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Mega trash

WINDSOR, Ont.- It looks like no turning back now.Come the first week in January, trucks will have started hauling Toronto's municipal trash some 400kilometres between Ontario's largest city and Sumpte...

Photo courtesy Solid Waste & Recycling MagazineTAKE OUT THE TRASH: Nearly 900,000 tonnes will be trucked to Michigan.
Photo courtesy Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine

TAKE OUT THE TRASH: Nearly 900,000 tonnes will be trucked to Michigan.

WINDSOR, Ont.- It looks like no turning back now.

Come the first week in January, trucks will have started hauling Toronto’s municipal trash some 400kilometres between Ontario’s largest city and Sumpter Township, Mich. to the Carleton Farms Landfill, operated by Republic Services Inc.

Trucking entered the controversy surrounding sending Toronto’s garbage to another jurisdiction by default. It came when negotiations broke off between the city and a consortium, Rail Cycle North, which planned to haul trash by train to the abandoned former ore pit Adams Mine near Kirkland Lake. Area environmentalists protested that proposal. But the November municipal election saw a “pro-dump” municipal council elected in Kirkland Lake, reflecting widespread desire for the economic spin-offs of taking Toronto’s trash.

Nevertheless, the default contract appears a done deal after talks broke down at the last minute between the rail consortium and city over an “unavoidable costs” clause the city wanted removed.

“Our mayor has clearly indicated that he has no plans to see it introduced in the term of this new council,” Lawson Oates, manager of strategic planning for Toronto’s solid waste management services, said.

The truck contract – part of a three-way, five-year deal between Toronto, Republic Services Canada Inc. and Toronto-based Wilson Logistics Inc. – will see a minimum 285,000 tonnes per year deposited at Carleton Farms in 2001 and 2002. A minimum 100,000 tonnes will be shipped in each of the remaining three years.

The lower figure is cautionary because the city is embarking on an aggressive recycling program with hopes of diverting a large quantity of trash that now goes to land fill. And large quantities of private trash now dumped at Toronto’s existing landfill, Keele Valley, due to close end of 2002, would likely be sent for deposit elsewhere by the businesses that generate it. The city’s contract for Carleton Farms could be renewed at five-year intervals for a total of 20 years.

Are trucks up to the job? No one at the City of Toronto, or obviously the consortium, doubts it.

Oates said the city was certain Wilson and its subcontractor, Red Tree Contract Carriers, also of Toronto, could handle it.

“We were satisfied through the due diligence effort that they could not only deliver the services that we need, but also do it in a safe and responsible manner.”

The Michigan contract has generated considerable publicity, a spin-off from the controversy over Adams Mine. Lesser known is the fact that, for the past three years, Toronto has been shipping garbage to another Michigan landfill, Arbor Hills, operated by Onyx, also as part of its overall effort to take the pressure off diminishing local dump space.

The carrier for that five-year contract is Ingersoll, Ont.-based Verspeeten Cartage Ltd.

“We’ve been very pleased with the work Verspeeten has done under that contract and we’ve had very few logistical problems,” Oates said. “They’ve been an excellent carrier for us and will continue to be so.”

Company vice-president Ron Verspeeten declined comment about the deal but acknowledged it was the first time the carrier has hauled garbage and that, “it’s been a good contract.”

Verspeeten purchased 55 Volvo power units and hired additional staff for the run. Loads average 33 metric tones and equipment was purchased to maximize allowable gross weights for Ontario and Michigan. The contract has a renewal option at the end of 2002, but Oates said there’s no question Toronto “will need” both Arbor Hills and Carleton Farms for waste disposal.

The Carleton Farms contract is also the first trash haul for Wilson Logistics. The non asset-based company is just two years old. But through affiliated Wilson Truck Lines, an Ontario carrier in business more than 60 years, the Wilson name is synonymous with hauling food.

“We work for all the large grocery retailers,” Devine said. “We probably haul close to 40 or 50 per cent of Ontario’s food to its supermarkets.”

Is it quite a change from food to garbage? Not really, Devine replies. “Well, I mean, it’s trucks.” He said the company is “pretty good at time-sensitive deliveries of product. So when you say ‘You’ve got no experience’ the bottom line, the reality of life is, we move a trailer form A to B and we move it pretty good.”

The garbage fleet will use new and dedicated equipment. Six-axle, closed-steel containers are employed. Third-party contractor Red Tree will have the Wilson Logistics name on its trucks and trailers for advertising. There will be an average of 36 to 38 truck movements per day to Michigan.

Both Verspeeten and Red Tree use closed steel containers, essentially no different to the naked eye from a conventional box trailer. The trailers for Red Tree come from Hamilton’s Universal Handling Equipment Co., longtime manufacturer of waste haulage vehicles. Established 40 years ago, the company makes waste and recycling equipment such as front-end loader trucks, rear loaders, roll-off units, lugger trucks, boxes and compaction equipment.

Saying the Toronto trash issue is “really a political hot potato,” Universal’s director of sales and marketing Richard Kool declined comment on the equipment for the contract, but described the vehicles as compaction trailers. Trash is thrown into a compactor, the back of the trailer lumps-up to the compactor and garbage is pushed into it.

The Michigan trash contract may not rile environmentalists to the extent the Adams Mine contract did. But that doesn’t mean they or politicians in southwestern Ontario aren’t to some degree irked.

“My chief concern is the fact the biggest city in the province can just walk away from being responsible for taking care of its own waste,” says Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who is part of a coalition of mayors opposed to the trash-hauling plan. The group hopes to speak before Toronto city council in January. The mayors are also concerned that neighboring municipalities, like Peel, York and Durham, facing similar landfill shortages, could also export future trash. The coalition also wants to discuss the long-term implications of trans-border shipments of garbage with the federal government.

Ontario Trucking Association president David Bradley said criticism of the trucking industry over the issue is misdirected. Pointing to the 10,000 trucks that already cross the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Ontario, the additional number in this contract is extremely small.

In addition, he said, trucks are eight times cleaner than they were a decade ago and are now burning low-sulfur diesel. As for roadway damage, with equalized axle loads, “there’s no additional wear-and-tear on the infrastructure than what already exists.” n

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