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

Monday, December 3, 2007

Learning from the garbage strike

Garbage continues to rankle our public conscience. In the Tyee last week writer Ruben Anderson ruefully pointed out that we have learned nothing from the garbage strike last summer.
"People are breathing easier as their cans once again fill and miraculously empty every week...Which means we've missed a huge opportunity here. We should still be asking the true question raised by all that smelly inconvenience: Why do we have garbage in the first place?"

The reason, he rightly goes on to explain, is that things are designed for the dump. To solve our problem, we need to be thinking of "cradle to cradle design."

Michael Braungart and William McDonough came up with the "cradle-to-cradle" concept in 1995 and copyrighted it in 2001 ~ but since then the amount of throw-away products and packaging in US waste has increased 20%. Here in MetroVancouver, our waste has grown 46% since 2000, five times greater than our population growth.
What's standing in the way of cradle-to-cradle design? Public policy.
Throwing things away is culturally sanctioned in our society. We take it as one of our basic civil rights that we will receive convenient collection and disposal of our throw-aways, provided as a free public service, just like education and health care.
If we want cradle-to-cradle design, maybe we should stop providing the grave?

1 comment:

Ermes said...

Actually the recent strike did leave us with lessons, though of a perverse sort.
Wastech recently held an open house in Cache Creek meant to tell (not ask whether it’s OK to do so) the people of Cache Creek that it needs an amendment to its current permit to enable it to receive an addditional 200,000 tonnes of Metro-Van garbage on top of the 500,000 it is already permitted to receive. Two of the key reasons Wastech gave to the awe-struck audience were these:
Metro-Van has already achieved a 50% recycling rate; and despite that, Metro-Van’s disposable garbage garbage continues to grow. That’s why CC needs to accept a lot more of the stuff than it is receiving at present. (The options—as pointed out at the meeting—are (a) changing the Vancouver dump’s permit or (b) sending the stuff to the US. No mention at all made about the possibility of just simply doing more recycling. The other key reason was more to the point:
From July to October—Wastech told the attendees—the CC landfill operated at an equivalent rate of 1,000,000 tonnes per year; traffic through the Canyon was up to 100 trucks per day & everything went off smoothly.
So what’s the irony?
Two things:
1. Wastech clearly thinks very little of the Zero Waste Initiative: for them it just doesn’t rate as a problem solver.
2. Wastech learned a valuable lesson from the recent strike: it uses the effect of the strike itself as justification for increasing the current obscene tonnage at CC by an additional 40%.
So yes, the recent strike has left us with valuable lessons indeed.