July 5, 2019 5:54 pm

Durham York Energy Centre converts garbage into electricity

WATCH: A facility that burns Durham's garbage to produce electricity is looking to expand. Aaron Streck looks into how the plant works and whether there are environmental concerns regarding the process.

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Each year, 140,000 tonnes of garbage generated in the Durham and York regions avoid the landfill. Instead, it comes to the Durham York Energy Centre where it’s converted into electricity.

One tonne of trash can supply enough electricity to power a home for a year.

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“All this waste is burned [at a] very high temperature, more than 1000 degrees to destroy all the contaminants. Through this process, we produce steam which is put through the turbine, where it produces electricity,” said Mirka Januszkiewicz, Region of Durham solid waste management director.

Right now, there is 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of garbage piled up at the Durham York Energy Centre. Before the facility, the garbage would have gone to landfills outside the region and the country.

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“In the past, Region of Durham relied on other municipalities like Toronto and Michigan to get rid of our problem,” said Januszkiewicz.

But the regional council decided the energy centre would be the best option to deal with the waste themselves. Something environmental professor at Trent University Dr. Stephen Hill says has its pros and cons.

“They both have impacts, they’re not zero impacts, they’re manageable impacts both in the case of landfills and in the case of waste energy facilities. I think communities do need to make the decision,” said Hill.

Hill adds this can be mostly avoidable by recycling and reusing.

The site has been up and running since 2016, with an expected lifespan of 50 years. Officials hope to expand so they can accommodate 160,000 tonnes of garbage by this time next year and 250,000 tonnes in 10 to 15 years.

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“We are growing really fast in Region of Durham, we generate more waste than this facility can currently handle, that once again to be true to principle that we take care of our own garbage our own destiny, this facility has to be expanded,” said Januszkiewicz.

There are hundreds of energy facilities like the Durham York Energy Centre around the world.

In Durham, officials are hoping the only thing they need to send to the landfill over the next five decades is the leftover ash.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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