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Turning garbage to fuel and powering a city with the sun: Canada celebrates World Environment Day

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Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Thursday, June 5, 2014, 1:41 PM - In the spirit of World Environment Day two Canadian cities have plenty to celebrate.

Edmonton, Alta., recently opened the world’s first municipal Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals facility, increasing the amount of garbage that is diverted from local landfills and recycled. The plant will convert municipal trash into biofuels and chemicals. 

Mayor Don Iveson describes it as “environmental leadership meeting entrepreneurship” noting the plant’s potential to increase the amount of garbage diverted from landfills from 60 to 90 per cent by 2016. The facility is owned by Enerkem, a company based in Quebec. 

“What comes to us is what is non-recyclable,” Vincent Chorent, CEO of Enerkem, said. “We break down the waste using heat and convert it into a gas that is as clean as natural gas, and then we convert that gas into liquid methanol.”

Enerkem will handle operations, and the City of Edmonton is to supply 100,000 tonnes of non-recyclable municipal waste per year, including matter that can’t be composted.

Jim Schubert, Acting Director of Business Planning and Operations for the City of Edmonton, sees plenty of benefits for the near future.

“[I]t will be fuelling our vehicles, so this is a major game-changer in terms of waste management,” Schubert said. “[T]here’s lots of municipalities looking to see what we are doing, and I fully expect that once this is fully commissioned, there will be more of these types of facilities popping up,” he added.

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Over in Halifax, N.S., environmental innovation has already popped up. Instead of waste reproduction, the Halifax Regional Municipality is reproducing solar waves to generate power. In December 2012 Halifax Regional Council (HRC) approved a pilot program called “Solar City.”

The program provides homeowners an alternative water heating option via the installation of a solar water heater. Participants can finance the new water heater through a solar collector account with HRC.

As of 2014 the program has expanded to more than 250 homes. More solar thermal was installed in Halifax over the past year than the rest of Canada combined.

The Solar City model has been observed by cities across Canada. Toronto City Council recently invested 20 million dollars in a similar energy efficiency program.

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