Sylvan Lake embraces 'fluff' as future of waste management

The town of Sylvan Lake says it could save $227,000 each year with a new waste conversion system that turns household and medical waste into "fluff."

Technology turns municipal and medical waste into a pure hydrocarbon product that can be converted to energy.

The Town of Sylvan Lake is betting on waste conversion systems like this from Fogdog Energy as the future of waste management. (Supplied/Marlon Lee)

The Town of Sylvan Lake, Alta., says it could save $227,000 each year with a new waste conversion system that turns household and medical waste into "fluff."

The town signed an agreement in December with Fogdog Energy Solutions. Instead of burying waste in a landfill, the company says it can convert solid municipal and medical waste into a pure hydrocarbon product it calls "fluff."

The "fluff" can then be converted to fuel or electricity for use in other industries.

The technology is being used in Europe, said Fogdog President Marlon Lee, but this is the first time it will be used in Canada for both municipal and medical waste conversion.

The town still needs approval from Alberta Environment before it can upgrade its current waste management facility with the new equipment. 

If it is approved, residents would no longer need to separate their organic waste from recyclables. Everything would go through a seven-step system that chops, grinds and heats the waste to produce the "fluff" in less than 30 minutes without incineration.

"It's not an expensive process, and you can use that energy for something positive," Lee said. "These technologies can pretty much solve all of the waste scenarios possible."

These technologies can pretty much solve all of the waste scenarios possible.- Marlon Lee, Fogdog

The converter can handle almost all waste including glass and metal, except for contaminated soil. The process essentially eliminates the need for a landfill.

If approved by Alberta Environment, it would take about two years to bring the new technology into effect and would save the town about $227,000 each year, said Chief Administrative Officer Wally Ferris.

Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre said the town was approached by Fogdog and they have been in discussion with the company for a few years.

He's heard positive feedback from residents about the plan, he said. 

"It's exciting for us because we get to be on the forefront of this change in technology when it comes to municipal solid waste," McIntyre said. 

"It really checks two boxes for us. It gives us that service that our residents and our municipality will expect in the removal and the treatment of their municipal solid waste, but also helps us to do that in a responsible way where we're no longer contributing to landfill volumes."

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