Tour of Hartland Landfill – July 20, 2019
By Jennifer Edwards, A.Ag.
On a beautiful, sunny Saturday in July, the Victoria and Islands branch hosted a tour of the Hartland Landfill and Recycling Facility in the Capital Regional District (CRD). Twenty Agrologists signed up to learn the answer to the question: What exactly happens to our garbage and recycling after it is tossed away?
Our tour started in the Hartland Learning Centre where Avril Gilmour Ford, the Environmental Education Liaison with the CRD, provided a presentation on waste disposal trends and programs. Avril informed us that the amount of solid waste disposed of at the landfill per resident has been increasing in the CRD and is now at 380 kg waste per person per year - well above the provincial goal of 350 kg of waste per person per year. She also let us know about how important it is to follow the directions provided by our local governments or waste haulers. In other words, don’t be a ‘wish-cycler’, hoping that questionable material will end up disposed of properly. Contamination of a recycling load can result in safety issues for the employees who collect or sort the recyclables and can wreak havoc on the sorting facilities machinery. If a batch of recycling is contaminated, the company that collects the recycling may decide that it is more economical to dump the materials at the landfill rather than sort the materials. In addition to checking our local government’s website for info, Avril recommended the website www.myrecyclopedia.ca to help find out how to dispose of items when we are unsure.
Avril presented a summary of advancements in waste management as well. She explained how BC’s stewardship programs have encouraged producers to take more responsibility for products ranging from tires to electronics to paints. These programs have been a big success, as select items part of a stewardship program are banned from the landfill.
For the next part of our visit, we boarded a bus for a tour ‘behind the scenes’ at the landfill and recycling facility. Our first stop was the residential waste and recycling drop off area. The disposal of select stewardship items is free at the landfill, as we saw several vehicles unloading their household and hazardous wastes (e.g. batteries), appliances and mattresses glass and all types of plastics(grocery bags, ziplocks, film wrappers, yes, they take it all!) into the designated areas. The CRD has an area to drop off bicycles that are fixed up and provided to charities. There is also a paint exchange, where residents can leave their unfinished paint on a shelf for other residents to pick up for free.
The bus then took us to the active face of the landfill. We watched garbage trucks dump their loads of garbage, and the compactor hard at work. The active phase is a relatively small area, and this is where it was possible to see the items that could not be diverted from the landfill. Plastics appeared to be the obvious waste stream with torn bags and other hard plastic items scattered around the active face area. However, in Avril’s slide show, we learned that a 2016 Solid Waste Stream Composition identified the four largest components entering the land fill are organics (21%), wood & wood products (17%), paper & paperboard (15%) and plastics (14%). The organic stream is estimated to be 70% food with about 10% still edible. Gulls, bald eagles, starlings and crows were all flying nearby, although the CRD uses raptors from the Pacific Northwest Raptors centre to scare away birds at the site, keeping the overall numbers of birds and other pests relatively low.
The next stop was the leachate lagoon and landfill gas electricity plant. Our group had many questions for Avril about the technical aspects of both leachate management and the gas-to-electricity plant. The lagoon captures the leachate that is produced from rainwater percolating through the landfill waste. The leachate is monitored and tested, and then released to the sanitary sewer as long as it complies with regulatory requirements. It was another reminder for the group about how important it is to keep hazardous waste items out of the landfill.
We also discussed decomposing garbage producing landfill gases, which are collected via a network of wells and pipes. In 2003, the landfill gas-to-electricity plant was built to use the captured gas to produce nearly 1.6 megawatts of electricity that is fed into the BC Hydro grid. Currently, the landfill produces more gas than the engine at the plant can handle, and so the CRD is looking at options to increase the energy production from the landfill gas. On our way out we passed by a ‘reclaimed area’ with a young forest located along the base of an older phase, gravel and tarp covered landfill slope – showing the result of managed lands at Hartland.
At the end of our tour, we gathered for a quick group photo, and the branch executive members attending (Director at Large – Russ Horton, P.Ag.; Director South - Christina Sinnemann, P.Ag., PD Coordinator, Daniel Lamhonwah, and AAg coordinator- Wanda Miller, P.Ag., P.Geo.,) presented Avril with a gift from the Victoria and Islands branch to thank her for providing our group with interesting insight into the waste and recycling process. A big thank-you also to Daniel Lamhonwah, one of our two Victoria and Islands Brach PD executives, for organizing the fun and well attended event! View more photos of the Hartland Landfill Tour PD event.