Posted July 7, 2013
In the Saturday edition of the local daily newspaper, there appeared the first of a six-part series on Guelph’s checkered 13-year history of waste management. Predictably, it will be a schmooze series extolling how successful Mayor Farbridge’s waste management has become in the past five years.
But has it?
The first installment was a background piece of the history of the Farbridge inspired plan to divert waste from the landfill and witness the city “clawing its way back to the top of the waste management game.”
So, a $52 million experiment to completely change the way waste is collected and processed has now become a “game”. Is the administration’s objective now, according to the headline of the first part of the series, to win “the game”?
Is the prize the Stanley Cup of waste management?
The Aecon consultant’s report on the Organic Waste Processing Plant’s (OWPF) 2012 performance reveals what really occurred. The operation failed to meet its production targets.
The Dunlop Road waste management facility that includes the $34 million OWPF and recycling operations processed a total of 105,915 tonnes in 2012.
Here’s the breakdown:
OWPF processed 17,338 tonnes or 16 per cent of the total
The recycling operation processed 40,037 tonnes or 38 per cent
Some 8,163 tonnes of brush, leaves and yard waste was handled or 8 per cent
Some 40,377 tonnes or 38 per cent processed mixed solid and medical waste and contaminated soil. (Note , this material may include pre-treated solid sewage waste that goes into the landfill).
The newspaper series states the city achieved a “quite remarkable 68 per cent diversion rate.” The basis of this statement is not explained.
The old adage, liars figure and figures lie, comes to mind.
The Aecon study stated that 48,715 tonnes were shopped to the landfill while another 105 tonnes was sent to a Niagara Falls, NY waste facility. That results in 46.093 per cent of the total processed waste of 105,915 tonnes was diverted last year to the landfill.
Now Guelph’s garbage destined for the landfill will be shipped under the terms of a new contract with Waste Management, to a site that is 181 kms from the city.
Is this part of the administration’s strategy to reduce the amount of garbage destined to the landfill and excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?
But let’s parse the numbers a little more. The OWPF is designed to handle 30,000 tonnes of wet waste a year. Of that total, The City of Guelph produces 10,000 tonnes while the Region of Waterloo is contracted to supply a minimum of 20,000 tonnes per year.
In its first full year of operation, the operation fell far short of that target. The break-in period of the facility was delayed by deficiencies in the plant design and equipment. To add insult to injury, the city imported wet waste from Hamilton to test the OWPF operation.
Undeterred, the Mayor and her waste management chief, Janet Laird, pressed on to put the plant in full operational mode. Meanwhile the Guelph taxpayers, who built the plant, are left wondering why their organic wet waste plant was built to accommodate the needs of a neighbouring municipality.
There is also the spectre of competition from a new automated recycling plant operated by Waste Management in Cambridge that is sucking business away from the Guelph facility. The Guelph operation is labour intensive as the material is sorted by hand.
Was this an example of high stakes gamesmanship or a monumental ego trip by the Mayor and her cohorts? Perhaps both.
There is no evidence that a cost/benefit analysis was undertaken before the OWPF project was launched. There are no financial details of the contract with plant contractor Maple Reinders and Aim Environmental, its subsidiary company operating the plant and selling its capacity.
Taxpayers have been left in the dark. The Public Liaison Committee is composed of a mixture of concerned citizens and non-resident members. Its focus has been on the operations of the plant as opposed to the costs of operation. It was not exposed to the financial details of the operation.
So the next five days will see a manufactured newsprint journey explaining what a great job the city is doing to manage our garbage.
If the first of the series is intended to be the scene setter, this exercise will turn out to be the longest running public relations snow job we have seen in the local daily in sometime.
And they call this a game?