Stéfane Blouin, surintendant de la meunerie de Lévis.
October 19, 2021

Giving waste a second life to avoid landfill

At the Lévis Feed Mill, waste disposal costs were much higher than those of similar plants in the network. So, the workers there decided to roll up their sleeves, search their containers, and find a way to repurpose the waste.

After just one year of waste categorization, the Lévis Mill was able to reduce its landfill tonnage by 56% and cut its landfill trips from 102 to 20. “Reducing these trips has saved us $37,000, not to mention the environmental gains,” said Stéfane Blouin, Superintendent of the Lévis Mill.

The team had to find innovative solutions to get the waste recovery process off the ground. For instance, the mill's lidless waste container had plenty of salvageable materials—such as cardboard—so why should that be sent to the landfill when it can be recycled? Stéfane explained: “We brought in a second container from the city to recycle the material." 

The two cardboard containers and the compost container.
The two cardboard containers and the compost container.

The Lévis container also held wooden pallets, which had been left in the ground to decay. The plant is currently scouring for a market where it could sell these pallets and give them a second life but, in the meantime, they are being donated to people who reuse them.

The mill also produced a significant amount of compost, mostly consisting of discarded substances in feed compositions. “We already recycle a lot of it with the help of in-house formulators, who reintegrate the substances into the feed,” said Stéfane. But there’s still a fair amount of compost left over.

The waste compactor and metal recycling container.
The waste compactor and metal recycling container.

Antoine St-Cyr, Agronomist and Manager, Research and Development for Sollio Agriculture, set out to find a way to repurpose the compost. That’s when he came across Entosystem, a Sherbrooke-based start-up company that farms insects. The company agreed to salvage the waste generated by the feed, since its very mission is to recover organic matter and reintegrate it into the agri-food chain. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2019, the Lévis Mill sent about 760 tonnes to the municipal composting facility. In 2020, after one year of partnership, the plant only composted 452 tonnes, while Entosystem recovered 300 tonnes. 

“We use Sollio Agriculture’s compost as the main ingredient to feed our insects,” said Cédric Provost, President and Co-founder of Entosystem. “To make our insect feed, we use the compost as a dry protein base and combine it with fruit and vegetable residues that remained unsold in grocery stores.” 

“Plastic films (bags, etc.) are often tainted by dust and feed residue, making them more difficult to recycle,” said Stéfane. Entosystem, however, reuses several of these bags to market insect manure. “It’s a fertilizer—a 4-2-2—that we call frass,” explained Cédric. “It’s a product approved by Ecocert for organic farming, and it has great properties for greenhouse vegetable crops.”

What does Entosystem do with its insects? “For now, we market them as treats for urban chickens,” said Cédric. The treats are distributed in many retail locations, including BMR and pet stores, under the Choix Nature brand. Entosystem wants to integrate a larger market, however, catering to farm animals. “We want to understand the needs of the poultry and hog industries, among others, to design products that are suited for these animals,” he added, noting that Sollio Agriculture is a key player in the market.

How far will Sollio Agriculture go to achieve its initiatives?
“There are various levels to waste recovery,” said Christian Roy, Senior Operations Director, Livestock Production. “Recycling is very good, but it doesn’t have a big impact. Giving waste a second life in the agri-food chain, as Entosystem does with compost, is more valuable overall, and we want our process to make a similar impact.”

Though the initiative started at the Lévis Mill, Christian Roy explained that it will be implemented in all the plants. “We are far from achieving a circular economy [see box]. It’s an ongoing process, but we’re doing our absolute best to give our materials a second life. Right now, sending our compost to Entosystem comes with a price tag, but maybe one day we’ll make a profit from such partnerships.”
 

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is defined as “a system of production, exchange and consumption aimed at optimizing the use of resources at all stages of the useful life cycle of goods and services, in a circular way, while reducing its environmental footprint and contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities.” [TRANSLATION] (Source: Pôle québécois de concertation sur l’économie circulaire) 

Circular economy has two objectives:

  1. Rethink our modes of production and consumption to consume fewer resources and protect the ecosystems that create them.
  2. Optimize the use of resources that already circulate in our society by:
    • Intensifying product use
    • Extending the life of products and their components
    • Giving new life to resources

(Source: RECYC-QUÉBEC, https://bit.ly/3ldctla)

Texte by Guylaine Gagnon published in the October 2021 edition of the magazine Coopérateur