I'd like to call our meeting to order. This is meeting number 26 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
We're embarking today on our study of disposal of solid waste. We have with us four different witnesses: Plasco Energy; Tomlinson Environmental; Mr. Douglas Cardinal, as an individual; and by video conference from Edmonton, Alberta, BioWaste to Energy for Canada Integration.
I think it's important for us as a committee to recognize the value of this study in how we deal with our waste in terms of what it does to our environment: our land, our water, and our air. I think that's the obvious reason this committee will study this issue. We have a bonus to the study in that we're looking at ways that disposing of some of this waste can lead to energy production.
I will comment at the outset that we expect votes in a few minutes, so we're going to proceed with opening statements and immediately after the votes we'll be back. Apologies to our witnesses, we'll give you a bit of a break. I don't know if there's time for coffee or not, but hopefully there will be.
We're going to start with Mr. Edmond Chiasson from Plasco Energy Group. We're giving each of you a 10-minute opening statement and after all the opening statements we will come back to questions from the members.
So from Plasco Energy, Edmond Chiasson, vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications, proceed, please.
Committee members, thank you very much for your kind invitation and for your interest and work in the important area of municipal waste management in Canada.
As mentioned, my name is Edmond Chiasson, and I should apologize that all of my remarks will be in English. Even though I have a nice Acadian name from Cape Breton Island, I did all of my studies in English, and somewhere along the way, English took over.
I've been with Plasco Energy Group for eight years. I have to say that as I've learned a great deal about the complex world of waste management and energy generation, not being either an engineer or a science person, even after eight years, I don't want to qualify myself as an expert on a particular technology. I'll put that on the table at the outset.
I'd like to make a first comment, though, for consideration, and it's the following. I think there's an undeniable reality in the world of waste management. That reality is that we, as a society—and not just restricted to Canada—haven't really done a great job of managing materials after we're ready to get rid of them. We haven't done a great job of designing products so as to minimize waste when they're finished their life cycle. We haven't really figured out how to reuse as many materials as we could, and we haven't figured out the best way at all times to recycle materials.
We've made some good efforts. We've made great progress in the last 30 or 40 years, but one fact remains. The predominant method of dealing with residual materials in the world today, including Canada, is to bury these materials in the ground. In Ontario, for example, last year, that was nine million tonnes. Think of how much garbage that is. At the end of the day, I think that digging a hole in the ground to dispose of material just doesn't feel right. There has to be a better way to deal with that.
What does it mean to do better than what we're doing now? At the outset, maybe we should set an objective for ourselves. Our experience at Plasco has been that in Canada, and in many other jurisdictions, when we're dealing with policy-makers, there seems to be a consensus on the objective of good waste management practice, and the objective is zero waste.
We, at Plasco, actually support that objective, and we hope to contribute to that objective. We believe our contribution can best be measured on the premise of technological innovation, which is of course one of the items referenced in your study. By that I mean, how can we try to recover more value from materials that we now landfill? Let's make sure that materials are redirected to their next best use, and just before the garbage truck heads to the dump, let's see what innovation can offer. That's where the story of Plasco begins.
Plasco Energy Group is an Ottawa-based company that has been developing its own technology to improve on current established waste to energy. Plasco's core process and intellectual property go back more than 25 years, including early partnerships with our own National Research Council. At its most basic, the Plasco process gasifies waste to a fuel, what we refer to as a synthetic gas, that can then be used to generate electricity with internal combustion engines. The key factor here for non-engineers like me to understand is that rather than burning waste—what's known as incineration, combustion, or energy from waste—Plasco uses heat to change waste materials from solids to a gas. Hopefully, we all remember that from science. That's known as gasification.
While gasification is a well-known and proven technology, it is not yet fully established as a commercial technology for managing municipal waste, where every garbage bag is different. That's why this is still in the innovation stage of the technology development cycle. However, we're finally ready for the stage of commercialization.
Why are we and others doing this? That's the power of innovation. We're doing this because we believe that gasification has the potential to generate more energy from one tonne of waste as compared to existing technology—more energy, more value. We believe superior environmental benefits can result from that, primarily cleaner air emissions, the recovery of water as opposed to the use of water, and less waste left for landfills.
The bottom line is that we believe technology offers something potentially better for many communities. That's why we're doing this. Of course, the potential of a disruptive technology could lead to a great business right here at home, jobs at home. Of course, it's not easy. What makes sense on paper doesn't always work in real life. But 25 years later, we believe we're about ready to go.
What has Plasco done so far? We have raised around $400 million to advance our technology, and more than half of that capital has been spent in Canada. That's a good story. We've created 130 full-time permanent good jobs, and we've worked with Canadian companies as key suppliers to building our system, and they'll be part of our supply chain when our technology goes to market.
We've done much market research on where there's a good fit for our technology. We've built a commercial-scale demonstration facility to prove our technology readiness, and we are now ready for that next big step of going to full commercial deployment. We're working with the City of Ottawa, the Government of Ontario, and the Government of Canada, for a first commercial facility right here in the City of Ottawa, and we're continuing to move forward on that project. We're also looking at project opportunities in other jurisdictions.
I'd like to emphasize my next point. While we like to tell our own story, we're very proud of our own story, we feel positive about something that's broader than that, which is the reality that Canada is developing a number of other technologies in this sector. It's not only about Plasco. Last year McKinsey and Company did a major study for National Resources Canada, your colleagues on that committee, and they basically determined that Canada has huge potential in this emerging space of energy from waste. We are hopeful that you will consider that report in your deliberations and in your work, because it actually suggests that Canada can become a global leader in this next stage of technology.
Some five years ago we were approached by the U.K. High Commissioner, Anthony Cary was his name, to come and visit our facility. We were advised that as part of its EU commitment to waste management targets and commitment to renewable energy, they were developing a new policy framework to support technologies such as Plasco. In our view, superb work has been done in the U.K. that may be of interest to Canadian policy-makers. It may be worth noting, if I can be so bold, that this policy thrust has been developed and is being implemented by a coalition government of Conservative Prime Minister Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg. So some policy matters can cross political lines maybe. As a result of this policy, there are significant development projects happening in the U.K., two of which are now in construction and involve more than $600 million of investment and 1,500 jobs. Other projects are following. Could this be a model for Canada? Does this suggest that if the policy is right, the private market will follow?
I sometimes say that 10 years ago there were five people working at Plasco in a small warehouse in east-end Ottawa trying to determine where they were going and whether they'd be in business in a few months. I'd like to report that Plasco is a good example that innovation is alive and well in Canada. With $400 million and 130 full-time jobs later, we believe we have one of the technologies that can bring the Canadian brand to the world.
We'd be happy to provide our thoughts on how the government could possibly assist an emerging industry in which Canadian companies could be global leaders. We may not be Google and developing a driverless car, but if our technologies can make a significant contribution to the world challenge of waste management and a cleaner planet, we will have done something good for the world.
Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair. Again I, too, thank you for the opportunity of addressing the committee here today.
My name is Michael Walters. I've been in the waste management business for over 40 years and in the last four years I've been with Tomlinson, R.W. Tomlinson. Over that period of time, I started back with the Ministry of the Environment in 1972 looking at permitting landfill sites. Then over that period of years I've been in involved in siting new landfill sites, designing landfills, and permitting in municipal as well as private sector operations. In the last little bit, I'm involved with the operation of private sector waste diversion operations which—I have to caution myself; I have to speak a little slower for my interpreter there—I'm quite excited about.
Now, as a guy who has been in the landfill business for over 40 years, I've always had an eye for the waste diversion side of life. I like getting involved in things that actually do something or do something tangible. I'm going to tell you about some of that here today in the time that I have. I'm going to focus primarily on the innovations and best management practices that we at Tomlinson have implemented specifically in the construction and demolition recycling area.
But before I get to that, I'll tell you a little bit about our company. It's quite interesting. I've worked with big companies, and Tomlinson is a big company that is unique. It's a family-run business. The quick overview is that they started operation in 1969, and we provide heavy civil construction services, environmental services, road construction services, road maintenance services, and site development services to our clients based in the institutional, municipal, commercial, and industrial sectors.
Tomlinson also provides construction equipment, construction material such as crushed aggregate, and you'll see hot asphalt and ready mix. Our primary area of operation is in the national capital region, but we're in eastern Ontario, we're in the Gatineau, and we're actually expanding.
Tomlinson is staffed with over 1,200 employees consisting of professional engineers, chartered accountants, technologists, technicians, highly skilled trades people, and clerical staff. Our size and our financial strength gives us the experience and expertise to manage many projects. The other thing is that being privately owned and operated gives us the flexibility to respond quickly to our clients' changing needs.
So now that I've given you an overview of our company, let me tell you about this initiative that we pioneered in the Ottawa area within our construction demolition waste. I call it C and D, construction demolition.
Back in about 2006 was when I first got very interested in this, and Tomlinson was already involved in doing this. Back in 2006, the City of Ottawa presented to council just an overview of the tonnage history in the City of Ottawa. At that time, there were over one million tonnes of waste generated within this area, of which about 320,000 tonnes was residential, coming from your homes. But there was also 240,000 tonnes of construction demolition material that was being generated, and the remaining 440,000 tonnes per year was industrial, commercial, and institutional. We hear a lot about it, but industrial, commercial, and institutional are our schools and our hospitals.
We're involved in all those areas that I mentioned, all waste diversion, but in the time that I have I'm going to zero in on the C and D market and tell you what we've been able to do. Based on the breakdown I just presented, over 25% of the waste that's generated within the City of Ottawa is from the construction demolition sector.
We at Tomlinson saw this as an important market to enter into back in 1997. We designed, permitted, and built our construction demolition recycling facility that complements our roll-off division that services this market. Our C and D, or construction demolition, recycling facility is located at the Springhill Landfill, which is within the city of Ottawa.
Over the past 17 years since the operation started, we've been able to perfect the process to the point where we historically divert over 70% of the material that comes to us. That's 70%.
This diverted material consists of white wood that is used in the agricultural and horticultural industry. It's especially used for cattle bedding. It has to meet a certain criteria or a certain spec to be used in that area. My other wood products we crate into a biomass that is used in the energy production industry. We recover ferrous and non-ferrous metal that's used in the scrap metal industry and we recover cardboard that we send to our material recovery facility in Carp for baling into the market. We take in concrete and brick and we crush it and make it into aggregate. Gypsum we recover and process and it's used in the agricultural area for soil amendment.
We as a company continue to see the opportunity in the C and D market in the Ottawa area. With over 240,000 tonnes being produced annually or 24% of the waste that we all produce in this municipality, we know there's a significant portion of waste stream that is still being sent to the landfill site. In order to increase the amount of diversion from the still unrecycled portion of the Ottawa C and D market waste stream, we at Tomlinson are currently permitting a new construction and demolition recycling facility that will be located in the west end of the city at our Carp waste recovery facility. This proposed new plant has already received a site plan approval from the City of Ottawa and we plan to receive the required Ministry of the Environment environmental compliance approval within the next few weeks. When this plant is constructed and operational in 2015 we will be able to receive and process and recycle an additional 100,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes of C and D material annually within this market. We are excited about this new initiative as it has the potential to increase our current diversion.
Our plant in Springhill takes in 51,000 tonnes and we divert 32,000 tonnes of that. With this additional plant that could come on, that 32,000 tonnes represents about 3.2% of the total material recycled within the city of Ottawa. If we are able to attract our tonnage, which we know is out there, to this new plant we'll increase our total waste diverted for the city of Ottawa in this area up to 10% to 13%. When you think of that it's a significant contribution. The nice thing about it is that it's not only good for the environment but it also makes economic and financial sense. We're quite excited about that. That's a nice marriage when you can have something to divert this and take this material and reuse it and have it financially stand on its own.
That's what I've presented here today. Later on this week you'll get the information that I've presented here, which gives you more specifics. It breaks it down to the different components of how much we recycle.
Thank you for inviting me.
I'm looking at what we're doing to our environment in general, which has always concerned me. I've practised architecture and planning for 50 years now, and I have worked a lot with the planning of communities and also with the indigenous people in the north.
The major concern I have is the fact that even in my lifetime—when I remember as a child in the west that I could swim in and drink the rivers and reach out and catch fish with my hands, and now all those rivers are polluted; they're nothing but sewers. So I ask, does what we're doing to the rivers, to the water, to our groundwater, what we're doing with landfill sites polluting our groundwater, not to mention the pollution of the land itself, make any sense?
We can't look at ourselves as separate from our environment, which we're doing. We feel that we're disconnected from our environment. There is us and there is our environment, but it's not so. We are part of our environment. You start polluting a river and you're polluting yourself and your children. You start polluting the environment and you're polluting your own body. We're passing on a legacy and a heritage to future generations that is very destructive to our humanity as a whole.
We should apply our technology and our thinking, we should apply our resources to cleaning up the mess that my generation has created, mostly, because it's happened in the last 50 years that we have really created so many problems with our environment, in the sense that we're feeling that internationally.
When I was working with communities up north—for example in the community Oujé-Bougoumou, a northern Cree village for the James Bay Cree—we were concerned about the amount of energy we were putting into that community. So, we used waste products from the plants to develop a boiler system and a district heating system throughout the community, providing hot water and hot water heat to every community, rather than using fossil fuels and oil that costs more and is more polluting to the environment.
There are other ways of using waste products, and one needs as much innovation as one can get, but it's almost like every time we come up with a new idea, instead of getting supported by government—and by the bureaucracies of government that have their own silos that don't talk to each other—it's very difficult to get any kind of support for any kind of innovation in the development and planning of innovative communities, and in innovative ways of solving energy problems.
I'm finding that we're not properly planning here in the south, but we're definitely not properly planning in the north, because in northern communities the environment is even more fragile.
You can walk across the tundra and come back five, six years later and your footprints are still on the tundra because the land is so fragile. If we want to develop the north in a harmonious way, in a way that doesn't destroy it, we have to change our habits in the southern part of the country because if we bring the mess that we are creating here to the north, it's even more devastating.
I'm so concerned about the fact that all of our systems, like our sewage systems, they all leak and they all pollute the aquifers. Under Ottawa, the whole groundwater is polluted by our sewage systems that are archaic, but we don't change these.
There are new technologies to develop even our sewage systems that are destroying and polluting the groundwater. The way we handle our sewage, with lagoons and everything, is so taxed sometimes because of the design of our sewage system, it runs into the lagoons. They open the lagoons, which overflow into the rivers and we pollute the rivers. All of our systems that we have need to be rethought and redesigned.
I've been working with Plasco for about 10 years since they first started. I think that is a wonderful solution, instead of landfill, to use that material for energy and not polluting the aquifers and the groundwater system.
Initiatives like that should be supported by the government because what we're doing is not at all economical. We say we're using this technology and that it is the most economical solution. The bottom line is: how much money and is it economical? It is not economical when you're creating so much damage to the environment, which you're going to have to clean up.
Up north, I was working with a community and they extracted copper out of that area and left a lake of sulphuric acid with a big fence around it and said, “Do not enter”. It would cost, I'm sure, $1 billion or $2 billion to clean that mess up. So, what are we doing, you see?
We have to rethink every technology that we're bringing up north. It doesn't make sense, in this archaic sewage system, to plan a whole community around the sewage system instead of the culture and the way that people should work and live together. It doesn't make sense to design a whole community around our anuses. We should be thinking of perhaps planning a community out of common sense.
We have to review these technologies. I'm always wanting to embrace technologies and petition new technologies in any project with which I am involved. For example, the Museum of Civilization that I worked on is geothermal and that was done 30 years ago, where we used the river water to heat and cool the building.
We need to embrace any technology and support any technology that cleans up the rivers and cleans up the earth because that is the legacy we should be passing on to our children.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the committee members for allowing me the opportunity to speak before you today via wonderful technology. I haven't done too many of these video conferences, so please bear with me if I'm looking at you from the corner of my eye or something.
I'm here today representing the BioWaste to Energy for Canada Integration Initiative, BECii, for short. I'll refer to it as BECii throughout because the long form of the acronym gets a little cumbersome over time, but does represent what we're all about.
I want to touch on a few points in the 10 minutes that you've offered me here. I'll speak about the purpose of BECii, the facilities we've put together, as well as the member organizations inside BECii, to give a bit of a flavour of what the organization does, can do, and is looking to do in the future. I'll also speak about our vision for biowaste with regard to municipal solid waste and industrial waste.
I don't think I'd be letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak, too early, by saying that we have a vision in this space of making landfills obsolete. It's at least a three-part solution, but uses currently available technology that our members could offer, as well as many others in the industrial space.
BECii is a not-for-profit organization, founded by a number of companies. While it's not for profit, it's unapologetically commercial and targeted to enhance the commercial success of its members. The member companies who founded BECii recognized fairly early on that there is no silver-bullet technology for biowaste. Any comprehensive solution to municipal waste, IC and I waste, C and D waste, all of the waste streams that end up in a landfill, requires at least multiple technologies working together in order to handle them completely .
Now, we also recognize that many new discoveries and technologies occur when existing technologies are interfaced. The intersection or the boundary effect of technology is something that we wanted to work to further. Therefore, BECii exists to promote and facilitate the integration and intersection of technologies in this space. In order to do that, we had to bring together a number of companies, which I'll name, but we also had to bring together some facilities. BECii is a virtual and physical organization—virtual, in that we can span anywhere in the country and conceivably anywhere in the world, through projects that member companies are doing in the integration with each other just about anywhere.
We do have physical location, at the site of the first integrated biorefinery in Canada, which is about 20 kilometres north of the community of Vegreville, Alberta. Some of you may be familiar with it because our very large immigration claims processing facility is also in Vegreville.
What we've been able to put together physically on site is a $3.5-million building envelope, which was co-funded by Western Economic Diversification, the Province of Alberta, and the industrial members who formed BECii. It comprises a fairly large wet lab space, pilot plant space, machine shops, working space for those who wear suits, classrooms, boardrooms, and a larger, what we'll call, a campus space for additional pilot plants. That collocation with the existing integrated biorefinery—and I'll touch on that in a bit because a biorefinery is one of our members—allows eventual commercial-scale integrations right there on site, where people are familiar with it.
With regard to the BECii members, there are 10 current members. I'll list them off fairly quickly, but you can find the list on our website. I'll start with Algae Grow and Harvest Technology Incorporated, which works on improved algae productions. It sounds out there, but it uses the recycled nutrients from waste to promote the growth of algae.
Biomass Technologies Incorporated works on soil improvement products and novel ways of agglomerating materials together, so they're on the back end of the value chain. Emergent Waste Solutions is a pyrolysis-focused company. They are not looking so much at pyrolysis, but at the energy product that can come from pyrolysis, and also the high-value co-products that come from activated carbon and carbon black.
Ever Green Ecological Services is a waste collection company. They are involved in the design of superior, high-efficiency materials recovery facilities, or MRFs—you will hear in your study that acronym fairly frequently—as well as recycling.
Grow the Energy Circle Limited, a.k.a. GrowTEC, is a zero-waste agriculture organization with its own integrated biorefinery under construction. MacEwan University is an academic partner of BECii, and does a lot of analytical chemistry for the members. Growing Power Hairy Hill is our host site for the BECii facility as well as Canada's first integrated biorefinery. It comprises the largest anaerobic digester facility in Canada. It takes up to 300 tonnes of material per day. That includes 200 tonnes of municipal solid waste-derived organics per day into anaerobic digestion and produces a very large amount of biogas sufficient to produce electricity to power a collocated 10-million gallon or 40-million litre per year ethanol facility.
Both of these facilities are also collocated with a very large cattle feed lot, and all the waste products, as you might imagine, from one proceed directly into the next so there are no low-value co-products of that integrated biorefinery. We call it the virtuous loop.
I'm happy to be an investor in that facility, and my company, Himark BioGas, of which I am the general manager in my day job, provides the anaerobic digestion technology for that facility. Himark is also a member of BECii, and we focus on anaerobic digestion technology. Specifically our technology allows for easier processing of municipal solid waste, what we would call a “traditionally contaminated” waste stream.
Other members are Symbiotic EnviroTek. They work on bioreactors for algae production specifically integrated with biorefineries, and tighten clean energy solutions and other pyrolysis organization with a focus solely on the production of biochar not on energy. It sounds like a lot, and you can maybe get a sense that we're painting a picture kind of like Monet with little flecks of paint here and there, and hopefully it will come into focus.
The BECii vision is to make landfills obsolete. That means, as our first speaker spoke very well of, that the recovery of highest-value materials should go in the place where they have their highest use. Now, I want to make the point that energy is generally the lowest-value use—so straight incineration, combustion, that sort of thing, is very much less desirable than recycling and bringing things back in the clean materials cycle. So the materials recovery facility becomes a linchpin in any of these solutions where we can create a divergence of the waste stream and bring it into, let's call it, the three macro categories.
Our three macro categories are organic, fresh, and MSW. So the organics are the stuff that will rot. For the recyclables, it should be obvious they have value; and “combustibles”. We like to see combustibles go to partial combustion, which is gasification or pyrolysis because of that low value of energy. You can get rid of stuff through gasification and pyrolysis, but you also get a higher value co-product coming out of it either char, activated carbon, or carbon black. These things are highly valuable.
Going back to organics, it shouldn't be a surprise you can recover energy in a renewable dispatchable form, reduce emissions both directly and from offsetting, and put some recalcitrant carbon leftovers to higher use. So there is a bit of recycling even in anaerobic digestion.
Most importantly we reduce the bad actors with anaerobic digestion, so you take away the odour, the ooze, the disease, and the pest animals such as rats, seagulls, and cockroaches from the equation. This allows a repositioning of waste management as a true commercial business, bringing it into the forefront rather than over the horizon where it has traditionally been forced to go.
There are some laudable policies out there. In my last 20 seconds I'll just talk about laudable policies that we can look at: landfill bans for organics or for other materials, as well as carbon pricing, as well as working very hard with antitrusts to promote competitive marketplaces in this space.
Thank you very much, members.