Award-winning landfill team saving space and money

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

Lesser Slave Regional Landfill manager Randy Peconi poses in front of a few tonnes of baled hard plastic, ready to be picked up and hauled to a processing facility in Morinville. Campaign signs work well for the ends of the bales, he says, and they have a good supply of them, hoarded for that purpose.

When it comes to recycling, some people still need a lot of convincing. Judging by how much re-usable stuff gets put in with the regular household garbage, many don’t get it or don’t care.
Or maybe they just regard recycling as another fashionable thing and there’s no need to take it seriously.
But there are other ways of looking at it and here’s one of them. A new landfill cell costs about $1.6 million to construct. The more waste that’s diverted to other uses, the longer the present cell will last.
“Everything I can keep out of that cell,” says landfill manager Randy Peconi, “the lower we can charge the ratepayers.”
There have been rumours lately about the whole recycle effort not being sustainable. Peconi doesn’t like that sort of talk. It’s true, he says, that plastic film is problematic. It’s going into the landfill. But hard plastics have a market and it recently got better. A firm from Morinville has offered to collect all the landfill can produce, at no charge. Last week, when we visited, many bales of the stuff were waiting for pick-up that same day.
Previously, “trucking was killing us,” says Peconi.
The new customer, Van Brabant Oil, “makes it into fence posts and things like that,” Peconi says.
Recycling generally has improved and increased at the landfill in the year-and-a-half Peconi has been running the place. It’s a team effort, he insists, but he says he noticed all sorts of room for improvement when he moved over from running the landfill in Red Earth Creek for the M.D. of Opportunity.
“We’ve doubled – tripled some things,” he says.
Education is a big part of it. Ann Haney, the scale attendant has a lot to do with that effort.

Pat Grooms operates the hard plastic baler/compacter.

“She’s really good,” Peconi says. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
With hundreds of tonnes of stuff not going into the landfill due to the better diversion efforts, Peconi says the need for a new cell has been now pushed back to around eight years. When he arrived on the scene, he says it was expected they’d need to shell out that $1.6 million in another 18 months or so.
The Take It Or Leave It shed at the landfill isn’t a huge part of the big picture, but it is another success story. Peconi says a surprising amount of stuff comes in and goes out again through there. He estimates seven to 12 tonnes per month.
“People come in here from all over,” he says. “Edmonton, Wabasca, High Level,” and take things with them from the Take It Or Leave It.
As much as recycling has increased (it received special recognition recently from the Alberta Recycling Management Authority), there is still a lot of room for improvement. Peconi says he still catches people tossing all sorts of recyclable stuff into the household waste bins.
“I could charge them,” he says. “But I used it as an education moment. It takes five to six years to change somebody’s habits.”
On the positive side, “more and more people are coming up every day, saying, ‘We separated it!’”
Peconi was introduced to recycling early. His family was in what he calls “farm animal recycling” in Ontario. They had a business processing dead cows and such. Peconi worked in that field, and in trucking and other things and eventually found his way to Alberta, where he was an oilfield trucker until the industry bottomed out in 2008 or so. He says he got a job at the Red Earth landfill, part time, while waiting for the oilpatch to revive.
“They must have seen something in me,” he says, because before long they’d let the manager go and promoted him. He did that for a few years, but ended up a bit frustrated by the lack of support for his management ideas. When the Lesser Slave job popped up, he went for it, and is happy he did.
“It’s been so good here,” he says.
One thing that’s been good is the support of the landfill commission, for Peconi’s ideas about how to improve the process, cut costs, make a bit of money and in so doing employ people. They’ve even found a way to make some donations to local non-profit groups from some of their recycling revenue.
“There is no reason why this landfill can’t be sustainable,” Peconi says.

When oilfield companies bring loads to the landfill they sometimes contain items that aren’t allowed to go in the cell. That’s where Rydan Disposal co- mes in. They’ve set up a bin free of charge and were picking it up when The Leader visited last week.

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