(Manuel Carrilos/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton's recycling facility is getting a $15.7-million technology facelift this year to increase its capacity and efficiency of processing cardboard, paper, plastics, glass and metal.
Processing equipment at the 22-year-old materials recovery facility such as motors, conveyors and screens is nearing the end of its life.
Neil Kjelland, the city's director of sustainable waste processing, said the current system relies heavily on hand-sorting materials into separate streams.
The city plans to install optical sorters that scan and mechanically sort different types of materials rather than requiring manual sorting, Kjelland said in an email Thursday.
The project includes an upgraded paper/cardboard fibre line to extend the life of and increase the capacity of the system, a city budget report says.
The existing process has limited diversion rates in recent years to 21 to 36 per cent, whereas the city's goal is to divert 90 per cent of residential waste from landfills, the report says.
Ultimately, the improved plant should be able to process 86,000 tonnes of recyclables per year, up from the facility's current capacity of 50,000 tonnes, Kjelland said.
The retrofit is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.
The city's financial and corporate services branch is asking council to approve a $9.3 million loan to complete the project.
City council is set to review the request next week.
The partial upgrade would address the most critical equipment and facility issues by 2021, the report says.
"It's just part of the ongoing upkeep of our system," Coun. Ben Henderson said Thursday in an interview.
"It's not as if it's come crashing to a halt or we're not recycling right now," Henderson said. "This is us anticipating that it's going to need an overhaul over time, these things do."
The city originally planned to do the retrofit in two phases, to be completed in 2027.
But upgrading the technology while replacing parts made sense, Kjelland said, "specifically due to the emergence of new sorting technologies and more stringent market specifications for the quality of material being recovered."
The city will evaluate the need for further upgrades after the retrofit is complete, as part of waste services' future budget planning, Kjelland said.
The recycling plant retrofit comes as the city starts to roll out its new bin system for residential waste.
Between March and August this year, single-family and some multi-unit homes will receive a garbage cart, a regular-sized food scraps cart and a small food scraps pail.
The city's website details sorting information and when residents will receive their carts.
The new system is expected to increase the amount of recyclables collected in Edmonton.
In 2020, the City of Edmonton collected approximately 42,000 tonnes of recycle material even though the current plant can process 50,000.