The evolution of Thunder Bay area’s enlightened approach to all things green continues with a new enterprise that is also good business. Converting a variety of waste products into a useful one on a large scale is the goal of Eco Waste Depot which has just received provincial approval to operate a commercial composting facility in Oliver Paipoonge.

The $2-million year-round plant, employing nine people, is expected to begin converting up to 30,000 tonnes of organic waste annually into Class A compost by this summer.

The plant will accept a surprising array of organic waste including food waste, biosolids, diapers, leaf and yard waste, green wood, wood waste, boiler ash, drywall, cardboard, and paper. The resulting natural soil additive will be less expensive than synthetic fertilizers and is known to improve the physical structure of all types of soil by introducing organic matter that helps promote plant growth.

Besides being a benefit to the environment, composting is going to boost the local economy, setting a provincial example and creating jobs and taxes.

“This latest milestone is a significant step for the advancement of waste diversion in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area,” says Eco Depot president John Staal. “Composting is the most sustainable option for managing organic waste, because it turns waste into a beneficial product that would otherwise be lost in the landfill. Most importantly, composting fosters regional efforts for local food production and food security” – already a major initiative locally.

As Northern Ontario’s only environment ministry-permitted composting facility Eco Depot intends servicing schools, hospitals, grocers, restaurants, and residents.

“We believe that Northern Ontario should be a leader in the province in building a cleaner, greener world for future generations,” said Staal. That’s a sentiment that will be shared by many in this region – a source of pride and a sense of accomplishment by northern entrepreneurs.

Turning waste into business profit and jobs is not new for this area. Biomass from wood waste now powers the Atikokan and Thunder Bay generating stations. At a Thunder Bay landfill, the city partnered with Thunder Bay Hydro to build a power generating station and heat recovery system that uses the methane gas produced from decaying organic materials as fuel. The 3.2-megawatt plant draws methane gas to fuel two engine-driven generators and is designed to produce enough electricity to power 2,000 houses. The project annually converts 263 million cubic feet of methane gas – a major contributor to climate change – that would have otherwise been released into the environment.

The possibilities of converting once discarded trash, organic waste and previously-perceived pollutants are endless. All it takes is imagination and innovation. And the Thunder Bay area is in the forefront of this important initiative. We can’t wait for the next great green idea.