A report from Metro CAO Johnny Carline didn't make it to the Board agenda on Friday. But it is definitely worth a read (see Item D1 on this agenda) It shows, right there in black and white what Metro staff's priorities are. It also raises the question of whether staff are overstepping their role as implementers of political direction.
The report was Carline's response to Metro politicians who have called for a higher diversion rate in the new waste plan. This has been a frequent question asked by politicians (and the public) ever since Metro staff pitched its arbitrary 70% target two years ago. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is only one of the politicians who called for the Plan to set higher goals.
Carline's recommendation was NOT to establish a higher target. He said:
"It is recommended that the 70% diversion target... be retained. It is also recommended that additional in-region waste-to-energy capacity be established... to ensure adequate in-region capacity is available for all waste that is not diverted to recycling."
With that second sentence, Carline makes it clear that he is more concerned about building new disposal facilities than about building a system that reduces waste.
He is making the political judgement that balancing supply and demand of waste is a more urgent priority than reducing waste -- and that building too much waste disposal capacity is better than building too little.
Carline's case that our current disposal facilities won't be enough to manage future waste volumes is far from air-tight. The figures in the report are misleading and should be challenged by politicians (I suggested questions that should be asked in an email to the Directors last week.)
Furthermore, Carline presents absolutely no scientific basis for the claim that higher diversion rates are unachievable. Rather, he offers a news article saying that Toronto is going to miss its recycling goal. According to Statistics Canada, Ontario has lagged behind BC in waste reduction for years. In 2006, their per capita waste was 822 kg, while ours in BC was 675 kg. Furthermore, Ontario has just introduced sweeping changes to its recycling legislation to bring it more in line with ours in British Columbia. We are world leaders in Producer Responsibility policies ~ why should we compare ourselves with Ontario?
Carline tells politicians that getting beyond 70% diversion "will require significant changes to the global economy." The question for our politicians -- not Carline -- to answer is whether we are going to adopt a waste management plan that supports global change and extends our leadership -- or one that locks us into yesterday's levels of wastefulness.