Waste Management of Canada Corporation (WMCC) is proposing to nearly double the size of their landfill operation in the west end of Ottawa the National Capital of Canada. Disposal of solid waste by burying it in the ground has long been the preferred option because it is perceived to be the cheapest. This superficial notion ignores the costs of long term environmental impacts and the loss of valuable resources.

Modern Energy From Waste (EFW) technologies can effectively recover the energy locked up in the waste, while eliminating the potential for environmental impacts associated with waste slowly rotting in the ground over hundreds of years. Energy recovery through EFW technology represents the fourth R in the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover)

How much energy are we losing by burying it in the ground?  WMCC estimates that the proposed landfill expansion will take in about 4,000,000 tonnes of waste during it’s life time. There are many operational EFW technologies working throughout the world, some of which have been approved for operation in Ontario.

Plasco Energy is one that was recently approved for disposal of post diversion residential waste in Ottawa. This technology transforms waste into a synthetic gas that is used to generate electricity. If the 4 million tonnes of waste were processed with the Plasco technology it would produce over 3.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to supply every household in Ottawa for a year.

Enerkem waste to fuel technology is another one that is currently being developed to address the Edmonton and Montreal markets. The Enerkem process transforms post diversion waste to biofuels such as ethanol which can be used to supplement or replace transportation fuels. If the 4 million tonnes of waste were processed with the Enerkem technology, 1.5 billion litres of ethanol would be produced that would replace the equivalent amount of non-renewable gasoline in provincially mandated blended fuels. Ethanol has the additional benefit of being cleaner and producing less greenhouse gas. These two examples provide ample evidence of the huge amount of energy that remains in post diversion municipal solid waste.

It is interesting to note that according to the 2010 Ontario Auditor Generals annual report, Ontario buries around 6 million tonnes of waste each year in Ontario landfills. So at current energy prices, each year we throw away hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of energy.  WHAT A WASTE if we continue to bury these valuable resources in landfills.