London's landfill will get higher - the only question is by how much

Imagine nine storeys built atop London’s landfill.

As the clock ticks down on the life expectancy of the city’s dump, expected to hit its trash limit by 2025, plans for expansion are becoming clearer - writes

Three options are on the table, and all have one thing in common: building up.

The landfill on Manning Drive south of Highway 401 could grow anywhere between five and nine storeys, tall enough to take on 15 to 26 metres of new trash.

Expanding upwards just makes more sense than sprawling out from the current site, which would require a lot more space.

“It would chew up a whole bunch of additional land that we don’t think would be necessary. Going up is definitely recommended,” said Jay Stanford, the city’s environment and waste boss.

It also makes sense from a safety perspective.

“You’re building essentially on top of garbage. We know what is below and we already have the infrastructure in place to handle some of the leachate,” Stanford said.

The expanded landfill needs to have space for another 25 years of trash.

Londoners will have the chance to weigh in on the options at a series of public meetings this week:

  • *Build up by 26 metres.
  • *Build up 18 metres and out to the north by 27 hectares.
  • *Build up 15 metres and out to the west by 36 hectares.
  • All the land eyed for expansion is owned by the city.

The impact of growing higher will be studied as part of a “visual impact assessment,” Stanford said, along with a host of other studies to examine groundwater, traffic and ecosystems.

Feedback at the public meetings will help determine the plan for the environmental assessment that has to be done before London can expand the landfill. That process will take place over the next few years.

Coun. Harold Usher, whose south-end ward includes the landfill, said residents are coming around to the idea of a bigger facility.

Key concerns include smell and traffic. Stanford said he’s confident the city can mitigate any of those problems and make the changes work for nearby communities.

“They’re getting more and more accepting of the idea, that it has to happen,” Usher said. “To abandon that site and go somewhere else is virtually impossible, and if it is possible, then it is very expensive.”

But neighbours want to see the current landfill used as long as possible, by reducing the amount of trash flowing to it each year, Usher said. The hope is that waste reduction could stretch its capacity by a few more years.

Those efforts align with the city’s goal to divert 60 per cent of trash from the landfill — through recycling and compost programs, for example — by 2022.

Diversion is a key part of the Waste Free Ontario Act, and one of the reasons London is crafting parallel strategies to deal with waste, such as a potential green bin effort. Those plans will also be up for discussion at the public meetings.

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