`Train`-ing the waste management industry

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Courtesy of EcoLog Environmental Resources Group

For the past 15 years, the waste management industry has done a commendable job in responding to public concern over environmental issues, especially the demand for more recycling. However, while waste reduction strategies are crucial, Canada's booming economy has meant increased production of construction and demolition (C&D) and institutional, commercial and industrial (IC&I) waste. As long as businesses run and developments build, this kind of waste will be produced.

In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone, more than seven million tonnes of C&D and IC&I waste is generated every year. (See Cover Story, page 8.) This is transported from the GTA and other parts of Southern Ontario to landfills in U. S. Border States on long-haul trucks, which emit high levels of CO2, cause serious wear-and-tear on the province's highways, and congest Canada-U. S. border crossings. In fact, the image of the idling long-haul truck at our border has (for both environmental activists and industry peers) come to symbolize what our industry needs to do much better, and that is to move waste in a cleaner, more efficient manner.

Besides air pollution and global warming concerns, haulers also have to contend with unpredictable truck transport costs which are vulnerable to U. S.-Canada border congestion and highly sensitive to rising fuel costs. For any kind of long-haul services, an alternative to trucks should be welcome.

That's where trains come into play. Just last month, Canada's very first rail transport model for C&D and IC&I waste was launched in Ontario, directly addressing corporate Canada's green concerns while simultaneously helping construction and demolition companies save money. The facility is in the CN MacMillan rail yard in Vaughan, Ontario.

Consider the numbers: one train (consisting of 12 specially designed railcars) can carry the equivalent of 300 truckloads (or 2,000 tonnes) of C&D and IC&I waste. Besides this increased transport efficiency, businesses save additional dollars through rail's superior fuel efficiency. A 500 kilometre trek made by a 12-railcar train uses the equivalent of only 4.5 litres of fuel per tonne. Transporting a million tonnes of C&D and IC&I waste by rail will remove approximately 37,000 truck trips annually from Southern Ontario highways. Over five years, there would mean 185,000 fewer truck trips, which would reduce CO2 emissions by 56 per cent.

There are also border issues to consider. Trucking C&D waste across an international border makes for long line-ups and equally long wait times. For clients, this wait time is built into their cost. With trains, such costs do not exist so clients experience significant savings. Fewer trucks mean less cross-border congestion and improved border security, something vitally important in this post-9/11 world.

First Waste Transload Inc. (FWTI) has invested heavily to establish North America's largest dedicated Transload Facility specifically designed to receive C&D and IC&I waste from short-haul trucks and transporting this waste in purpose-built rail cars by train. This innovative rail model helps industries and businesses to do their part in improving our air quality in such an efficient, low-cost manner that it simply makes good business sense to go green. This is of vital importance to any industry weighing the costs and benefits of adapting business practices to meet today's eco-friendly demands.

The very survival of the waste management industry depends upon our collective ability to demonstrate to public and private sectors -- as well as concerned citizens -- our sincerity in contributing to environmental solutions. Innovative thinking is required and the fortitude to educate the public on the limits of waste diversion in relation to our clients' operations.

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