Payoff from composting plan will be huge, region's officials say

(By Linda Gyulai - The Gazette) - A proposed $1-billion composting and residual-waste elimination program for the Montreal region could cut as much greenhouse gas as 200,000 cars produce in a year, the Montreal Metropolitan Community says.

“It’s the kicker to our proposal,” Massimo Iezzoni, general manager of the regional planning body behind the proposal, said yesterday.

The regional body, whose chairperson is Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, pitched $1.02 billion worth of waste-management infrastructure needs to the Quebec government last month, as The Gazette reported yesterday.

The MMC suggests the province pay 85 per cent and municipalities pay 15 per cent.

A spokesperson for Quebec Environment Minister Line Beauchamp said the government will consider the MMC proposal when it updates its 1998-2008 waste-management policy next year.

Just as the province funded the construction of waste-water treatment facilities in the 1980s to stop the pumping of raw sewage into rivers, the MMC says the province should pay for infrastructure to deal with garbage.

Of the $1.02 billion, $170 million would pay for composting facilities and $850 million would pay for facilities to eliminate residual waste so municipalities can stop sending it to landfills.

The waste degrading in landfills produces greenhouse gases.

A study by SNC-Lavalin and Solinov Inc. for the MMC says the waste that would be diverted from landfills each year to composting and residual waste facilities would cut 730,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

That’s equivalent to what’s produced in a year by about 200,000 mid-sized cars, each travelling 10,000 kilometres, MMC policy coordinator Stephane Pineault said.

A provincial 2006-2012 greenhouse gas plan calls for the elimination of 10 million tonnes of gases in Quebec per year by 2012.

The Montreal region won’t meet the province’s goal of composting 60 per cent of organic waste by 2008 or its own target of zero landfilling by 2017 without the facilities, Iezzoni said.

There’s another incentive to find alternatives to landfilling, he added: Under the province’s waste-management plan, municipalities now can refuse to accept garbage from outside their region. Most of the landfills where MMC cities send their garbage are outside the Montreal region, he said, so they may soon have nowhere to truck their waste.

The MMC says its municipalities compost only eight per cent of the 337,000 tonnes of organic waste they generate each year.

With the facilities, the MMC could meet the composting target in 2012, Iezzoni said.

The SNC-Lavalin/Solinov study analyzed seven combinations of waste treatment methods. It says the mix of landfilling and recycling now used within the MMC costs $107 per household, on average. The scenario favoured in the study would cost $200 per household and would combine recycling, composting and residual-waste elimination.

The composting technology is anaerobic digestion, which uses bacteria to break down organic matter without oxygen, producing a biogas that can be used to generate heat and electricity.

The residual-waste elimination technology is gasification, which involves burning waste at high temperatures. The process produces a gas mixture called syngas that can be used to generate electricity.

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