Toronto takes its trash to Michigan by rail
Published: April 19, 2008
Source: Toronto Sun
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Canadian history was quietly made last month when the first-ever
trainload of Toronto's garbage was shipped to landfill, the Sun has
It was a first for Canada and there may be a lot more of it in the
future including a day when there are no transport trucks on the highway
taking Toronto's waste to a Michigan landfill.
It's a fledgling idea but this technology by First Waste Transload Inc.
could lead in that direction thanks to enormous cost savings and drastic
reductions in pollution levels.
Currently they are moving industrial and construction waste. One day
they'd love to move all of the GTA's household garbage. "It is our
dream," First Waste chairman Joel Wagman said in his first interview
since gaining his ministry of environment certificate to ship waste by
rail March 14. "We are really excited about this."
It has been five weeks since they opened their newly built waste
transfer centre on CN Rail property in the Jane and Highway 7 area of
Vaughan and an official opening is set for June 11 when the media,
politicians and waste industry people will be invited to celebrate the
latest innovation in green waste management. "It has been a quiet, soft
launch so we can iron the bugs out," said CEO Allen Shully, who says
First Waste Transload Inc. is the first Canadian company to move garbage
out of a municipality by rail.
company has invested an estimated $30 million in a modern drop off
centre and in more than 150 water-tight rail cars, built at National
Steel Car in Hamilton.
"It is exciting," said Wagman, a waste management lifer, who at 75 years
old has come up with a plan he believes will eventually be the way
things are done. "Everybody is always talking about doing something
about helping the environment so I thought we might as well do
This is a good news story on all levels and feel free to check out
photographer Michael Peake's and my video on torontosun.com. The train
cars are sealed so there will be no leakage along the route and the wear
and tear on the highways will be lessened thanks to a reduction of truck
trips on the road. There may be some truck-driving livelihoods affected
but some of that will be offset by shorter transport trips to the main
centre in Vaughan to be put on rail.
For Wagman the idea was sealed in his mind because of the hundreds of
thousands of truck trips along Highway 401 each year. "In southern
Ontario there is about 12 million tonnes a year of construction waste
and we hope to move about one million in our first year," he said. "If
we do, that would cut down 31,000 truck trips. We should be concerned
about air quality."
Just that small percentage of trip reductions will cut down CO2
emissions by 56% But there are other considerations for firms or
eventually municipalities considering shipping by rail. "It is the same
price to ship one rail car with 100 tonnes of garbage as it is to send
one truck carrying 30 tonnes," said Shully.
You don't have to be in business to do the math. Already construction
firms are lining up at the First Waste Transload Inc. Facility and the
place has been operating 24 hours a day.
For Toronto this might be the most significant private enterprise
business story of 2008 -- and perhaps a catalyst and inspiration to
corporate and industrial Canada.
The sky is the limit for this project. Who knows how big it will become
once Toronto starts to ship its residential waste to the Green Lane
landfill near St. Thomas? "With the train we will be able to ship
anywhere," said Wagman.
If it becomes the standard perhaps other waste transfer companies will
follow suit and compete. Wagman sees a day when no city's garbage is
treated as refuse but is instead used as a renewable resource for
Wagman has actually wanted to get involved in trains for a long time.
Since he was a kid he was always a model trains guy and has one running
through the garden at his home.
"But moving garbage by train from municipalities was not cost effective
in the past," he said. "In the early days the highway systems were being
built and gas was 10 cents a gallon. That meant trucks."
But times are changing. Fuel costs are ridiculous and the toxic soup
from the trucks is mounting. For Wagman it was so obvious. The train
lines are already there so it's back to the future and he has negotiated
a business partner ship with CN. "We are going back to 1880 technology
and it works," said Wagman. "We are completing Sir John A. Macdonald's
Anybody who has ever driven toward Windsor along the 401 in recent years
and had to deal with all of those trucks will drink to that!