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[GreenYes] FW: Toronto's troubled Food Scrops compost program

Response from my forward….


þ Pete Pasterz, NCQRP

Cabarrus County Recycling and HHW

PO BOX 707

Concord, NC  28026

If you're not for ZERO Waste, how much Waste ARE you for?


From: Zero Waste Forum [mailto:CONS-EQST-WASTE-FORUM@no.address] On Behalf Of Helen Spiegelman
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: Toronto's troubled Food Scrops compost program
Importance: High


Hello Maureen and ZW Cttee members,

Maureen rightly says that we should not gloss over failures of Toronto's composting program.

However, I strongly urge that these criticisms be framed in a broader argument that is a challenge to municipalities and their contracted services to solve the problems.

In our community the bad news from Toronto is being invoked by the incineration industry to convince nervous politicians that they should invest in "proven" mass burn incinerators instead.

I hope Maureen and others on this list share my view that the risks from incineration are far greater than the risks from source-separated organics composting. I am convinced that it is theoretically possible to manage organics safely, and that if we do so we can reduce the environmental impact of our waste significantly. I am equally convinced that it is theoretically impossible to manage waste safely in a mass-burn incinerator.

Please let us align our efforts around pressuring municipal engineers and politicians to develop effective, sound composting systems, rather than smearing all composting by association with Toronto's failing plants.


At 07:04 AM 10/10/2008, Maureen Reilly wrote:

Dear Sierra ZW

I am again dismayed to see Toronto's troubled food scraps compost program misrepresented to no less than 3 list serves (ZW, GreenYes, .  It cannot do the green movement any good to pretend that a program that has spawned successful lawsuits against its facilities, bankrupcy of two more, and outrage against the stench in every community it go to.

Toronto's food waste compost troubles do need to be examined for where it has failed and these failings need act as a teaching instrument in other cities.  To lie about the program is to encourage similar disasters in other cities.

Toronto is sending their food waste to Newmarket - which is under court order to operate at only 10% capacity, and so is the Dufferin facility.  You can read the court order at a link below.

The digested foodwaste is then sent out to other unhappy communities to 'compost' or finish.  All Treat Farms is one of those places, and the neighbors to the facility in Arthur Ontario are up in arms and the Ministry of Environment is having to set up community meets to discuss plans to stop the stink from the facility

see: Composter Battles Odour Problems

"In a report to City Council in advance of the June 2007 decision, Toronto's solid waste staff noted that “experience to date with contracted processing capacity teaches that disruptions and failures are common, and that the facilities are often unable to respond with adequate contingency measures.” This has led the City to sign a number of short-term SSO management contracts, which staff feels “is not sustainable in the long-term.”

(for full story see:

The Toronto food waste compost was sent eight hours trucking route down the highway to the Province of Quebec at GSI and Fertival for composting.  Both of these facilities are now bankrupt and closed. And how is a 16 hour truck trip consistent with environmental goals or Zero Waste?

The public is very willing to participate in these waste diversion programs.  But the City of Toronto has failed to manage those food wastes.  Toronto has abandoned food waste into two far off bankrupted out of province compost facilities, got court orders against two more compost facilities it was using in Toronto and Newmarket, and  has raised the ire of the residents of Arthur Ontario home of yet another troubled compost operation.

I can't find one place Toronto is putting its food waste that isn't either bankrupt or outraged by stink.

This is NOT a successful or sustainable program.  You are inviting disaster to tell people to go do likewise.

Maureen Reilly

Sludge Watch

Here is more info on the Newmarket facility where Toronto intended to  send most of its food waste (SSO = Source Separated Organics)
The new owners were court ordered to shut the facility and the facility is now running at only 10 percent capacity. York Region was trucking source separated organics 7 hours away into Quebec when that solution stopped.

The Region has now turned to incineration of its organics. see the story Jun 26, 2008

Why? because they couldn't get the compost facility to run without a stench to the neighbors.
The story you relate about compost in Newmarket is wholesale fiction.

This sorry history points to the need for strong permit controls on siting and air emissions and quality controls on compost operations... not 'voluntary' pollution controls on compost facility.

The Newmarket Ontario facility you refer to was causing odors and complaints when run by Canada Composting. Then it was bought and run by Halton Recycling. Then Halton Recylcing was court ordered shut by a judge acting on a lawsuit filed by the municipality and closed in 2007

Read the press (or just google "Newmarket compost problems")

Newmarket sets municipal law precedent

NEWMARKET, Ontario, October 3, 2006 — On Friday, September 29, the Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket concluded that the odours emanating from Halton Recycling Ltd. (Halton) are a public nuisance and ordered the plant to close until June 28, 2007. The closure will take effect 90 days from the Court’s decision date, which means Halton’s premises will be closed on December 30, 2006 unless Halton successfully demonstrates to the Court that there is no longer a public nuisance.

You can read court documents here:

York Region turns to incineration of organic waste:

Green bin program hits major setback

Regional News
Jun 26, 2008 10:11 PM

By: Patrick Mangion

York Region has resorted to incinerating as much as one-third of its organic waste in what can be considered a major setback to the celebrated green bin program.

Composting of curbside collected green bin material is the preferred process.

Instead, 500 tonnes of the 1,500 tonnes of organic waste collected weekly in York Region is being shipped to Covanta Niagara L.P. in New York, where it is burned to create electricity and steam in the Niagara area, said Mike Birett, York’s manager of waste diversion.

The region has aggressively promoted source separated organics diversion as a cornerstone of diverting waste from landfills.

However, the region began trucking some of its green bin waste to New York in March and will continue to do so for at least another three months, Mr. Birett said.

The problem originated at GSI Environment Inc., an organics processing plant in Quebec, where York Region had been shipping about 11,000 tonnes of organic waste each year.

Due to operational and permit issues, the Quebec Environment Ministry curtailed operations, leaving York Region to seek a new processor.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a huge blow. It was unwelcomed news,” Mr. Birett said, adding the region is still on pace to meet its 65-per-cent landfill diversion rate by 2010.

When the blue box program was introduced several years ago, municipalities were challenged with finding end markets for the material. Experts have suggested there will be similar growing pains with the green bin.

In Toronto, the green bin program has been delayed in apartment buildings because the city can’t find anyone to process the additional waste.

The City of Guelph has been sending all 10,000 tonnes of its organic waste to Covanta since 2006 after it was unable to find a composting facility to process its waste.

But Mr. Birett defended York’s aggressive plans.

“Unless we show leadership, we’re never going to meet our diversion target. Somebody has to be first out of the gate and take a chance. There will always be challenges,” he said.

Planning for York’s green bin program began eight years ago. It was launched in the region’s six northern municipalities last September after starting in the south end of the region.

York is expected to spend $10.1 million processing green bin waste this year, including $65 per tonne shipping waste to the New York incinerator.

However, before GSI experienced difficulties, the region had been paying $135 per tonne to process organics at the Quebec facility.

But York Region may have moved too quickly with its green bin program, said Donald Dewees, an economics professor at the University of Toronto, specializing in recycling and waste management.

“Leadership is a good thing. But you have to ask, how confident are you, over time, you will find uses for the material you’re recycling. You should go very slowly if there’s no end market,” he said.

“Politicians like getting credit for doing the right thing ... the green thing. Starting a recycling program looks pretty good,” Mr. Dewees said.

Given the cost of recycling programs are higher than landfill, when taxpayer-funded initiatives don’t live up to expectations, decision-makers can expect a community backlash, Mr. Dewees said.

“I think (York Region residents) are going to be upset. People are willing to participate in the blue box and green bin programs because they want to do the right thing. It’s a way for you, personally, to make a difference and help the environment,” he said.

The decision to incinerate York’s organic waste was difficult, but it was the right call, said Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor, also a member of the solid waste committee.

Sending organic waste to an electricity-from-waste plant for six months was better than landfilling excess waste, he said.

Newmarket’s Halton Recycling was expected to handle a significant amount of the region’s organic waste, however, the company and its predecessor, Canada Composting Inc., encountered continuous operational issues.

Nearby businesses and residents complained of pungent odours and, as a result, Halton operations have been restricted, since the fall of 2006, to 10 per cent of its total capacity.

Meanwhile, the region has several options to ensure its organic waste is processed at composting facilities, rather than incinerated.

Last spring, the region signed a 29-month contract with a Welland, ON, composting facility. It takes effect Aug. 1 and is expected to eliminate York’s need for incineration of organic waste.

York has an option for an additional 30,000 tonnes of organic waste processing capacity by December from one of its existing contractors.

York is also considering a partnership with Dufferin County to build an organic waste processing facility with 40,000 tonnes of capacity a year available to York Region.

From: Pete Pasterz <PAPasterz@no.address>
Reply-To: Zero Waste Forum <CONS-EQST-WASTE-FORUM@no.address>
Subject: FW:  organics treatment in big cities
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2008 08:13:07 -0400

Please excuse any cross postings...

þ Pete Pasterz, NCQRP

Cabarrus County Recycling and HHW

PO BOX 707

Concord, NC  28026

If you're not for ZERO Waste, how much Waste ARE you for?

From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On Behalf Of Brenda Platt
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 6:34 AM
To: Cecilia Allen
Cc: gaia-members@no.address; GreenYes@no.address
Subject: [html][heur] [GreenYes] Re: [GAIA] Info request: organics treatment in big cities
Importance: Low

Hi Cecilia,

Toronto has a great program. Yard trimmings are composted. Food scraps (along with diapers, pet waste, kitty litter, tissues/paper towels) are collected separately each week and anaerobically digested. The city cut back trash collection to once every other week. This has greatly increased participation in the organics collection program (which is 95% on a monthly basis). The City has a 70% diversion goal and is at 42% citywide currently.  Single-family households have reached above 60% diversion (510,000 single-family households).  Toronto is Canada's largest city and has 2.6 million people. The program serves 1 million. The City cites 3 Bs of success:  Bins, Bags, and Biweekly trash collection. Regarding the bags, the city allows residents to put their food scraps in regular polyethylene plastic bags.  Regarding Bins, the city provides two bins for the organics collection, green 45 liter bin, which is set out at the curb, as well as a smaller bin for use in the kitchen.  This bin was specially designed for the program (to facilitate dish scraping for instance) and can be wall mounted if desired (but easily removed for use).

The digester used currently was originally designed to handle 25,000 metric tons per year but handles 40,000.  It cost $10 million but only flares the methane.  The city is in the process of building two more, each at $22 million and with capacities of 55,000 tons per year. These new digesters will recover the methane for energy.  Currently there are 4 stages to the anaerobic digestion system:  (1) centrifugal removal of gross contaminants and plastic bags with hydropulpers, (2) anaerobic digestion of material in 8 to 10 days, (3) screw press digestate to solid form, (4) final finishing of digestate at windrow site with leaf and other yard trimmings.

The city is still rolling out this program.  Starting Nov. 1st, it will be targeting multi-family dwellings.  Starting Nov. 1st the city will begin paying for the program by  becoming a Solid Waste Utiliy and using pay-as-you-throw fees rather than through the previous tax base.  23% of homes have signed up for the small trash bin, 8% for the large one, and the rest for the medium size.  Grass clippings, by the way, are not permitted in the yard waste program.  Residents must grasscycle and the city offers mulching mowers at a subsidized rate.


Brenda Platt
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
927 15th Street, NW, 4th Fl
Washington, DC  20005
202-898-1610 ext. 230

On Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 11:51 AM, Cecilia Allen <cecilia@no.address> wrote:

Hi all,

We´re looking for experiences of treatment of organic municipal solid waste in big cities, as part of our efforts to make Buenos Aires city start treating its organic waste as a key implementation of its ZW law. Do you know of big cities that are treating the organic fraction of their MSW through compost or anaerobic digestion? Or do you know of good compost or anaerobic digestion plants in your countries that are treating a big amount of source segregated organics? We have info on San Francisco already, and we are looking for other examples.  We are suggesting strategies at different scales, and we lack information on plants with high treatment capacity.

Thank you in advance,


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