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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Take back the agenda

I'm just back from a conference in Australia. Where the water goes down the drain clockwise, right? Where, more to the point, every toilet is dual-flush. Drought is a subject that everyone has an opinion on, and the opinion is: something is terribly wrong and we have to do something about it.

One thing they're doing is to tackle the methane problem from landfills, one of the drivers of climate change. It's something we don't talk about enough.

Here in Canada, even in Toronto, we're serious about the producer's responsibility to recycle all those throw-away products and packaging. And that's a good thing. Extending the producer's responsibility will give the atmosphere a break by turning the tide on excess consumption.

But if all the throwaway products and packaging were banned from the planet, we would still have a big waste problem.

According to a new waste study from Metro Vancouver each of us sends 163 kilograms of sloppy wet organic wastes to the landfill each year. And that is an understatement, because it doesn't include greasy pizza boxes and a whole range of other organic wastes too awful to mention.

And what do these "biodegradable" wastes do in the landfill? They produce vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than the exhaust from our cars.

I came home from Australia determined to mount a mobilization to get every scrap of organics out of our municipal waste. It is something we don't have to wait for the producers to do ~ we are the producers. The problem exists because we let it happen, on our watch, with our municipal infrastructure.

Instead of hiding our food waste problem in a hole in the ground, we can follow the Australians' example. We can close the food production link, sending food waste back to nourish the land it came from. We live in a food-growing region with a lot of animal husbandry, imposing its own burden on the land and the atmosphere. How about if we work with the Fraser Valley to solve our mutual organic waste problems instead of threatening them with incinerator emissions?

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