Waste could turn to treasure

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Ecology North's Kim Rapati presents the proposed composting scheme for Hay River and the South Slave during a session at the NWT Centennial Library last week.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Ecology North’s Kim Rapati presents the proposed composting scheme for Hay River and the South Slave during a session at the NWT Centennial Library last week.

Paper waste and chicken poop may are not usually considered valuable but that might change if plans for a composting plant come to fruition.

“It’s an interesting project,” said Ecology North’s Kim Rapati. “It’s got lots of potential, it just needs a few more things to fall into place.”

Choice North, Polar Eggs producer is looking to partner with Ecology North and the municipality to divert paper away from the landfill and into a composting facility, proposed for the same area as the current chicken manure dumping grounds. The chemical composition of the two would make an ideal pairing for high-quality compost that could then be sold back to the growing number of gardeners in the area.

“I’ve been looking, and I can’t find any other industrial barn partnering with a municipality for a composting project,” said Rapati, who spearheaded the effort. “We could be a great example for other towns.”

Under the current proposal, the equipment, facility and resulting product would belong to Choice North and would mean two more jobs. The material would be arranged into windrows and would take one summer of active composting and one summer to cure, according to Rapati,.

“It’s been really great working with facilities like the Yellowknife dump,” she said. “It’s a completely different approach to waste management. You’re trying to create something, to let biological processes happen, instead of trying to make something disappear.”

She also said that recycling paper in the North isn’t really cost effective, but composting it certainly is.

Currently, the biggest hurdle Rapati and Choice North are facing is the acquisition of the land on which to make the compost, but she is hopeful things will be sorted out quickly and a pilot project could be in place as soon as this spring. According to Rapati, the municipality is willing to help collect the paper and cardboard waste, but it would be up to Choice North to haul it all to the site.

Rapati said the project would take pretty much every scrap of waste paper and cardboard Hay River produces and acknowledged that there is no way they could recover that much from one community alone. She suggested other communities like Fort Resolution and Fort Smith might also contribute to the effort.

But the amount of paper waste may be a point of contention in other ways. Though Todd Pittman, the director of public works for the town, said anything that diverts waste from the landfill is a good thing, he has his own plans for paper waste.

The municipality has commissioned a feasibility report for a new water treatment plant that could include a biomass burning unit to heat the water.

“It would take all the paper Hay River throws out, diverted and put towards the plant’s operations to make it work,” he said, adding that the town has budgeted $150,000 for fuel to heat the water for the current plant this year.

“About 35 per cent of the waste in the landfill right now is paper and cardboard,” he said. “This is certainly an opportunity to relieve some of the pressure on our facility and at the end of the day, anything we can divert out of the landfill is a positive thing.”

-Sarah Ladik