By Melissa Villeneuve
Southern Alberta Newspapers – Lethbridge
If Taber builds it, recyclables will come, though not necessarily from the City of Lethbridge.
The Town of Taber secured a letter of support from Lethbridge City Council to apply for provincial funding to assess the feasibility of building a materials recovery facility in Taber.
However, Lethbridge council wouldn’t go a step further in committing to be a part of the town’s initiative to involve surrounding communities.
Lethbridge council instead chose to wait for the numbers from the feasibility study. If the study shows it’s viable, Taber’s mayor Henk DeVlieger is prepared to come before council again to ask for the city’s participation.
“I think we’re satisfied in a way,” DeVlieger said of the decision.
“We know the City of Lethbridge has been debating this issue for a long time and I think it’s a first step. I’m very appreciative that they’re willing to support us in doing the study to get a MRF in southern Alberta.”
A MRF is responsible for sorting recyclable materials by type, which are then transformed into new products. The main goal is to divert recyclables from the landfill, creating a more sustainable future.
DeVlieger said they are proposing a partnership between participating municipalities and a private enterprise for the development and operation of the MRF.
Last year, Lethbridge city council commissioned studies on the feasibility of building a recycling facility and options for curbside recycling. The construction of a MRF was estimated to cost $12 million. A resolution presented to council in January was defeated 5-4.
The Town of Taber is set to unleash its curbside recycling program on May 1. It will include a three-bin system – one for recyclables, one for organics and one for garbage.
DeVlieger realized the immediate need for a MRF in the area, as trucking recyclables to Calgary carries an enormous carbon footprint. Building an MRF in a central southern Alberta location makes sense, he said.
A study stated the MRF would need to process 10 tonnes per hour in order to be viable.
Without City of Lethbridge recyclables, the project wouldn’t be feasible, he admitted. Although he would approach other communities from the B.C. to Saskatchewan borders and from Brooks south to the United States border.
The town is also constructing a compost facility, to be completed near the end of May.
One question from Coun. Bridget Mearns was whether writing a letter of support for Taber would conflict with Lethbridge’s opportunity to build a MRF in the future. The city’s manager, Garth Sherwin, said it wouldn’t.
Mearns then asked if Lethbridge were to build a MRF, whether Taber would truck their recyclables to the city. The response was it “seems logical,” but they would need to discuss it further.
Mayor Chris Spearman believes the Town of Taber will have a “high probability” of getting their feasibility study, and ultimately the MRF, funded by the province.
“They are taking an interesting approach. They’re right in the middle of the three largest mid-size cities in southern Alberta. When it comes to the environmental impact, maybe a town centred in the middle will be the ideal location,” said Spearman. “I believe the MRF will ultimately be built in southern Alberta. Now it’s just a matter of where. Might not be in Lethbridge if we don’t proceed with it as a council and as a community.”
Spearman said if a MRF is built anywhere in southern Alberta, there will be a lot of public pressure to participate.
“So this vote might not be the last vote, obviously. I think if somebody builds a MRF in your backyard, chances of participation are pretty high.”