Normally, landfill sites and paper mills are targets for environmental groups but things are different, in Thorold.
“We really got into it because of odour control. Obviously don’t want to annoy our neighbours any more than we need to” says Mike Watt from Walker Environmental Group. And so what they got into instead was green energy. The huge landfill site generates hundreds of thousands of tons of natural methane gas each year, from decomposing garbage. Almost half of that methane is carbon dioxide – greenhouse gas, that used to go into the environment. Now, a large portion of it, goes into a pipeline instead. “If you eliminated 79 -80 thousand cars that would have the same impact as this project has, so it’s a pretty big impact.” says Mr. Watt
Less than four kilometres away, at the other end of the pipeline, is Resolute Forest Products. “We manufacture newsprint. A hundred percent recycled newsprint. We’re the only hundred percent recycled newspaper producer in North America” says Gord Cole. Resolute, burns the methane from the landfill, and generates power in steam boilers. The carbon dioxide is captured and treated, reducing emissions by 375-thousand tons per year. But potentially- this is only the beginning.
Mike Watt estimates that they could generate even more green power from this facility – up to 17 or 18 megawatts in fact. The problem is they have no outlet for the power. The provincial government won’t give them a contract, to send it back to the power grid. “It seems like a waste to send that material up the stack. Although you’re eliminating the methane and that’s good from a greenhouse gas perspective, you really want to be using it for something.”
Katrina Kroeze from the Niagara Sustainable Initiative is hopeful “certainly we hope to see future initiatives similar to that, and re-purposing waste to energy is a topic that is starting to come in the province of Ontario, and hopefully we’ll see that continue.”
All three organizations are actively trying to expand this practice. Resolute Forest Products is looking at a similar system for a plant in Quebec. Walker Environmental, is taking the concept to other landfill sites, and looking at the possibilities for clean power generation, and the Niagara Sustainability Initiative is working with both companies, and the provincial government to make both existing, and future landfill sites, a little more sustainable.