Ucluelet Co-op staff join representatives from Eco-Growth and Assured Renewables for a hands-on training session on Aug.2. The team learned how the green technology works and what they can and can’t throw in the machine. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Ucluelet Co-op receives B.C.’s first food waste converter

Green technology turns organic waste into biofuel.

Some good news for planeteers out of Ucluelet.

The local Co-op grocery store is the proud new owner of an Eco-Growth Model 500 Organic Reactor. Dubbed ‘EGOR™’, the machine can process up to 500-pounds of organic waste per day, including items like coffee cups, wooden stir sticks, bamboo cutlery, and even small bones and deep fryer grease. It then converts the waste into a dry, odourless biofuel.

In Nov. 2017, a Regina YMCA unveiled a similar waste-converting device, which it now uses to heat its swimming pool and fuel the building’s boiler system.

According to Ukee Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke, EGOR will reduce the waste stream of the store by up to 40 per cent. For the immediate future, she plans on talking to community garden groups to see if they can use the soil supplement and, further down the road, the GM hopes to use the biofuel to heat the store.

“We’ll be able to keep the waste from hitting the landfill here and we’ll be able to use it in our own community,” said Gehrke at a staff-training event on Aug. 2.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne attended the training session.

“It’s really exciting that this is the first one in British Columbia. I’m really grateful to the Ucluelet Co-op for their vision. They are making a commitment on behalf of the whole Peninsula to prove this technology. And who knows where we can go with this? It’s exciting,” said Osborne.

READ: Tofino working on bylaw to restrict singe-use plastic (Jul.5, 2018, Westerly News)

Jody Epp and Alistair Haughton from Assured Renewables helped bring the project to fruition.

“We’re hoping this is the first of many on the Peninsula so we can really start reducing the waste from the landfill,” said Epp.

“Co-op took the extremely positive step to show the community that this can be done in a very cost-effective and proactive way,” noted Haughton.

Glen Smith from Eco-Growth, above, was part of the Canadian design team out of Calgary that invented the green technology.

The company currently has 20 waste-converters operational in Calgary, one in Regina, one in Toronto, and now, one at Ucluelet Co-op.

“From concept was less than two years ago. We built 10 or 12 versions of that machine already. We had to get it right. We made a lot of mistakes to get to where we are today,” he said.

“As far as I know, no one has done what we are doing yet. We are just completely dehydrating everything, and what we are ending up with is the dry biomass that is a perfect biofuel for biomass combustion,” he said, adding that part of Eco-Growth’s mandate is to offset fossil fuels.

“The whole technology has revolved around green house gas reduction and using a biomass as a fuel. As soon as you start using biomass as heat you, are green house gas reducing.”

The Ucluelet Co-op is leasing the Eco-Growth machine from Assured Renewables on a four-year term.

Anyone interested in learning more about the technology is encouraged to visit eco-growth.com or contact Jody Epp at jodye@assuredrenewables.ca.

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