s the first HotRot unit to be used in North America (the company is based in New Zealand). New Era installed the 1811 Unit to test “polishing” 1,000 tons per year of its compost, says Gerald Tibbo, Director of Hatch’s Solid Waste Division. Tibbo explains how the unit differs from other in-vessel systems, and why New Era Technologies chose it. “A basic principle of composting is that the more frequently you agitate the process, the better. The HotRot unit at New Era is frequently monitored and turns an average of 175 times a day, using a central shaft with tines that rotate at less than an rpm.” The HotRot composter uses forced aeration.
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) established guidelines for compost products in Canada in 1996, which it then revised in 2005 to address the growing industry. The newer guidelines specify that finished compost must be mature and stable to be sold. Criteria that must be fulfilled are based on respiration rate, carbon dioxide rate and ambient temperature. These were set into place in order to prevent unstable compost from being sold, which the CCME states can cause odors, the attraction of vectors and potential adverse affects on plants. To meet these heightened standards, New Era Technologies installed the HotRot system, which it will use to polish a three-month old compost from its main operation (a Stinnes in-vessel). Tests are currently being conducted at New Era to determine how long it will take the HotRot unit to turn a three-month old compost into a stable and mature product, to meet the revised CCME’s guidelines. Tibbo notes that previous HotRot tests (at other facilities) have turned raw organics into a stable product in about three weeks. New Era also plans on testing biosolids with the HotRot unit. “We are pleased with the results so far, especially considering winter conditions,” he says. As the testing progresses, New Era plans on expanding the HotRot system to process between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of finished compost per year. – R.Y.

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