GMT Earth Flow composter key to managing cannabis waste for Flowr
Flowr is a long-time cannabis products producer with headquarters near Toronto, and growing operations in B.C.'s Okanagan. The company needed to find an affordable option to process their cannabis waste and one that would comply with regulations. They also were on a tight timeline. The Earth Flow composting system from Green Mountain Technologies (GMT) has provided their solution.
Finding the solution
American and Canadian cannabis growing operations face stringent regulations for proper disposal of the large volumes of organic waste their businesses create. For cannabis producers, this can add extra labour costs, disposal costs and most available options are not environmentally sustainable.
One approved disposal method currently is to shred plant material and mix it with an inert substance, such as cat litter, sand, plastic waste, or sawdust, until it's deemed "unrecognizable and irrecoverable," at which point it can be landfilled. Incineration is another option.
Neither of these methods are ideal. In 2018, in Washington State alone it was found that landfills had accumulated close to two million pounds of cannabis industry organic waste, a significant increase since legalization in the state came into effect in 2014.
Flowr reached out to Green Mountain Technologies (GMT) a specialist in the design of industrial compost facilities for over 25 years, also based in Washington state. GMT, with more than 30 municipal and commercial compost facilities in North America, ranging from 3,000 to 200,000 tons per year, with systems designed specifically to compost materials ranging from curbside collected yard debris and food waste, to biosolids and agricultural wastes, had the solution Flowr was looking for.
The Green Mountain Technologies cannabis waste solution
At the end of 2019, GMT provided Flowr with a 32-foot refurbished custom steel vessel Earth Flow machine. This composter includes a computer-controlled auger and a continuous flow design, allowing Flowr to add new material every day and harvest finished product every seven days. The fully automated, enclosed system is designed to reduce both labour and disposal costs, and creates high-quality compost quickly and easily. The Earth Flow system also provides excellent control over moisture, odours, vectors and leachate. It uses an auger to mix, break up and aerate compost, producing a rich, friable (light and fluffy) mix, and reaches pathogen-killing temperatures of 55 degrees C (131 degrees F). The entire process from unloading to discharging the final product takes between 14 and 21 days.
Since they began operation, according to Flowr, their Earth Flow solution cut down on their labour and disposal costs, as well as manufacturing time, significantly, and they can now effectively manage their organic waste. Plus, they now have access to a nutrient-rich, pathogen-free soil, available as a substrate for continued growing operations, and which eliminates the need to buy new soils and fertilizers.
Traditionally, waste management companies have operated using a simple "management of waste" approach to operating a MRF. Throughput targets and continuous operation (minimal downtime) were the main driving forces. The industry has changed however, and the focus moving forward is now on optimizing system performance and reliability, in conjunction with increasing recycling rates and a drive for a "greener" and more sustainable tomorrow.
When considering the addition of, or upgrade to, an "intelligent" MRF, for municipalities or private operators, the main factors should always be the client's (operator) current requirements, and evolving market needs, which include throughput, reliability, output quality, and adaptability. Equally important is a full understanding of what is really expected from any proposed system. Having an engaged and focused mindset for the project with the client from the beginning, will impact and drive the entire design process. This then impacts the overall project result, through to the productive, efficient, ongoing operation of the facility itself.