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Wetaskiwin County initiative could reduce garbage going to the dump by 90%

The future of waste processing is coming to the County of Wetaskiwin. It’s a Canada-made solution that uses steam to break down trash and keep it out of the landfill.

It’s the work of Sustane Technologies Inc., a company from Nova Scotia.

“We unmake the paper and packaging, we turn it back into the little fibres and by doing that, and by shrinking the plastic part down into little hard pieces, we’re able to screen them in different directions. And we do it completely, automatically,” said Peter Vinall, CEO of Sustane Technologies Inc.

“This technology can recirculate about 90 per cent of what would now go into a landfill or be burned in an incinerator.”

Every tonne of waste that goes through the system cuts greenhouse gas emissions by two to three tonnes.

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Recycled plastic bits in a promotional video from Sustane Technologies Inc. Courtesy: Sustane Technologies Inc.

The landfills the county in central Alberta currently uses are nearing the end of their life cycles.

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“Our residents have asked for recycling solutions, but many times it’s using up a lot of water, they’re getting rejected at the end site because they’re too dirty and it’s just not an economical process,” said Reeve Josh Bishop.

“Landfills aren’t long-term solutions, they’re long-term problems in terms of our indebtedness and the lifecycle of about 100 years after you cap it before you can really reclaim it,” Bishop said.

Bishop said the county has been looking a solution for a number of years.

The question was how the county could make a cost-effective partnership that will have a net benefit to ratepayers and the people in the area.

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The municipality landed on Sustane Technologies.

“Their fees are actually competitive with landfill rates so it’s a win-win situation,” said Bishop. “That separates Sustane from the competition.”

The process recovers nonrenewable resources instead of losing them forever to a landfill.

“Especially when you look at plastics and diesel, we don’t really make more of that, so we’ve got to keep the stuff that we do have and recycle it,” Bishop said.

Sustane has approval from the Canada Food Inspection Agency to use the output of biomass from their process as a fertilizer and even take plastic and convert it back into oil.

“That oil can be used for energy, but even better can be used to make more plastic right?  To circularize plastic — that end-of-life plastic — and preserve the valuable fossil fuel that we have,” Vinall said.

Biofuel diesel in a promotional video from Sustane Technologies Inc. Courtesy: Sustane Technologies Inc.

Even the trucks bringing waste to the facility will be able to run on the diesel created from it, Bishop said.

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Once built, the facility will bring around 30 skilled jobs in the region.

“These will be engineer-type positions — they’ll have some lower classifications as well, but it’s a good economic driver for the region,” Bishop said.

“(This facility) will extend the life of every single landfill in the area.”

They’re even looking at mining existing landfills.

“That’s where we’re headed, technologies like Sustane’s are going to ultimately take us there where waste is considered a resource,” said Vinall.

“There’s some certain things coming down from the province now with extended producer responsibility, where they’re trying to force manufacturers and end-users to recycle this stuff in some manner and this is a solution that takes care all of it — this is really probably a solution that the province should be looking at quite heavily this would solve a lot of the plastics problems,” said Bishop.

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