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

Friday, April 23, 2010

plastic teabags?????

Day One of Vancouver's new food scraps composting program:

Bev Ramey of Nature Vancouver & BC Nature writes that she has found ghosts of past teabags all over her garden.

Turns out some company has switched from biodegradable to nylon teabags. Bev put them in her compost bin all last year. Can someone find out who that company is, so we can start sending them emails?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Metro is hiding data on waste quantities

At last Friday's meeting of the Metro Board I requested specific information that should be made available to the public before the consultation on the regional waste plan begins.

I was speaking of information requested in a letter of April 1, 2010, signed by myself and three others and copied to all members of the Board as well as the Minister of Environment and other interested parties.

I said to the Board that it was impossible for the public to evaluate the propsed waste plan without this information.

One of the things we asked for was the annual solid waste management plan reports for the years 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

At the meeting, I held up a copy of the Annual Report from 2004. It is no longer accessible on Metro's website. And it was the last Annual Report ever published, as far as I know.

Why are these reports so important?

Metro is basing its case for building a huge incinerator on the premise that we are running out of landfill space. They have been instilling fear in the region for years that we are about to be buried under a tide of garbage if we don't act quickly to build new disposal facilities.

Metro introduced its draft plan by saying (see page 3 of 13 of this report) that "waste quantities in Metro Vancouver are increasing every year as the population expands and particularly since 2004 when the economic fortunes of the region improved."

Far from being substantiated by annual reports, this claim was actually contradicted by a staff report to the Metro Finance Committee in July 2009 (Item 5.1, page 23 of 72).

This report advised the Committee that the waste disposal "tipping fee" has to be raised from $71/tonne to $82/tonne this year because of "declining waste flows".

The report advised the Committee that, along with declining waste flows, another factor that will drive up household costs still further (to as high as $126 per household by the year 2014) is "[t]he financial impacts of the current draft of the Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) which is currently in the consultation process."

"In particular," the report explains, "the [rate increase] projection reflects the debt service costs associated with the projected construction of new waste management facilities at a cost estimated, at this stage, to be likely in excess of $700 million...."

This report not only contradicts Metro's public messaging about our waste, it also discloses the huge financial risk we will incur if we build too much disposal capacity at huge public cost.

Is our waste growing -- or declining? If it's declining, why are they proposing we go out and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new incinerators that we may not need? Why won't Metro show us the actual data about our waste?

The Board listened politely to my presentation, but took no action on our request.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vancouver takes a stand against Metro's incinerator plan

It was a remarkable reversal of the evasive namby-pambyness that has been the hallmark of Metro politicians in their public statements about our region's proposed waste plan.

The City of Vancouver came into last Friday's showdown meeting of the Metro Board with four amendments to the region's plan before it went out for consultation.

Vancouver's amendments were not adopted by the Board (they were "deferred to Committee" in one last gesture of timidity by the Metro Board) but they are going to prove a game-changer. They were accurately deemed "contrary to the motion" on the floor (meaning that they fundamentally altered the Plan).
But the Vancouver Amendments will be appended to the plan when it goes out for public consultation. And they are sure to be the focus of public interest because they finally speak to the real needs of our region.

Here they are:
  • set a waste reduction target - Vancouver proposed a 56% reduction in waste generation (from 1.65 tonnes to 1.1 tonnes of waste per capita per year). Presently the Plan contains only a "diversion" target to increase the percentage of waste we recycle. But embedded in the Plan is an assumption that our waste will actually increase in the years to come, justifying the construction of the big new incinerator.

  • ban all compostable organics from disposal - this sends a clear policy signal to everyone in the region that we are serious about reducing our waste and about reducing the horrific climate impacts of our landfills through simple measures that everyone can understand and contribute to.

  • ban all commercial wood waste from disposal - this will cut an additional 90,000 tonnes of waste from public waste facilities, in addition to reducing the appalling wastefulness of the construction industry in our wood-producing province.

  • remove "combustion" from the waste-to-energy options - this is the coup de grace. It would leave some niche forms of energy recovery on the table, but prohibit the traditional mass-burn incineration that is currently proposed.

The Vancouver Amendments may be the instruments for derailing a plan that has been sliding towards approval for three years -- despite being fundamentally out of step with public desire for waste reduction.

Vancouver may have created the space for other political leaders to step forward and take a stand for real waste reduction. It may grate on some suburban politicians to be annexed into the "Green Capital" -- but their alternative will be to make a convincing case for spending a half-billion dollars on a waste incinerator when schools, parks and libraries are being cut back.

Pic: Vancouver Green Capital