INNOVATION November-December 2013

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The project team, which included risk assessment specialists from Golder Associates, challenged that assumption, says Douglas. “Golder did a risk assessment on each landfill that was closed and asked ‘what are the real risks here? Is there a risk of leachate contaminating shellfish or animals or ground water, things like that?’ And what we found was the only real risk from the landfills was with people and animals having direct contact with the exposed waste. For example, dogs foraging at the landfill and bringing contaminants back to the community.” As a result of these investigations and assessments, Conestoga- Rovers designed and supervised the construction of sustainable, permanent covers for several of the landfills. These designs incorporated locally sourced rock, soils, and organics salvaged from land clearing operations. Costs ranged from about $100,000

to $400,000 per landfill, whereas a conventional closure would be three to four times that. The company also innovated alongside local contractors to meet local challenges when it came time to build waste transfer stations. In Bella Bella, for instance, bears, ravens, and eagles were attracted to the garbage, so the waste transfer station had to be fully enclosed, with holes plugged with fish netting to keep out birds, while steel plating was installed along the lower part of the fencing to keep out bears. Coastal communities also have space restrictions. In Bella Bella, this meant building the transfer station on the same footprint as the former landfill, while in Hesquiaht, the building that once housed an incinerator is now home to a free store and recycling centre. Rescuing Recyclables While engineering solutions worked well for onsite challenges, “the main challenge has always been transportation,” says Douglas. Without roads, it means waste and recyclables have to be shipped out, and that’s costly. “It’s a high-volume, low- weight issue,” he explains. Again, local solutions were found. On the central coast, that’s meant piggybacking on the monthly fuel barge to take recyclables and waste to the Lower Mainland. Industry accepts the recyclables while the waste is put on rail cars and transported to Washington State. To increase efficiency, some of the communities have installed balers to compact cardboard and crush plastic bottles and cans before shipping them out. On the West coast of Vancouver Island, the communities of Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, and Opitsaht jointly contract SonBird Refuse and Recycling of Ucluelet to ship their waste and recyclables to Vancouver Island, where the waste is then trucked to the West Coast Landfill. Getting rid of an ugly landfill or stinky incinerator is one thing. But embracing recycling is another step altogether. So how’s it going? According to Douglas, Chu, and Frank, the success is remarkable. Says Douglas: “It’s pretty amazing that in the space of a year, in Ahousaht’s case, they went from zero to 50% [diversion],” adding that’s better than recycling rates in nearby Tofino. Chu likens the jump from haphazardly dumping or burning waste to recycling, reducing, re-using, and even composting to what’s happening in Asia with telecommunications, “where they’re just skipping the copper wire altogether and going to cellular…It’s very inspiring.” People in Ahousaht are proud of how far they’ve come so quickly, says Pam Frank. “It took Bella Bella three years to get to where they were. It took us one year. We basically said to Bella Bella, ‘what did you do?’” Still, she concedes, it wasn’t always easy; especially when it came to convincing people they had to wash empty cans and plastic containers in order for them to be recycled. “We had a few people that were content with the way things were and said, ‘you can’t tell me what to do’.” The band contracted the Raincoast Education Society to go into the school and provide workshops for everyone

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