Stettler County hears styrofoam should stay out of landfill, treated wood should go in

Written by Stu Salkeld

Grace Fix, middle, presented virtually to Stettler County about two subjects she said she felt very strongly about, the burning of treated wood at transfer stations and the placement of styrofoam in landfills. ECA Review/Screenshot

Stettler County heard a detailed presentation on how a concerned community member feels treated wood and styrofoam could be better handled within the waste system. 

The presentation was made at the Sept. 8 regular meeting of council.

Grace Fix presented virtually to councillors about two subjects she said she felt very strongly about, the burning of treated wood at transfer stations and the placement of styrofoam in landfills.

Beginning with treated wood, Fix stated several times during her presentation that treated wood is not supposed to be burned at waste transfer sites, but noted that it does occur.

While it’s acceptable to burn untreated wood, provincial law prohibits the burning of treated wood including furniture and fence posts because it contains wood preservatives which are then released into the atmosphere. 

Fix noted all garbage releases toxic chemicals when burned.

Fix stated she investigated how 12 other municipalities handle burning treated wood and the results showed three don’t have burn pits while nine others have burn pits with restrictions. 

She also stated Stettler County is the only municipality she looked at that allows burning of cardboard.

She stated her proposal for treated wood was to send it to the landfill rather than burn it and added that signs notifying the public that treated wood can’t be burned would be a good start with a more permanent solution being bins at the transfer site to collect treated wood before it was hauled to the landfill. 

Fix suggested recycling be stepped up to keep as much cardboard out of the waste system as possible.

Fix noted her investigation suggested more cardboard could be recycled in Stettler County for between $2,700 to $6,600 per year. 

Bins for the treated wood varied in price and would also require trucking costs.

Coun. James Nibourg stated that lots of treated wood comes to the landfill from Town of Stettler residents, which is why the regional waste authority was formed. Fix noted she has already made this same presentation to the regional waste authority.

Reeve Larry Clarke stated at the Gadsby transfer site there are bins for furniture, the contents of which go directly to the landfill, so treated wood could just be throw in there. Fix stated that’s a great idea if the wood fits in the existing bins.

Coun. Les Stulberg was cautious and noted this idea is a lot more complicated than it sounds as treated wood can be dropped off in huge amounts that have things like twisted spikes in it. 

He said people won’t separate the materials and he was afraid people would go back to dumping garbage in ditches. 

Fix responded that larger bins would address those concerns and even a “take it or leave it” area could help.

Coun. Wayne Nixon noted that whenever more material is placed in the landfill, it shortens the landfill’s lifespan.

Fix then presented on styrofoam. She stated styrofoam is a type of plastic and doesn’t ever completely decompose, it just breaks down into smaller pieces. 

She noted that recycling efforts exist but have been hampered by styrofoam’s large volume and very lightweight, meaning companies who try to turn a profit recycling it by weight run into trouble.

However, Fix told councillors styrofoam is easily recyclable and when re-used it reduces the amount of new material needed.

She pointed out a company in Calgary crushes styrofoam to make it more profitable to recycle, although they don’t accept some types of styrofoam, such as drink containers. However, more recycling means less styrofoam in the landfill.

She stated that increased styrofoam recycling for Stettler County would require things like storage space which could be addressed by SeaCans and estimated increased costs could be between $3,900 and $6,600.

Nibourg stated Fix’ proposals were sound, but that they may require more details and would have to go into Stettler County’s annual strategic planning and budgeting processes as there were no funds currently budgeted for these ideas.

 

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.