Trevor Barton has a wish list that would catapult waste disposal from the ghetto of unpleasant tasks into a dynamic manufacturing complex. And his enthusiasm is so infectious that you walk away persuaded that he just might be able to fulfill it.He’s the marketing officer for Guelph’s Wet-Dry Recycling Centre. « We’ve identified 35 items that we can recover from the waste we collect,’’ he says. « and we’re already retrieving and selling seventeen of them.’’
Since Guelph’s city council has instructed the centre to operate as a commercial business, only those items that can be sold are retrieved. The remainder still go to a local landfill.
He ships old newspapers to paper mills in Indiana and at Kapuskasing in northern Ontario, plastic containers and lids to Kentucky where they are made into septic systems, two-litre pop bottles to Montreal where they are used in the manufacture of rugs and T-shirts, corrugated cardboard to Wisconsin for use in making brown paper towels, steel to Hamilton’s steel manufacturing companies, aluminum to Oswego, New York, glass to Puslinch (southeast of Guelph), textiles to local manufacturers, milk and juice cartons to Wisconsin for the manufacture of bond writing paper, « a lot of other things to Toronto,’’ and compost to buyers within 30 kilometres of the centre.
« We almost had a New Zealand company locate here that wanted to recover polyvinyl chlorides and copper from Bell telephone cables, but we lost out to Los Angeles. We were prepared to give the company a year’s free materials, but they got a really good tax break in the States.’’
On his wish list are railway links to the centre, which is located on the eastern outskirts of Guelph. « These are low end materials that we’re recovering and shipping costs can kill you.’’
Also on his wish list is what he calls his urban-forest-without-trees paper mill complex. The centre could supply fibre to the mill, and if the mill located near the city’s sewage treatment plant, it could have methane gas as an energy source, and already-warmed water which is needed to dissolve vegetable inks and separate fibres. The sewage treatment plant composts sewage sludge and both methane and warm water are by-products.
For a year now, the centre has been taking Guelph’s wet garbage, turning it into compost and selling it by the truckload. « What about bagging it for sale in reusable bags? Bring the bag back and we’d refill it,’’ he says. « Now that’s waste diversion that I’d get really excited about.
« Loblaws sells President’s Choice Magic Soil for $5.99 a bag. Compare that to the $10 to $11 a cubic yard for which we sell the bulk of our compost. The buyers add peat moss, composted sheep or cattle manure, and topsoil, and sell the mixture for $70 a cubic yard.’’
He’d also like to see a deweaving plant in Guelph. “If you want to think of reuse on a grand scale, this would be it. Put the thread back on the bobbin and make something else.’’
Not only would deweaving recover discarded cottons and wools, it would reduce the heavy demand for herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and commercial fertilizers used in the growing of cotton. And it would provide a market for the 20-49 per cent of cotton fibre that is wasted between the cotton field and the sewing machine.
Barton foresees a cluster of cottage industries for whom the centre could mine Guelph’s waste for materials. Already he has one woman to whom he is supplying recovered denim that she refinishes with rhinestones and sells as custom clothing.
And another woman to whom the centre supplies shrink wrap. She uses it to stuff burlap archery targets and, since it will hold heat, for cushions that hunters like to buy for cold fall days.
Barton is on the prowl for people with a similar entrepreneurial spirit who can figure out how to make money from the other 18 items the centre has identified for recovery.
« I resent landfills,’’ he says — and it’s my turn to grin.