It took a few days for the penny to drop but the press seems to be approaching a consensus that Metro's incineration plan is "burning out."
Those were the words of Province reporter Brian Lewis, published yesterday under the headline "Extension buries incinerator proposal." The previous day Coquitlam's former Mayor (and current City Councillor) Lou Sekora laid out several good reasons why he opposes Metro's incinerators in an interview with theleftcoast.ca . "
So the big question hanging in the air is: where will Metro's waste go, now that the First Nations don't want it and the incinerators are off the table?
The first step is for Metro to put the real numbers on the table. Just how much waste is actually there to be disposed of?
Every three years Metro does a "waste characterization study" looking at samples of our waste to see what kinds of things we're throwing away. Then they look at "the total municipal solid waste stream received by the entire Metro Vancouver waste transfer and disposal system" and project how much of each kind of waste (newspaper, food scraps, plastic bags, etc.) we throw away.
Here are the total amounts of waste reported in the last 3 studies:
2000: 1,066,520 tonnes
2004: 1,060,748 tonnes
2007: 1,013,700 tonnes
What's surprising about these figures?
Do you see the staggering growth in our waste that Metro Vancouver keeps claiming in order to justify the construction of incinerators (or even new landfills)?
We are well within the limits of our existing landfills and incinerator. Even if we lost the Cache Creek landfill this year, we would still have nearly enough space at the two remaining facilities (Vancouver landfill is permitted to take 750,000 tonnes each year and the Burnaby incinerator 290,000 tonnes).
It's a success story. We managed, largely through an expansion of composting programs for yard trimmings, to hold down our disposal for the last decade to zero growth.
And what of the future? The latest waste study found 350,000 tonnes of compostable organics that are taking up space in our landfills (and producing methane and toxic leachate). It also found 144,000 tonnes of recyclable paper, which is banned from disposal in our region.
That is a half-million tonnes of waste right off the top that we don't need to send to the waste incinerator or landfill. On top of that, there is 136,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic packaging and other products that we could give back to the producer to recycle, instead of ending up in our disposal system at community cost.
Doesn't it make sense to get aggressively behind programs to solve these problems instead of investing billions and offending our neighbours by building new incinerators and expanding landfills?