Landfill Biocover Comes to Alberta

If you work in Landfill Waste Management, this is for you!

The Problem:

A large amount of organic material ends up in landfills. As it breaks down, it generates a combination of methane gas and carbon dioxide. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), 25 times more detrimental to the environment than carbon dioxide. In fact, 25% of all Canadian, human-generated CH4 emissions come from landfill sites, alone.

The LFG Solution:

The most common GHG mitigation strategy for landfill sites today ­­­­­is an Active Landfill Gas Energy (LFG) system. LFG’s are an effective but costly way to reduce GHG emissions. The process entails collecting, processing and treating the methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage, then either using it directly as electricity, or upgrading it to pipeline-grade gas where it’s sold as a fuel source to power vehicles or heat buildings.

While LFG systems work beautifully, they can be costly to build and maintain. As a result, such systems are often neither practical nor feasible for smaller landfill sites. What’s the alternative?

The Biocover Solution:

Biocover is a landfill top-cover that typically consists of diverse compost materials, mechanically/biologically treated waste, dewatered sewage sludge or yard waste. The biological material functions as a vast bio-filter for GHG’s. Biocover is basically a way to exploit the natural process of microbial methane oxidation through improving the landfill cover design.

Unlike LFG systems, Biocover is a passive, alternative landfill closure system that addresses infiltration issues while reducing GHG emissions at the same time. It’s technology that’s low tech, inexpensive, with low operational and maintenance costs, making it both ideal and easily applied to small landfill sites.

If that’s not enough, Landfill Biocover also has the potential to create offset emissions credits, effectively creating an additional revenue stream for Waste Management Facilities.

Leduc Biocover Pilot Project:

In partnership with the Government of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the Leduc and District Waste Management Authority, TetraTech, one of the world’s leading engineering consultancies, developed a landfill biocover pilot project in 2018, in Leduc, Alberta.

The results of the pilot were brilliant: from start to finish, the Leduc landfill site saw a remarkable 90% reduction in methane GHG emissions.

The criteria for biocover materials used in the Leduc project was that they had to be locally available, low cost, ensure sufficient water evaporation functionality and yield high methane oxidation. In the end, the primary biocovers chosen were topsoil and screened, organic waste compost that would otherwise be landfilled.­­­­­­­­­­

The Results:

The result of the Tetra Tech Biocover Landfill Pilot is the hat-trick win of landfill waste management environmental stewardship. The Biocover:

  • effectively diverted organic waste
  • created a use for a previously landfilled by-product, and
  • reduced fugitive GHG emissions in a measurable way.

And like every excellent salesperson might say: But wait! There’s more!

As part of this project, Tetra Tech also developed a protocol to quantify emissions reductions and create carbon credits in Alberta from these caps. What does this look like in practice?

  1. An industrial facility needs to meet it’s emissions reductions requirements
  2. The facility invests in an emission reduction project that produces carbon credits
  3. The facility receives carbon credits from its investment

The expectation is that the Alberta Climate Change Office will announce sometime in 2019 that this protocol has been accepted for development.  In this scenario, one carbon credit is the equivalent to one tonne of GHG emissions reductions. Landfill sites create the credits using the established protocol then sell them to industry to help meet emissions compliance regulations.

With Landfill Biocover in Alberta, Landfill Waste Management Facilities win, Industry wins and we all win when GHG emissions are reduced.