Environment Minister Barry Penner just sent me a turgidly worded but unequivocal response to my email of last April, in which I asked if the government's Bill 29 made garbage burning the equivalent of recycling.
His answer: yes.
Here is what the minister said: The introduction of “recovery” in Bill 29 will allow discussions to occur to determine whether alternatives to landfilling of non-recyclables in BC should proceed and, if so, in what form.
De-constructed, Penner's sentence means: the province is doing what the European Parliament did in 2003 when it redefined garbage burning as recycling.
In 1994 Europe became a world leader for requiring producers to "recover" (recycle) their packaging waste. But a News Report issued by the EU in December 2003 announced a new policy:
"Should incineration of packaging waste count as 'recovery'? Recent judgments by the European Court of Justice stated that incineration of municipal waste in incinerators is to be regarded as a disposal operation if the main purpose of the operation is to dispose of the waste.
"As a result of these judgments, packaging waste incinerated in such installations could no longer be counted towards the recovery targets of the Packaging Directive.
"Consequently, in order to reach an agreement the EP and Council clarified the word "recovery" in the light of the Court's judgment.
Whereas the 1994 Directive calls for packaging waste to be "recovered", the revised law will now read "to be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery", thereby broadening the definition of what is understood by 'recovery' in this context."
At the stroke of a legislative pen, political leaders in Europe and BC are blurring an important distinction between recycling and burning -- a distinction that has guided waste policy for nearly two decades.
By opening the door to "recovery" of energy, our provincial parliament and the European Parliament are letting producers off the hook, encouraging the production of throw-away products and packaging that cannot be recycled.
Do you think this is a step in the wrong direction? Tell Barry Penner: