Local residents who cut their lawn and toss the clippings into the garbage dumpsters around town are being asked to rethink their actions – that waste can now be turned into electricity via Growing Power Hairy Hill, a facility near Vegreville gaining worldwide recognition for using livestock waste and compost organics in their power generation facility.
The brainchild of Public Works and Utilities Manager Dave MacDonald and Infrastructure and Planning Director Dale Lefebvre, the concept of recycling grass clippings at GPHH has a major benefit to the town’s landfill operation by reducing an estimated 10 tons of waste this year alone, adding years onto the facility at a fraction of the cost of setting up an independent composting operation.
“The lifespan of our landfill is sitting at around 60 years,” Lefebvre said. “This process will add an estimated 12 years to that just with diverting lawn clippings.” In summertime months, roughly 40 per cent of the contents of dumpsters is grass cuttings from people mowing lawns. The town currently has 38 dumpsters spread out between 150 lanes in town, and based on the response from the community they plan to get more compost dumpsters added next year.
“That estimated lifespan is also based on landfill practices from six years ago,” Lefebvre added. “With this approach to composting and other practices it can easily go beyond 12 years. Recycling efforts have also doubled within the past five years. The margin gets better with all the programs the town is running to sort waste properly.”
According to MacDonald, since the onset of the recycling program in 2008 the town has diverted 21,605,000 lbs of recyclable materials. These products consist of electronic waste, metal, paint, batteries, concrete, glass, tires, baled products and lastly household hazardous waste. An average highway tractor trailer can carry approximately 40,000lbs. “If these recycled products where loaded into tractor trailers and lined up on the highway bumper to bumper they would stretch for 8 kilometers,” MacDonald said.
Had the town looked at setting up their own composting facility at the landfill, the costs could have ranged anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 with training, equipment, construction and maintenance and operating costs. With a tippage fee of just $23 per ton, the town can pay to have their organics disposed of at GPHH for under $3,000 per year. “It’s a fraction of the cost, and it gets better knowing that in a matter of days those lawn clippings are powering a house somewhere,” Lefebvre said. The tippage fee will increase at a rate of 2.5 per cent per year to accommodate increasing costs down the road.
Previously, lawn clippings were used to fill low spots in the landfill once they broke down into composted material.
Vegreville may be one of the few towns able to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by GPHH. The town is not aware of other municipalities that are doing the same thing, though it’s possible in southern Alberta there may be something similar set up with the feed lot operations to recycle animal waste.
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