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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Snake Oil and Rube Goldberg

It was standing room only yesterday in the Metro Vancouver boardroom -- but only in the peanut gallery. But there were plenty of empty seats at the board table itself.

Not many politicians showed up to this special meeting of the Waste Management Committee to hear 28 delegations pitch their technological solutions to Metro Vancouver's garbage problems.

One observer commented that the proposals ranged "from Snake Oil to Rube Goldberg."

So many ways to turn garbage into gold.
But the politicians who were there served their constituents well by asking tough questions. Coquitlam Councillor Fin Donnelly set the hoops for the salesmen to jump through to prove their mettle and separate the serious contenders from the dreamers and schemers. He wanted each speaker to state: what capacity they could offer, what it would cost per tonne, how soon they could be up and running, and whether they had any successes to point to.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean, Anmore Mayor Ralph Drew and Vancouver would-be Mayor Peter Ladner all lit into Tony Sperling, the proponent of the Highland Valley Landfill that is still hoping to be chosen by the region to succeed the Cache Creek Landfill.

The best question was posed by Ladner: with your high capital costs, what waste quantities are you going to need at this facility?

Sperling's "bioreactor" landfill concept relies on revenues from waste-to-energy to be viable. The Highland Valley Copper company "wants GHG credits" out of this deal. And the only way to generate that energy and credits is to supply the machine with lots and lots of garbage. Indefinitely.

What we need to find is a salesman selling the negawaste solution.

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