Ottawa·Photos

Ever wonder where all your green bin slop goes?

Renewi Canada, the company that processes food and yard waste from Ottawa green bins, has finished a $8.5-million upgrade at its facility in the rural south end and can now handle the dog poop and plastic bags that come its way. Here's a look inside.

Renewi Canada has done $8.5M in upgrades to accept pet waste in plastic bags

Renewi, the company that processes the city's organic waste, has done multiple upgrades to sort out the plastic bags from compostable material. General Manager Mike Leopold spoke to CBC News about the changes. 1:31

The company that processes food and yard waste from Ottawa green bins has finished a $8.5-million upgrade at its facility in the rural south end and can now handle the dog poop and plastic bags that come its way.

Renewi Canada, formerly called Orgaworld under its previous owners, has retrofitted its shredder so it can rip the bags open.

It's also installed new equipment to manage odours so it only emits a "peaty" smell.

Neither Renewi nor the City of Ottawa can say whether allowing people to compost plastic bags has led to more people using green bins.

They're waiting to analyze tonnage from November to March, when the quantity of green bin matter doesn't fluctuate because of yard waste.

"Everything we've done with the expansion is obviously to help the Ottawa green bin program, but we've made it very robust knowing what volumes could come from the province of Ontario as well," said general manager Mike Leopold.

Renewi, which was recently bought by a Dutch investment firm, hopes to seek contracts with outlying towns if Ontario requires municipalities to keep food waste out of landfills by 2022, he said.

On Thursday, the company opened its doors to the media for a rare behind-the-scenes look at what happens to your organic waste after it's hauled from the curb. 

The CBC's Kate Porter visits the facility that processes all the green bin waste that is collected across the city. 8:30
Renewi's facility is located at the end of Hawthorne Road in the city's rural south. The company was formerly Orgaworld before a change in ownership in 2017. (Kate Porter/CBC)
An average of 60 to 80 trucks from all over Ottawa arrive every day at Renewi's facility to dump organic waste. During peak times in spring and fall, as many as 100 trucks arrive to handle the extra yard waste and grass clippings. (Kate Porter/CBC)
The plant's shredder was retrofitted and its teeth set differently so that it could tear apart plastic bags, which the City of Ottawa began to allow in green bins on July 2, 2019. (Kate Porter/CBC)
The shredder can both rip apart bags and break down trees without grinding them into small pieces, explains general manager Mike Leopold. 'We don't want that,' he says. 'We want to keep it... light and fluffy.' (Kate Porter/CBC)
This pile of waste has already been through the process once but hasn't fully broken down into compost. It gets blended with new waste off the truck, while bugs help it decompose, creating heat. 'Even in the summertime you'd still see that [steam] coming up top,' notes Leopold. (Kate Porter/CBC)
The organics are then loaded into one of eight bays to dry out. Holes in the slatted floor push air up to speed up the process so it takes 14 days rather than 60. Leopold explains that for every tonne of organics brought to the facility, half goes out as water vapour. (Kate Porter/CBC)
After breaking down for two weeks, the load is fed through this big new machine, where it's sorted into three piles: contaminants that get sent to the landfill, matter that's not quite compost yet, and pieces smaller than 10 millimetres that are ready to be sold as compost. (Kate Porter/CBC)
People have thrown plastic jugs, large wood chunks, and even syringes into their green bins. In the end, about seven per cent of green bin contents are contaminants destined for the landfill — including many compostable coffee pods and bags, which aren't "here long enough" to decompose, says Leopold. (Kate Porter/CBC)
Here's the finished compost. Renewi ends up with a product it calls NASM, or non-agricultural sourced material, that it sells to farms to boost the nitrogen and phosphorus in soil. Its compost would need to be screened several more times to be suitable for residents to use. (Kate Porter/CBC)
Many of the plant's upgrades were intended to better clean the air of the odours from food waste breaking down, not to mention dog feces. Those upgrades included adding two more ammonia scrubbers, seen here. (Kate Porter/CBC)
Twice a day, Roy Hefler, the facility's operations manager takes a whiff of the moisture evaporating out the stack. Hefler is on guard to make sure the odour doesn't upset the facility's neighbours. 'I describe it as peat-like or woody,' he says. (Kate Porter/CBC)

About the Author

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past 15 years, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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