Opponents of incineration should expect a long, hard campaign this fall.
No less than the chair of Metro Vancouver’s waste-management committee is saying that waste-to-energy, including incineration, is the way to go in dealing with the region’s garbage.
Surrey councillor Marvin Hunt made the comment as his committee was scheduled to receive, on September 17, a staff report that will lay out a new waste-management plan for the Lower Mainland. According to a consulting firm’s report earlier commissioned by Metro Vancouver, a medium-size incinerator with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes per year will cost $470 million.
“From the research that we have done in the last year-and-a-half, we’re certainly seeing that waste-to-energy looks like the future of where we should be going,” Hunt told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “We certainly have looked at what Europe is doing”¦what’s happening in Asia, throughout the rest of North America, and it certainly seems as though the technical world is moving into waste-to-energy because it’s a much better way.”
According to Hunt, his committee will refer the plan for public consultations this October, with the objective of having Metro Vancouver’s board approve it by November.
The regional body has set an ambitious target of increasing recycling from the current rate of 55 percent to 70 percent by 2015.
But even if this target is reached, the remaining 30 percent, representing 1.1 million tonnes, still needs to be disposed of. This volume is expected to increase to 1.2 million tonnes by 2020.
In the throne speech delivered by Lt.-Gov. Steven Point on August 25, the province made clear that it will not allow the export of B.C.’s waste. Metro Vancouver had earlier proposed moving the region’s waste by truck and train to the U.S.
In what environmentalist Elaine Golds described as a push for burning garbage, the regional body invited foreign resource speakers identified with the incineration industry to a series of forums on waste management in the two days before Hunt’s committee is scheduled to meet.
“It’s very clear that that’s the direction where they are going,” Golds, conservation chair of the Burke Mountain Naturalists, told the Straight.
Golds was referring to U.K.-based Jim Bridges, a retired professor of toxicology and environmental health, and Bettina Kamuk of Denmark. According to a flyer issued by a newly formed coalition, Zero Waste B.C., Bridges has worked with, among others, a company whose clients include the firm that operates Metro Vancouver’s incinerator in Burnaby. Kamuk, for her part, was referred to as an incinerator-industry lobbyist.
Also invited as speaker in the forums was Konrad Fichtner of AECOM Canada Ltd., the consulting firm that submitted a report to Metro Vancouver in June this year about waste-management options.
AECOM’s report presents eight options, three of which included incinerators. One involves building a huge incinerator with an annual capacity of 750,000 tonnes. Under this scenario, the remainder of the region’s waste would be disposed of through the Burnaby incinerator and the City of Vancouver–operated landfill in Delta.
However, Golds noted, incineration will undermine efforts to enhance recycling and composting.
Golds cited a recent study by Washington state–based Jeffrey Morris of the Sound Resource Management group as a possible guide in coming up with a waste-management plan. In his paper, Morris suggests that Metro Vancouver increase its waste-diversion target to 80 percent over a 20-year period.
Morris writes that through composting and recycling, the region can more than double the volume of greenhouse gases that it prevents from being released into the atmosphere, from 1.9 million tonnes in 2008 to 4.3 million tonnes in 2029. He explains that the reduction of 1.9 million tonnes in GHG emissions last year was equivalent to taking about 500,000 vehicles off the roads.
Morris’s study was commissioned by Belkorp Environmental Services Inc., the parent company of Wastech Services Ltd., which runs the Cache Creek landfill. This facility takes the Metro Vancouver garbage that is not disposed of through the Burnaby incinerator and the Delta landfill.
Located 350 kilometres north of Vancouver, the Cache Creek landfill was supposed to reach full capacity by the end of 2010. However, on August 31 this year, Wastech announced that the provincial government approved its application for a new seven-hectare annex, thereby extending the life of the landfill up to the end of 2012.