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City presented with private-sector composting solutions

Recommendations for improvements to aging compost facilities delivered to municipal committee

3 min read
Sara Ericsson
caption Matt Keliher is the manager of solid waste for the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Sara Ericsson

Halifax’s solid waste manager says its compost facilities need regrowth and the municipality should allow the private sector to make proposals.

“It’s up to the market,” said Matt Keliher, “To innovate an update to Halifax’s aged composting facilities.”

Keliher made the presentation at city hall Thursday, where he said working with the private sector could mean better solutions to the city’s compost management issues.

“Making sure we pick the best (system) for Halifax is extremely important,” said Keliher. “That’s why (we’re) letting the market (tell) us what they can do rather than us tell them what we want.”

In 2011, regional council directed staff to achieve “a more fiscally sustainable delivery” of the solid waste system.

The municipality’s two composting facilities are currently operated by New Era Technologies Ltd. and Miller Waste Systems Inc. Both facilities meet regulations set out by the provincial Environment Department in 1996, but these are set to expire in three years.

That’s how long the city has to update the plants to fit new guidelines issued in 2010.

Keliher’s report included an additional report by engineering consultant GHD. That document outlined eight options for consideration by the municipality’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee.

  • the projects are labelled 1a, 2a, 3a, and 1b, 2b, and 3b
    • 3b includes three different options, referring to three separate locations


The cost of the options for an updated compost system range from $148-209 per tonne, but Keliher says market solutions could mean the municipality saves money.

Gordon Helm, a spokesperson for waste management company Nova Waste Solutions Inc., spoke at the meeting as well. He said the municipality could use industry-provided “environmental technology solutions”  rather than “creating costly systems” itself.

For Keliher, it’s all about keeping the city’s options open.

“One company might have a particular technology in terms of the engineering — how it gets those organics into the compost — and another company might have something similar but better,” he said.

Multi-million-dollar project

Keliher says changes to the municipality’s composting system  are a multi-million-dollar project that will cost it almost $250 million over the next 20 years.

“We want to make sure that whoever bids on the project fully understands what the project is about and that way there’s no secrets or surprises down the road,” he said.

Factors to consider

Both facilities have reached their combined capacity of 50,000 tonnes of compost. More space is required to meet the needs of ever-increasing demand.

Keliher said capacities must be raised to accommodate up to 75,000 tonnes.

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