Get Stuffed - Food waste need not be wasted 

A Canadian company converts food waste into fertilizer on an industrial scale

Every crust you don’t finish, every leaf that wilts, every piece of meat that turns bad or gets left on the bone typically winds up in Whistler’s landfill, taking up valuable space and adding to the stench that has caused more than one mountain biker to go over the bars.

Or at least that used to be the case.

International Bio-Recovery Corp. of North Vancouver is offering an alternative to local restaurants and grocery stores – keep the organic waste separate, and they will haul it to their central facility to convert it into a high-grade fertilizer.

A lot of people raise a stink about garbage – IBR harvests it.

The conversion process, which was developed by IBR is called auto-genous thermophilic aerobic digestion – a unique system that uses bacteria and oxygen to speed up the natural decomposition process.

The kitchen waste is first sorted into solids and liquids, removing as many non-biodegradable products, such as metal, glass and plastic, as possible. The solid waste is sent to one facility for extended treatment. The liquid part forms a slurry which is fed through screens to remove more non-biodegradables.

The remarkable part of IBR’s process is that it can process biodegradable waste materials that have 20 per cent non-biodegradables in the mix – traditional methods of treating biodegradable wastes have been unable to effectively process waste with high quantities of contaminants. Their process also allows for the digestion of meat and other animal products, something that conventional composting can’t do.

The slurry then enters the digestion process, and waxed cardboard waste can be added to the mix to help balance solid and liquid content.

The thermophilic aerobic treatment provides enhanced aeration using a system that was developed and patented by IBR.

The aeration device is submerged, saturating the slurry with the oxygen bacteria need to thrive. After digestion, the slurry is cleaned, de-watered, and dried out for conversion into pellet fertilizers.

There is no real smell associated with an IBR plant thanks to a biological air cleaner. Nor is there any release of harmful gases or toxic liquid waste – these waste byproducts are generally associated with anaerobic decomposition that occurs in landfills.

The plant is also operated in negative air pressure, ensuring environmental integrity and that the neighbours never get a whiff of what’s going on up the street.

IBR also charges less per kilogram than the landfill would – about $55 a ton. They also use their own trucks and independent contractors to keep the waste coming.

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