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Waste transfer sites aren’t just dumps — they’re eco-stations of the future

Posted on January 19, 2016 by Sunny South News

By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News

As of Jan. 1, DBS Environmental took over operating duties of all the waste transfer sites for Lethbridge County including in Coaldale, Iron Springs, Picture Butte, and Nobleford. “We’re also helping Lethbridge Regional Waste Management administer the recycling trailers, which show up in Diamond City, Shaughnessy, McNally School, Sunnyside School, and in Monarch,” said DBS owner and operator Chris Nielsen.
DBS Environmental is a Lethbridge-based company and has been in business for just short of 30 years. “We’ve been working at these sites over the last few years. Our main claim to fame, has been we started looking after the toxic round-up programs in the province of Alberta. We now, still do paint stewardship for Alberta, where the paint collections are. We actually look after three other transfer sites in the province,” he noted. For those sites, the business also transports and collects electronic waste for the processors for that program.
“We’re kind of excited to get to actually be able to bring home everything we’ve learned from all over the province because we get to see how everybody does it,” Nielsen said.
Working with county residents, Nielsen said, the hope is to eventually change the sites into eco-stations. “With the rising cost of landfill and the rest of its diversion it’s going to be an essential thing to keeping costs in mind — managing costs for all this waste,” Nielson noted.
Recycling centres operated in Lethbridge, Nielsen said, have a materials-recovery facility component. “Where everything we can possibly pull out from plastics, paper, tin, glass — all that kind of material — we will actually get it out and have it separated and collected here and get it marketed as a recyclable commodity rather than just hauling it to the landfill,” Neilsen said.
Nielsen also said he hopes to encourage residents to do more in-house sorting at home, rather than at a waste transfer site. This would help with a convenient drop off and will keep costs in line, send less to the landfill and helps deal with waste more effectively.
Originally, Nielsen operated vacuum septic trucks and he was asked by many customers what they could do with certain waste materials. “Our first foray is and still is more into the hazardous materials. We do everything now from garbage all the way up to hazardous waste, that we can broker and administer. I had to go finding places to put this stuff, so we became brokers for the Swan Hills Treatment Centre and about 30 other waste disposal facilities in North America, we broker for, along with landfills and everything else,” said Nielsen.
Over the last 30 years, Nielsen said, he’s figured out a lot of places to send a lot of things. “In southern Alberta we have a lot right here at home. All the plastics we can recover here, will actually be used and reprocessed in the manufacturing plants located in Nobleford. With Outlook Plastic, they actually extrude and make everything from fence posts, to what they call a nailer board, which is a little two-by-two board used for grating and hog barns.”
“And, they make a lot of it. They are an end-user. Locally, we can actually recycle a lot of material right here at home and turn it into a product and sell it and keep people from here working,” he added.
According to Nielsen, the Lethbridge Regional Waste Management Commission is quite worried about cost.
“County residents and commission members, which is Town of Picture Butte and the Village of Nobleford, along with the residents of the small towns — right now they’re enjoying a very, very inexpensive waste cost. We’ve taken on the task of to hopefully keep that the same, enhance the service but not necessarily enhance the cost,” said Nielsen. “It’s just in the management of where we put the waste, so the residents can keep enjoying this very cost-effective program working in the county.”
A lot of communities including the Town of Coaldale have gone to curbside recycling, said Nielsen, and this is considered the next generation of how garbage is handled. “It’s not necessarily to save the planet but it has a lot to do with being cost-effective. There’s only so much money to deal with the waste and if you can send the same truck around and gather it and not pay a disposal fee at the landfill and even potentially, if it’s good enough, they may even make a little money,” he said.
“This day and age, those type of services are looked to reduce that end cost, if you can pick it up and recycle and it costs you the half amount as picking it up and sending it to the landfill, then you’re making money. These are management issues coming up now,” he added.
Southern Alberta, Nielsen explained, is a little bit behind, as many other provinces have been forced to adapt.
“The higher the population, especially around the Edmonton area, they have to truck their garbage a very long way. Anything they can do to save on that trucking and hauling and filling up somebody else’s landfill, is very valuable.”
“Our landfill, here within southern Alberta, has quite a bit of lifespan left in it. Everything we can do to protect that, just ensures we have that resource and that’s what a landfill is — a resource. They’re in short commodity. They’re very hard to build and they’re very expensive and nobody wants a new one in their backyard. The longer we can keep the one, we all know and love going, the happier everybody is. A little more waste management,” he added. The residents though, shouldn’t notice any change from what’s going on outwardly for the service currently provided.
Nielsen said he has 25 full-time staff and five part-time, and his new operators can help answer questions customers may ask.
“We hope if they do ask, if we don’t know right away give us a minute and we’ll find you the answer. We’re here as a resource, so if they have questions and anything else they want to know, we hope we can keep the public informed,” he said.
Right now, according to Nielsen, there isn’t a lot of recycling facilities in place in Iron Springs and Coaldale but that will be rectified over the next couple of months, as the recycling centres will eventually become full facilities. Presently, a new cardboard bin has been also put in place in Coaldale.
“It’s amazing how many trips to the landfill you can eliminate by just taking cardboard out,” he noted.
As far as DBS Environmental goes, Nielsen said, the business is really excited to be in the county and is looking forward to a new go and a little bit of a change of how the waste transfer sites were previously operated. “It’s not just the dump anymore and it’s not just a transfer site. We hope to have people think of it more as eco-stations,” Nielsen said.

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