Metro Vancouver is increasingly living in a world of its own, isolated from the reality unfolding all around it.
Two cities have openly challenged the regional government's proposed solid waste management plan. More cities will defect as the preposterous cost and risk of Metro's proposal become clear.
And meanwhile, our cities are busy building programs to eliminate the million tonnes of "non-recyclable waste" that Metro wants to burn.
Half the waste in our region is compostable organics. Port Coquitlam and Port Moody are already reducing their waste by collecting food scraps for composting. The City of Vancouver is prepared to ban compostable organics from disposal in a mere five years. By that time there will be composting plants and anaerobic digestion facilities across the region turning these materials into soil amendments and truly clean energy. Abbotsford has already approved a special facility to turn agricultural manure into clean energy through anaerobic digestion.
The other half of our waste is the throw-away products and packaging that have become a hallmark of our disposable society. But these too are not inevitable. Policies are in place to make them obsolete.
A ground-breaking waste reduction policy pioneered in British Columbia two generations ago when the Social Credit Party introduced North America's first mandatory deposit refunds on beer and soft drink containers will end the municipal responsibility for cleaning up after the producers of throwaway products.
Producers are being called to the table one by one, and told to take back their products and recycle them: old paint, old televisions and computers, used oil, tires—soon any appliance with a cord will go back to be recycled instead of ending up in our municipal waste system. The current minister of environment has told municipalities that ultimately provincial law will require producer responsibility for all products and packaging.
Our municipal and provincial governments are busy solving the waste problem while Metro Vancouver is still caught in a time warp.
Helen Spiegelman is a Vancouver-based environmentalist and blog coordinator. Read more at Zero Waste.