A demolition waste sorting facility at the Okanagan Falls landfill that’s believed unique to the B.C. Interior is hungry for its first batch of materials.
Up to 10 workers will be assisted by machinery as they sort materials into individual waste streams that can then be recycled, thereby saving room in local dumps.
Although the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen owns the landfill, it has contracted out operation to Wildstone Environmental, a deal worth about $350,000 per year.
RDOS solid waste supervisor Don Hamilton, who publicly unveiled the site new equipment last week, said the sorting facility is expected to divert up to 5,000 tonnes of material annually from landfills.
“What we’re hoping is we can direct most of the (region’s) demolition material to this site,” he said.
Along with getting the facility built, the RDOS also had to enact a regulatory framework that encourages demolition waste to go to Okanagan Falls and ensure it’s free of hazardous materials so it can be handled safely by the workers.
Hamilton noted such a sorting plant was first proposed in the solid waste management plan prepared for the RDOS in 1996 when “recycling was cutting edge” and the business case for it wasn’t yet solid. Now, however, there are companies willing to buy all manner of recycled materials that can help offset operational costs.
The sorting facility, which boasts spectacular views of Skaha Lake and farmland below, will be fed by an excavator that will place material onto a conveyor belt, which sends the waste onto a sort of screen that allows anything under 10 centimetres to fall away.
Larger items will pass onto another belt from which workers on an elevated platform will pluck the different recyclables, like wood, asphalt or concrete, and drop them into separate bins below.
Staffing will be provided by Penticton and Area Co-operative Enterprises, a non-profit that helps people recovering from mental illness ease back into the workforce.
“The idea is to get people back and engaged, get some cash into their pocket so they can start feeling better… and life starts to look way better,” said PACE operations manager James Cunningham.
“The regional district has been a huge supporter of PACE,” he added, noting one of the group’s contracts saw it tear apart 6,000 mattresses for recycling at RDOS landfills last year alone.
“This isn’t pretend work,” Cunningham said.
It’s still unknown when the new Okanagan Falls equipment will process its first batch of recyclables.
Wildstone site manager Charlie Fisher said his workers will stockpile a large amount of waste, then call in PACE “so we can provide consistent employment for a period of time. You can’t have somebody come in once a week to do this.”
Fisher said the design of the sorting plant, which was built at an unspecified, but “considerable,” cost to Wildstone, is based on one in the Lower Mainland, but he’s not aware of any others elsewhere in the Interior.