In a new report to the Metro Vancouver environment and energy committee, a senior regional staff member has stated that “the addition of new waste-to-energy capacity combined with district energy systems would produce the lowest net emissions compared to other options”.
Roger Quan, division manager in Metro Vancouver’s policy and planning department, based his conclusion in part on the use of “very stringent control technologies”.
In addition, he mentioned that producing electricity and heat from waste would replace some use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas and heating oil, in the community.
Quan also stated that emissions from waste management under any scenario—including waste-to-energy incineration or through landfills—only add 0.1 percent to one percent of emissions in the airshed.
“These emission contributions are so low that when the emissions from a system with new waste-to-energy are compared to a system with new landfill capacity using an accepted air quality model—there is no discernable difference in air quality with different waste disposal options,” Quan wrote.
His report goes to the Metro Vancouver environment and energy committee on Tuesday (May 4).
This month, Metro Vancouver will embark on a series of public consultations on its draft solid-waste management plan across the Lower Mainland and in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Meeting dates and locations are available here.Last month, Ben West, the Wilderness Committee’s healthy communities campaigner, told the Straight that if Metro Vancouver proceeds with a plan to burn more of its garbage, it will produce one million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
“We don’t want something that emits more carbon than a coal-fired power plant in our back yard,” West said at the time.
On April 9, Metro Vancouver’s board adopted the draft solid waste management plan, which proposes to increase the solid-waste diversion rate from 55 percent to 70 percent by 2015.
On its Web site, Metro Vancouver has posted answers to frequently asked questions, including one dealing with greenhouse-gas emissions.
“With the remaining waste, Metro Vancouver proposes to replace the Cache Creek Landfill (scheduled for closure) with a new waste-to-energy facility, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Metro Vancouver stated. “A waste-to-energy facility can achieve lower greenhouse gas emissions than a landfill because it recovers metals for recycling and generates energy to replace fossil fuels as a source of heat and electricity. In contrast, a landfill recovers much less energy and produces methane which is 21 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at warming the planet.”
(Metro Vancouver staff did not mention that methane has an atmospheric life of about 12 years, whereas carbon dioxide can last for tens of thousands of years.)
In March, UBC atmospheric scientist Ian McKendry completed a study on behalf of the Fraser Valley Regional District.
It recommends against adding any new sources of air pollution, including waste-incinerators, because “there is a large body of credible published evidence to suggest that there is sufficient cause for concern around the potential health risks posed by modern waste incinerators, especially from dioxins and nano-particles”.
Metro Vancouver staff prepared a response to McKendry’s study, which is included as an attachment to Quan’s report.
It noted that there is “a large body of credible published evidence to suggest the opposite, i.e. that potential health risks from modern waste incinerators are not a concern”.
Metro's frequently asked questions also cites an April 4 Toronto Star article, which stated that Greenpeace had dismantled its anti-incinerator campaign. However, Metro Vancouver didn't acknowledge that the following day, the Toronto Star published a letter to the editor from Greenpeace's policy advisor, Dave Martin, who took exception to the story.
"You wrote that even Greenpeace has stopped protesting over municipal waste incineration projects," Martin wrote. "That is not true. Greenpeace opposes Durham Region's ill-considered garbage incineration project on a variety of grounds."
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