Keeping garbage out of sight and out of mind is becoming a reality in a portion of downtown Montreal.
An underground vacuum waste collection system is being installed in Les Quartiers des Spectacles, an area of 1 square kilometre near Places des Arts and St. Catharines.
Vacuum garbage collections systems have been installed in large hospitals, airports, and even Disneyland, but this is the first municipal installation in Canada. The systems have environmental advantages in that they eliminate the need for trucks to collect garbage and they make it easier to separate the waste into different streams for recycling.
A company called Envac is supplying the system in Montreal.
Sean Monclus, operations manager for Envac Systems Canada, explains that about 1,000 metres of the 500-mm diameter steel pipe has already been laid in Montreal, running alongside other infrastructure about 2 metres underground. The waste is sucked through the carbon steel pipe at a speed of about 60 to 70 kilometres per hour to be collected in a concrete bunker-like terminal building. The terminal includes the fans and blowers, and has filters to clean the air before it is released into the atmosphere.
Monclus says fire in the system is not a problem because the air speed makes it self-extinguishing. And any blockages generally occur at the inlets where they can be easily accessed. Sensors indicate when the pipe is full and ready for evacuation, or it can be sequenced to operate at certain times during the day.
Envac has also been contracted to install a similar system in La Cite Verte, a new development in Quebec City. The “ecocity” located in the Saint-Sacrement district between University Laval and the Sainte-Foy-Sillery districts is a sustainable development of 800 homes that will have 489 inlets for household use and nine inlets for commercial uses.
Though we might think such systems are futuristic, underground vacuum waste collection systems were invented in the 1960s. There are over 600 systems installed in 40 countries around the world, including in Wembley, London, U.K., and in Barcelona, Spain.