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

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Public ready for aggressive waste reduction measures, despite cost

In the first of its "Spring Series" of public consultations on waste, Metro Vancouver staff heard loud and clear that waste reduction is a top priority, despite the cost.

The first public meeting was held on April 1st in Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini's backyard. Metro staff kept emphasizing to the audience that the more aggressively we try to reduce our waste, the more it will cost us.

Undeterred, the 40 - 50 members of the public who showed up for the meeting voted at the end of the evening in support of the most ambitious diversion targets.

In an electronic vote, over 70% of the participants voted for diversion targets higher than the 70% target set by Metro Vancouver in its draft waste management plan.

The next meeting will be on the North Shore. It will happen on April 22, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Eagles Banquet Hall, 170 West 3rd Street, North Vancouver. Go to the Metro website to register or submit your views.

Metro politicians junket to Sweden to be "trained" in incineration

Vancouver Councillor Heather Deal will be one of four Metro politicians sent to Sweden next month to receive training in garbage incineration. This, despite the fact that her Vision Vancouver party took a position opposed to waste incineration in the November civic election.

Joining Deal will be West Van Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Delta Councillor Scott Hamilton, and Surrey Councillor Linda Hepner, along with 12 other Canadian politicians, presumably from communities like Durham ON where the incinerator industry is trying to drum up business.

The proposal to send Metro politicians on this junket was introduced surreptitiously. It did not appear on the publicly posted agenda of the meeting where it was approved. It was slipped in as an "on-table" item and decided on the spot, without any public discussion.

The committee minutes published a month later (buried in the agenda package for the April committee meeting) suggest that some politicians had reservations about this junket. The minutes record that there was discussion of "whether the benefits of this intensive training is [sic] worth the cost."

Cost? There is no mention in the minutes of how much taxpayers will pay for this trip. It is sure to be higher than the $1500 approved approved a year ago by the Waste Management Committee for Surrey Councillor Marvin Hunt to buy a round of drinks at an incinerator open house in Paris last summer.

Benefits? Is it really the politicians' job to become "trained" in waste technologies? According to the Recycling Council of BC: "Joe Trasolini (Port Moody) said:
“We are poised to spend billions of dollars. Let us be informed.”
Trasolini got his intensive training on a junket to Sweden several years ago with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He's been "pushing" (his word) garbage incineration ever since.

This is a junket, plain and simple. And one intended to push a waste incineration agenda.

If'we're going to send politicians on junkets, why not at least send them to Italy to learn from researcher Enzo Favoino how compost can turn agricultural soils into a carbon sink.
Waste incineration, on the other hand, encourages emission of GHGs, first to produce useless throw-away products and then to pump them up into the sky -- at taxpayer expense.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reinventing our cities: is waste a public responsibility?

It's time to ask ourselves whether we want entire departments of our local governments devoted to management of waste.

The city of Vancouver spends upwards of $13 million dollars each year sending trucks around to collect our garbage and empty our recycling containers. Another $6 million emptying street litter bins.

So we're incurring public costs of more than $20 million a year to manage what we call "municipal waste." But is that waste really municipal?

Three-quarters of what we set out at the curb is throw-away products and packaging.

A strong case can be made that these are not "municipal" wastes at all. They are private wastes, produced by companies profiting from disposability. They are sold to consumers who turn to their local governments to make the problem go away.

EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) is a policy that would turn the clock back to a hundred years ago, before the birth of the Throw Away Society.
In 1900 most of our waste (75%) was ashes from heating our homes. Look for the blocked-off openings in the exterior walls of the basement in older homes, where the coal chute used to deposit fuel for the furnace.

Then there was food waste from our kitchens. Not surprisingly, our great-grandparents threw out about the same amount of food waste as we do. Stomachs have not changed much in all that time.

What has changed is that each of us produces 13 times more throw-away products and packaging than our grandparents did. They lived in an era before plastic water bottles, "milk to go," squeezable ketchup bottles, Swiffers, etc. etc. etc.

You may think life is better now, with all those conveniences. But surely it doesn't make sense for public servants to be providing the clean-up for all our throw-aways. How much more sensible for the producers to take them back and recycle them, the way beer bottles still go back to be refilled in this country of ours.

If we could eliminate all the private wastes from our public garbage system, that might just free up resources to spend composting food waste. This is a project that has been woefully neglected while our city chases after milk jugs and yogurt containers and squeezable ketchup containers...
Pic: The Benson Bubblers were a gift to the city of Portland from a rich businessman to facilitate the provision of public water for free.