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550,000 tonne recycling plant in Cambridge, Ontario to cost only $30 million

Waste Management, Inc recently announced that it was constructing a new recycling plant in Cambridge, Ontario. The story appeared in Solid Waste and Recycling magazine

The announcement is of interest to Durham Region for a number of reasons:

  • the size: 550,000 tonnes - more than the total garbage collected in Durham
  • the cost: $30 million - about a tenth the cost of the incinerator
  • the timeframe: less than a year - recycling plants are generally regarded as good for the environment and don't require extensive approvals processes
  • the range of materials to be processed: in addition to the usual bluebox materials, it will separate and recycle construction waste, electronic waste and even hazardous materials like batteries and CFLs
  • the jobs: 80

Waste Management to construct recycling plant in Cambridge, Ontario

from Solid Waste & Recycling magazine


Waste Management, Inc. recently announced that it will build a single-stream recycling centre in Cambridge, Ontario that will process up to 550,000 tonnes of material a year.

Waste Management has already acquired the property and existing plant at 505 Conestoga Blvd. and will now begin a major retrofit.

Scheduled to begin operations in fall 2012, it will be the largest private-sector recycling facility in Ontario. The total investment is expected to be $30 million.

Approximately 80 local green jobs will be created at the 126,000-squate-foot plant when it becomes operational, and this employment figure could increase as recycling volumes grow over time.

As well, the area economy will get a boost during the construction and operation of the centre as Waste Management sources local suppliers and contractors wherever possible.

A single-stream recycling facility (SSRF) eliminates the need for customers to separate recyclable materials prior to collection since sophisticated material-handling equipment inside the SSRF handles the task. This makes it easier for customers to recycle.

Experience has shown that recyclable material volumes increase an average of 20 to 30 per cent after customers switch to single-stream collection.

The Cambridge plant will use advanced technology -- such as magnets, screens and optical scanners -- to separate, sort and process a variety of materials, including:

-residential and commercial cardboard, paper, glass, plastics, and metals

-construction and demolition waste materials

-electronic equipment, such as cell phones and computers

-compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries.

Zero Waste

In order to defeat the incinerator, Regional Councillors needed to be satisfied that there was a readily available alternative - which in Durham's case, because of prior decisions, could not be landfill.

The EA did only a cursory analysis of Zero Waste and rejected it - this was back in 2005 when Durham's own diversion was at 36%. Numerous councillors scoffed at the idea.

To achieve anywhere near Zero Waste, you need to change the mindset. Garbage is not something to be disposed of , it is raw materials (albeit messy) to be recovered and reused.

The first step is to analyse what garbage consists of. The following chart is primarily from a report prepared by Golder Associates for the Region in early 2009.

The most important take-away from this list is that there is nothing here that is labelled garbage. In fact the vast majority of it would have been less than a year old at the point it was discarded. There is nothing here that we can't identify easily and figure out what it is made of.

The other take-away is that everything here can be recycled and MOST IMPORTANTLY, EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST IS CURRENTLY BEING RECYCLED SOMEWHERE. So if it's being recycled somewhere, why not here. ZERO WASTE IS ACHIEVABLE.

Many municipalities are actively pursuing Zero Waste, most notably San Francisco which is currently at 78% and aiming for Zero in 2020.

In order to ensure that Durham regional councillors are aware that zero waste can be achieved, DurhamCLEAR president, Doug Anderson, made a presentation to Regional Council on April 6, 2011 using these Durham-specific numbers and spelling out in some detail how it could be achieved.

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