Original Published on Aug 22, 2022 at 14:19

By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A garbage truck being billed as carbon-negative – powered with help from some local cows – has hit the road in Southwestern Ontario.

Bluewater Recycling Association, which collects waste from more than 20 municipalities in Middlesex, Huron, Perth and Lambton counties, unveiled this week its new waste collection truck that runs on renewable natural gas.

“It is identical to the other trucks that we have on the roads today that run on regularly compressed natural gas. This one will be running on renewable natural gas,” said Francis Veilleux, president of Bluewater Recycling Association.

That’s not the only twist, however. “The natural gas that we’re using to power the truck is actually coming from cow manure,” Veilleux said.

Generated from a dairy farm in Middlesex County, the cow manure is collected and placed into tanks that use bacteria to turn the organic waste into biogas, which consists of methane and carbon dioxide. The methane is separated and converted into renewable energy often used for fertilizer, or in this case, to power a truck.

In the first six months, the truck will displace carbon dioxide emissions from 18,000 litres of diesel, which would be a reduction in greenhouse gases of more than what the truck will emit.

Veilleux described using renewable natural gas as a “double climate-change winner.” Its production involves trapping and converting methane from organic waste, which otherwise would have been released into the air. Then, renewable natural gas can replace high-carbon diesel fuel in vehicles.

In addition to being less environmentally harmful, renewable natural gas trucks are half the cost of electric trucks and operate like diesel trucks.

Renewable natural gas in the waste industry will only become more common, said Tariq Qurashi, an alternative fuels specialist with Enbridge Gas Inc., one of the partners behind the carbon-negative refuse truck.

“This is an industry that’s set to take off,” he said. “As long as humans continue to eat food and produce organic waste and as long as you know that organic waste gives off methane, then capturing that methane and using it as truck fuel is a wonderful way of lowering anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.”

There are more than 110 renewable natural gas facilities in North America, 10 in Canada, and more than 30 renewable natural gas projects under development in Ontario.

Bluewater Recycling Association launched the low-carbon waste truck in partnership with Enbridge Gas and the Ontario Waste Management Association.

The Bluewater association plans to review the project after six months, Veilleux said, adding the end goal would be to convert the rest of its fleet to renewable natural gas.

“If that goes well,” he said, “then our intention is to look at expanding the use of that fuel in the rest of our fleet. If someday we can get to 100 per cent renewable natural gas, that would be great.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Free Press, London, Ontario