City recommends $50 million expansion for overcapacity composting plant

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Calgary’s composting facility is operating well beyond capacity, and a committee of council unanimously agreed on Friday that it was time to invest $50 million in its expansion.

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The composting centre, originally built in 2017, was designed to process 100,000 tonnes of organic material per year. But city officials said demand has exceeded forecasts every year since, to the point that it was processing more than 30% more waste than expected.

Sarah Smith, manager of infrastructure and program management for the City of Calgary, told the council’s infrastructure and planning committee that this means critical equipment is running harder than expected, with no headroom. for maintenance, which endangers composting operations. Despite the research done to build the composting facility, it still handled more material than expected.

“If we knew then what we’re doing now, we would have built this larger facility to begin with,” Smith said.

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She said adding an additional 60,000 tonnes per year of capacity is “absolutely necessary” to accommodate typical operations.

Scaling up operations will cost $50 million, including $10 million from federal gas tax funding and an additional $10 million from a contingency fund.

The remaining $30 million would come from borrowing, and the monthly green cart fee would increase by 20 cents from 2023 to 2026 to cover this cost.

This will not be confirmed until the city council considers the next four-year budget in the fall.

A city committee says Calgary's green bin facility needs upgrading.
A city committee says Calgary’s green bin facility needs upgrading. Photo by Postmedia File

Based on a review by Ernst & Young, city officials recommended expanding current operations rather than outsourcing a private contractor to build an additional factory outside city limits. The consultants concluded that not only will the expansion cost less, but it will also do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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The expansion includes the addition of anaerobic digestion technology, which produces biogas that the city will then capture and sell to generate revenue. This will offset operating costs by up to 20%.

The Board will give the expansion proposal a final review at a meeting next month.

Smith said Calgary’s green cart program resulted in a 64% decrease in black cart volumes between 2016 and 2020, significantly reducing materials that would otherwise be in a landfill. And while officials underestimated interest in the composting program, she said the end result was good news.

“I think a lot of municipalities are surprised at the reception Calgarians have had for the program,” Smith said.

“Our ultimate goal is to waste less and keep more, and Calgarians are really using their cart to take appropriate material and divert it from their blue cart and their black cart.”

masmith@postmedia.com
Twitter: @meksmith

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