County council wants staff from all four municipalities to look into the possibility of a garbage incinerator for the Highlands.

Coun. Walt McKechnie raised the issue, as he has in the past, during a discussion about expanding the Countywide FoodCycler program, aimed at reducing the amount of organic waste going into landfills.

He said Dysart et al council had a report Oct. 24 on its landfills, “and we have a lot of concerns.

“The amount of money that we’re spending trucking to Peterborough, to Leamington or Chatham or Michigan. How do you think those trucks are running down the highways? To me, we’re hypocrites.” He added he had a “crazy vision” of Haliburton County having a central incinerator “which we all feed and generate some energy.” He said he checks the incinerators in Durham Region and Dysart’s director of public works has told him there is nothing bad going in the air. “All over the world, they’re doing it.

“I just can’t get my head around how we’re just kicking a bad can down the road. Our landfill sites are costing us a lot of money and I think they’re doing a lot of harm to the environment, too, not just with the issues we have at the landfill sites but what’s going in the air.”

Warden Liz Danielsen said McKechnie’s comments “were not out of order” and there had been discussions for a long time about the possibility of incineration. She recalled that when she worked as a reporter, she covered a Dysart et al discussion about a partnership for an incinerator but at the time it was deemed to be unaffordable.

However, she said it was something the service delivery review’s waste management working group could look into. “What’s the feasibility? What would it cost us all if we were to partner on an incinerator?”

Coun. Lisa Schell recalled a study done 12-15 years ago determined the County did not generate enough garbage for an incinerator. “So, we’d actually have garbage trucked into the County.” Since, she said there had probably been new techniques and smaller incinerators “so, it’s definitely something that maybe we should consider.” She noted they also have a greater population than 10 years ago.

McKechnie agreed, saying the cost of operating landfill sites is just going up. “I’d love us all to be, whether it’s the next council, it’s not going to happen overnight in my part of the world, that Haliburton County took the initiative in rural Ontario to generate a proper incinerator and make sure it’s not [putting] anything into the air…”

Coun. Cec Ryall said the service delivery review is dynamic, and issues surrounding aging landfills are not going to go away. “It’s going to get worse and if technology, as we believe, is going to assist in the possibility of coming up with a solution, then we certainly should be investigating it. And if the solution isn’t on the table today, where is it in terms of time?”

Danielsen suggested a motion that the waste management working group look into the possibility of incineration. Coun. Bob Carter moved the motion, suggesting if economies of scale are required, they could talk to the City of Kawartha Lakes. He added incineration could also entail using the heat from the process to heat buildings or produce power. “I think the technology has changed from 12-15 years ago and I think it’s a viable alternative.”

Foodcycler program expanded

During the debate, council gave budget pre-approval to climate change coordinator Korey McKay to expand the Foodcycler program.

She was seeking $83,000 for 2024 expansion. She said staff plan to leverage the funds in a grant application to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Even without a grant, she said they’d like to offer an additional 500 units at the same price as 2023. While she will provide a more fulsome report to a future council meeting, McKay said, “early results indicate the program was extremely successful.” She added comments from users had been “overwhelmingly positive.”

She said it is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and estimated savings of $166,500 to $222,000 in landfill costs every year.

County coun. Walt McKechnie has wanted an incinerator for some time now,