Integrated waste management programs rely on a multifaceted approach to improving waste collection, diversion and reduction efforts. The Terrace Area Integrated Solid Waste Management Program (TAISWMP), which is the integrated plan in place for the Terrance area of Kitimat-Stikine in the northwestern part of British Columbia, was carefully drafted over two decades to best meet the needs of area residents and businesses.
Thanks to the comprehensive approach of the TAISWMP, the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine was recognized by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) as the 2018 Gold Winner of the association’s Integrated Solid Waste Management System Excellence Award. This award recognizes programs that exemplify excellence in the management and operations of integrated solid waste management systems through a combination of waste minimization, source reduction, recycling and public education efforts.
The start of something big
According to Roger Tooms, manager of works and services at the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, the district drafted the TAISWMP to focus on protecting the environment, reducing waste that ended up in landfill and providing a more convenient platform for generators. Users of the TAISWMP include single-family and multifamily homes, schools, medical facilities and various other businesses.
“While completing our Solid Waste Management Plan in 1995, we learned from stakeholders how important it was for the Regional District to improve our waste management habits [through] protection of the environment and increased waste diversion tactics. Stakeholders continued to express this preference throughout the 20-year development of the TAISWMP.”
In 2014, the Regional District Board confirmed project plans and authorized the design of two state-of-the-art facilities—the Forceman Ridge Waste Management Facility and the Thornhill Transfer Station—to aid in the program’s efforts. These facilities were conceptualized after thorough site investigations to ensure they would co-exist with the surrounding environment.
In addition to the construction of the new facilities, a comprehensive three-stream curbside collection program was developed to support the goals of the TAISWMP. The collection program provides organics, recyclables and garbage collection for 6,738 single-family homes. The estimated population for the entire service area is 19,073 and the program has an annual budget of $3 million.
A closer look
The Thornhill Transfer Station was constructed at the site of the recently closed Thornhill Landfill in Terrace and serves as the staging location for residential curbside and commercial haulers.
According to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine’s 2018 Excellence Award entry, the Thornhill Transfer Station consists of “an attendant gate house; scales; a ‘Z-Wall’ for residential drop off, including bins for organics, garbage, metal and construction materials; a multi-bay building with a tip floor for garbage from commercial and curbside collection haulers; and an organics collection area for commercial and curbside haulers.”
Waste deposited on the tip floor is pushed into a trailer from Delhi, Ontario-based Titan Trailers Inc. with a capacity of 69 cubic meters and then compacted. Once the trailer is at capacity, it is transported to the Forceman Ridge facility.
The Forceman Ridge facility, which was commissioned in November 2016, was designed in accordance with a bylaw governing residents and businesses that requires the separation of organic materials, metal, cardboard, tires and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) materials from general garbage, such as printed paper and packaging materials, which are collected as curbside recycling.
Some of the notable features of the Forceman Ridge Waste Management Facility include:
- an advanced GORE Composting facility that converts organics into Class A compost,
- a double-lined engineered landfill,
- a five-step leachate treatment system,
- a septage receiving facility with engineered filtration beds for efficient dewatering, and
- the use of Revelstoke Iron Grizzly, Revelstoke, British Columbia, steel plates as alternative daily cover to reduce the need for soil cover.
To help pay for the program and facilities, disposal costs were adjusted to reflect the new services.
“The integrated system includes a three-stream curbside collection system for most residents that is $200 annually,” Tooms says. “When we commissioned the recently implemented solid waste services, waste disposal at the new facilities included another stakeholder preference—a user-pay philosophy. Residents are now required to pay a minimum of $10 per disposal. The convenient curbside program includes unlimited recycling and organics. In addition, our education and awareness program provides residents with the information required to divert most household wastes through the EPR depot system and other diversion opportunities, such as not-for-profit services. It is now much easier for residents to avoid using the transfer station and [avoid paying the] related cost.”
While the new program is more convenient and provides a platform that is more environmentally responsible for users, it is more costly. According to Tooms, today’s services are on average two to three times more expensive than in 2015.
Educating the masses
Due to all the changes presented by the adoption of the TAISWMP, both the public and commercial operators had to be educated on proper recycling and diversion practices.
“We developed strategies to manage our planned organics and recyclables for the residential and institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) sectors,” Tooms says. “In addition, we prepared a transition plan to manage the change for all stakeholders, including haulers, contractors and Regional District staff. Our servicing plan includes ongoing ICI and multifamily facility visits to assist with participation and ongoing updates to our education and awareness program.”
Tooms says the solid waste services team had information booths at seven events in 2018 that informed residents of: materials accepted in curbside recycling and organics collection; depot drop-off materials and depot locations; the health and environmental risks of burning garbage; how recycling is regulated in British Columbia through EPR; and tips on backyard composting and water conservation.
Additionally, Tooms says the district offers classroom instruction to all interested schools that includes an overview of what can be recycled, why recycling and composting is important and interactive games aimed at teaching participants about proper recycling practices. The classroom sessions are for children in grades one through three, but Tooms hopes they’ll carry some of these best practices home to their families to help improve residential diversion rates.
In September 2017, the Regional District contracted with a third-party consulting firm to conduct a detailed waste composition audit at the Thornhill Transfer Station. During the audit, the city of Terrace’s curbside collection, Regional District Greater Terrace Area’s curbside collection, residential drop-off and ICI waste was analyzed to identify restricted landfill items, such as recyclables and hazardous materials.
According to Tooms, the results of the composition study show that residents of Terrace are achieving diversion rates similar to other Canadian jurisdictions that have pursued three-stream curbside collection, including metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District of British Columbia. Additionally, data shows that area participants diverted 1,363 metric tons of waste in 2017, which equates to 2,044 metric tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases removed from landfill.
While the audit showed the progress the program is making, it also allowed the district to target those who were in noncompliance with the new mandates.
“Information obtained from the audit allowed for targeted education for waste streams that could use the most improvement. This resulted in more visits to businesses and industries that generate large volumes of cardboard and/or organic waste,” Tooms says. “Additional audits have been conducted in-house by Regional District staff on greater Terrace area curbside recycling collection. Two audits have been completed to date, with a focus on program education. These audits were conducted by travelling the collection routes and performing visual inspections of the recyclables set out for collection. When bags of recycling contained incorrect materials, the address was noted and the resident later received a letter outlining what the problem materials were, how to properly dispose of them in the future and where to find additional program information.”
Tooms says that so far, the Regional District has emphasized education over financial penalties for those in noncompliance, with a hope that practices will become refined with clearer instruction.
Although buy-in hasn’t happened overnight with all parties affected by the program, Tooms says that the framework put in place by the TAISWMP will allow the community to better manage its waste in an environmentally conscious way for years to come.
“[The program has] absolutely been a success. The board built an improved system its communities can be proud of,” he says. “We heard a common theme from participants throughout the planning process—protect our environment. Listening paid dividends that will benefit our community for many generations.”