Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Politicians question focus, assumptions and methodology of study

A report went this week to two Metro Vancouver committees (Environment and Waste Management) and came under fire from politicians. The study, which had not requested by the committees, compared “life cycle environmental burdens” of landfilling and WTE (mass-burn incineration). The intent of the study was to identify major material and energy inputs & outputs and quantify them to “create an equivalent basis for comparison.”

Environment Committee member Lisa Barrett (Bowen Island) said: “You have given us two scenarios, but what about the third: Zero Waste?”

Looking at a table showing emissions under the two scenarios, Hal Weinberg (Anmore) noted that the mercury emissions from WTE were 35 times higher than from landfilling and was told that the study "assumed" that mercury is “bound up” in landfills and not released in emissions.

Weinberg also wanted to know what the reported emission levels meant in terms of impact on human health (staff responded by saying they have “no expertise” in this). Weinberg commented that without the link to health impacts, these numbers are “meaningless.”

Several of the Environment Committee members including Heather Deal (Vancouver) insisted they want more information before they can draw meaningful conclusions from the study.

When the report goes to the GVRD Board, Zero Waste Vancouver will point out another deficiency of the study: it doesn’t talk about inputs. Both landfilling and incineration take large quantities of highly refined materials and remove them from use, acting as a gear that drives the industrial system to replace the lost materials as fast as it can. From a climate-change perspective, the useful comparison, as Lisa Barrett pointed out, is not between landfilling and incineration. It is between wasting and not wasting.
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