Metro Vancouver's garbage incineration plan under fire

If Metro Vancouver goes ahead with a plan to burn more of its garbage, the regional district’s incinerators will produce a total of one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, according to a local environmentalist.

Ben West, the Wilderness Committee’s healthy communities campaigner, told the Straight that’s three times the amount currently being emitted by the region’s only incinerator, which is located in Burnaby. By the Straight’s calculations, if incineration were expanded to that level today, it would represent about six percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the region.

On April 9, the Metro board will vote on a revised draft solid-waste-management plan for the region, which could trigger a new round of public consultations.

“We don’t want something that emits more carbon than a coal-fired power plant in our back yard,” West said via cellphone. “The first thing that people need to do is contact their municipal councillors and their Metro Van directors.”

On March 26, the Metro waste management committee voted unanimously to send the draft solid-waste plan to the board. At the meeting, West told directors to rethink the plan. He told the Straight that the plan would see incinerators become “the biggest source of climate-changing pollution in the Lower Mainland”.

The board will also vote on April 9 on whether to adopt a waste-diversion target of 70 percent by 2015, up from the current level of 55 percent. As well, directors will consider the option of sending waste to an out-of-region incinerator if it’s not possible to expand incineration within the region.

Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, who is chair of the Metro waste committee, told the Straight that taking incineration off the table was not an option.

“Well, the discussion around the table was, ”˜Let’s put it out there so we can get everybody’s feedback,’ ” Moore said by phone. “There are a few people [opposed to the idea] that have come forward as we have had a draft strategy come through committee, but I think it’s important to have a draft plan in the full scale, so people can comment on all aspects of it.”

Patricia Ross, Abbotsford city councillor and Fraser Valley Regional District chair, told the Straight she is “really worried about the proliferation of incineration across Canada”.

“When you build an incinerator, you will forever need a landfill too, because you’ve got to have somewhere to dispose of the toxic ash,” Ross said by phone. “So, you are going to need both of them. But if you truly implement a zero-waste goal—and with changes in legislation to reduce packaging, more aggressive recycling—we can actually get towards zero waste and eliminate the need for landfills and incinerators.”




Apr 1, 2010 at 4:06pm

Where does the one million tonnes figure come from, really? What's actually involved here, and how much thermal electricity would be generated and sold?
Rod Smelser

John Hunter

Apr 4, 2010 at 10:27am

Ben West’s comment that carbon dioxide emissions from Metro Vancouver’s new solid waste incinerator would be greater than the existing one in Burnaby is total “apples and oranges”. Obviously they will, because the existing plant processes a fraction of our total solid waste. He fails to mention that our landfills that now receive the non-incinerated waste also emit carbon dioxide, methane, and many other bad actors, and landfills can contaminate groundwater. There is also the fuel used to truck this waste to Cache Creek. His solution is NIMBY – we’ll produce the waste in Metro and let someone else suffer any consequences of disposal.

Metro’s post diversion waste is about 1.5 MM tonnes per year. Land filling as we now do is equivalent to burying 1.5 million barrels of oil a year, with a fuel value today of about $105 MM a year. This is insanity!
Modern EFW facilities are now recognized as having less net environmental impact than modern landfills, and modern EFWs are so clean that some are built in the middle of towns and used for district heating.
In addition, an EFW once built can be modernized as environmental technology advances; a leaking landfill is a scenario with potentially serious effects on water sources. Typical EFWs reduce the residual volume to landfill by about 85%! Think of the extension in the life of existing landfills, and the reduced trucking of garbage. The resultant ash does not emit GHGs like landfills. However, a hazardous materials landfill may be needed for the small volume of fly ash, depending on the technology utilized.

Patricia Ross’ dream of zero waste is commendable, but it is a dream. There will always be a need for landfill and incineration – this is a game of the “lesser of two evils”.


John Hunter, P. Eng.
President & CEO
J. Hunter & Associates Ltd.
338 Roche Point Drive
North Vancouver, BC, CANADA V7G 2M2

glen p robbins

Apr 4, 2010 at 3:06pm

Poco's mayor Greg Moore -- has indicated that he will commence an on-line survey of 'citizens' on matters relating to garbage recycling and this.

If this is done on-line at city hall website it cannot be considered valid. If this is done on-line polling company it cannot be considered valid. On-line surveys method is very suspect and must be fully explained. At the best of times an on-line survey cannot be trusted because we don't really know who is providing the response---no voice--no room for comments or anecdotes as companion to responses (to 'test' validity or competence of response).

Our researchers have spent hours and hours participating in on-line surveys -- many from name brand polling firms. In some of these surveys very conspicous political issue questions are imbedded with other questions -- inducements are provided to participants (prizes $$). In some instances our researchers would be 'kicked out' at the front end of the survey because they somehow didn't qualify (income or other criteria) thus reducing the randomness of the on-line poll. In others -- the researcher would not be permitted to complete the on-line poll (often where payment is involved).

Did the pollster disregard all of the other answers of the respondent including the imbedded political poll?

Cities and municipalities throughout the province have been cheating the public with fishy paid for polls for years. This type of on-line poll will undoubtedly be corrupted as well as the politicians and adminstrations or other stakeholders dont' want the real public opinion numbers produced.

In the case of Greg Moore -- I would trust him even less because of his very close history to Gordon Campbell -- who has been proved to be completely untrustworthy.


May 8, 2010 at 9:20am

Cars, trucks, trains, planes: we are being choked by these air polluters We need transportaion. We do not need to burn for disposal of our waste. What is really burning, cardboard & paper should have been removed for recycle. So whats burning plastics, paper on tin cans, old cloth, & rotten food.The need to add a fuel to even half burn this mess is required in large amounts. Stop the insanity! Say NO to all burning for disposal, land clearing waste, construction waste. Have a CLEAN AIR SPRING. watch for burns; be good custodians of the earth; ask fellow citizens not to pollute the air we all breath.

Thank you.