The Canadian city best known as the epicenter of dirty tar sands oil is trying to green up its image by turning trash into vegetables for local food banks and farmers markets. McMurray, a city of about 60,000 people in Northern Alberta, is now producing lettuce and herbs via a process called containerized aquaponics – and the system will soon be totally powered by gasified garbage from the local landfill.

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According to CBC News, the system, currently housed in a single shipping container, uses no sunshine or soil to grow the food. It uses artificial light, heat and a circulating water system. Feces and urine from Tilapia fish that live in the bottom of the greenhouse fertilize the plants–and the plants naturally filter both of these from the water.

Currently the single container is powered by electricity from the local grid, but this summer a gasifier will be installed to burn wood chips from the landfill to generate heat and electricity for the greenhouse. Eventually, all the waste from the city that can’t be recycled will be used to power this greenhouse and others like it.

Related: Tar sands development financially unsustainable, report shows

The long-term plan is to set up a total of four shipping container greenhouses to grow food that will be given to local food banks or sold at the local farmer’s market.

Aside from being a good trash-to-treasure story, this also means the city can be more self-sufficient when it comes to food production. And that’s important when you live in a remote place more than 270 miles from the nearest major city, with average January temperatures of 1 degree Fahrenheit.


Images via Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Shutterstock