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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vancouver landfill is no place for organics

Vancouver City Council received a long-awaited report this morning that could open the door to a huge opportunity for our city to shine.

The report was a response to Metro Vancouver's power play a year ago, when out of the blue Commissioner Johnny Carline announced to the astonished politicians on the Waste Management Committee that Metro was abandoning a plan to build a new landfill in the Interior.

Instead, Metro was going to shut down the Vancouver Landfill and build a whole suite of brand new garbage incinerators.
This took the City of Vancouver by surprise. They own the Vancouver Landfill.

Vancouver staff immediately asked the Council of the day to authorize a comprehensive study of the "environmental, financial and regulatory" impacts of Metro's new proposal. The study's findings were the subject of the report made public today.

Not surprisingly the study found that taxpayers will take a hit of $700 million if we have to ship our garbage to Metro Vancouver's new incinerators (cost: up to $130/tonne) instead of burying it in our own facility (cost $20/tonne).

But the report conceded that our landfill currently performs worse than an incinerator, measured measured in greenhouse gas impacts. This is because of the methane produced when we bury food waste and other organic materials underground.

So Vancouver's challenge is this:
Can Mayor Robertson and his Council get behind a massive mobilization to get every last shred of organic material out of the City's landfill? Can we do this by February 2010? Can we come from behind and score Gold in the Zero Waste competition? Now that would be an Olympic legacy we could all benefit from...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Germany built too many incinerators ~ will we learn from their example?

Bulletin from Lukas Hammer of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB):

"A study commissioned by NABU reveals the increasing overcapacity of waste incineration inGermany. Today Germany is a net importer of waste due to the combination of declining amounts of national waste that is sent to incineration plants and a consistent expansion of incineration capacity.

At present, German incineration plants burn 2 million tons of waste which originate outsidethe country in order to maintain an economic workload at the incineration plants (=net imports). According to the study this overcapacity could grow to 8,6 tons by 2020. There are currently plans to construct 28 new waste incineration plants and to extend the capacity of 6 existing plants. This would add capacity of 5,5 million tons to Germany's oversized waste incineration infrastructure. Furthermore, the study shows that a significant number of German incineration plants are to be modernized or closed in the coming ten of fifteen years.
If stakeholders opt to build new and extend and modernize older plants, the waste incineration overcapacity couldreach 26%.
Such an overcapacity is likely to result in further imports for incineration or in increased incineration of recyclable waste. It risks undermining national efforts to follow a sustainable path of waste management (i.e. waste prevention, increased separate collection, recycling and re-use; implementation of Waste Framework Directive).

NABU is calling for a moratorium on extension of German incineration capacity and closure of older dispensable plants.

Instead, investments should be made to increase the recycling infrastructure.

The German example shows how crucial it is to take the right decisions today in order to follow a sustainable path of waste management. Once these inflexible and expensive incineration plants are set up, they will be used whatever waste need being burnt. Incineration plants -- technically as well as economically -- cannot run with just half of the work load. They will need to burn more waste which is generated through more exports or/and less separate collection and recycling.

You find the full study (in German) on the NABU website.

Cancer prevention group informs public in incinerator risks

Prevent Cancer Now, a Canadian organization focusing on the environmental causes of cancer, has launched a new web initiative to inform the public about the carcinogenic substances emitted by waste incinerators.

In an article in the current issue of Solid Waste and Recycling, PCN's incineration campaign coordinator Linda Gasser is quoted as saying: "Neither the politicians singing the praises of incineration, nor the consultants hired to lobby for or obtain approvals, are giving the public the information they need to assess the full impacts of incineration projects."

The PCN's incineration page offers background information and a petition.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Waste volumes falling in recession

Here's more evidence, from the Washington Post this time, that the recession will buy us some time in designing a 21st Century waste management system.

The Post says waste volumes to landfills have fallen as much as 30% in some places. When the economy slows, so does our garbage. At Vancouver City Hall last week, a permit approval staff person told me that the traffic through their office has fallen off dramatically. (The fastest-growing waste stream in our region for years has been construction debris created by developers hell-bent-for-leather to get old buildings down and new ones up while the meter ticked on their loans....)

This takes the pressure off our region to invest massive sums in development of new disposal facilities to replace the Cache Creek Landfill. We can get a few more years out of it while we consider why it is we produce so much waste in the first place.

Pic: Flickr photo

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Newfoundland shuts down incinerators

There's a fresh wind blowing in from the East.
Solid Waste and Recycling magazine reports this month that Newfoundland is shutting down all of its waste incinerators in compliance with a Canada-wide Standard for Dioxins and Furans from Conical Waste Incinerators.

Amazingly, Newfoundland had 52 of these facilities. The first 29 are now decommissioned, with 23 to go...