Edmonton pushing for regional garbage plan sooner rather than later

Edmonton Waste Management Centre.
Edmonton Waste Management Centre. Kendra Slugoski, Global News

Edmonton knows it has to build a new anaerobic digestion facility to compost all the organic waste that will be wheeled to the curbside in green bins once the city converts to its new waste management collection system. The question is: how big?

That’s why Mayor Don Iveson is pushing for a metro-wide solution, especially now that Edmonton city council ratified the decision Oct. 4 by its utilities committee to tear down the rotting composter building for $12 million.

READ MORE: Edmonton composter building to cost $12M to tear down

“We’re all in hurry-up mode to explore: should we build 13 digesters or should we build two or three together in partnership with our neighbours?” Iveson told reporters after the vote.

“I presume that there’s greater efficiency in doing that but we need to actually work that through and test that and build some consensus around that.

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“Ultimately, if we do do that, I think that would be an example of shared investment for shared benefit.”

Designing how big to build what they have in mind is behind schedule, the mayor said.

“It’s the development and design of the project that’s behind because we’ve been doing a lot of work to make sure that we build the right facility at the right size and the right place.

“One of the factors in the delay is that we’re having active conversations with our neighbours about whether we should have 13 different answers to garbage processing or maybe a more integrated approach at the regional level.

“That might mean changes to the scope of the digester.”

Iveson said he and the other mayors are regularly in talks about a metropolitan regional servicing plan, where waste management is topping the priority list of services that need to be coordinated.

READ MORE: City councillor raises concerns about financial agreements around next Edmonton composter

“Strategically, sometimes you want to take your time to answer those questions rather than: ‘Well, we’re going to build the digester that we think we need today,’ and then go another 50 years before talking about regional integration.

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“So I’m fine that it’s taking longer to decide what the right answer is for the digester so that we get it right in a regional context.”

He said more study is needed because the metro-wide answers aren’t clear yet.

“Maybe it makes sense to build one really big one at the waste management centre that takes some regional waste as well, but I’m open to the possibility in chatting with some of the other mayors that perhaps a regional approach means a couple of different facilities, and perhaps one of them is outside of our boundaries but some of our waste goes to it. We’ve got to think in a borderless way and really adopt that metropolitan mindset when looking at these things.”

The roof at the aeration hall rotted from the heat and chemicals used in the composting process, and city staff determined this spring that the building could not be saved. Careful demolition of the facility is slated to begin later this fall, and will last through most of next year.