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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Municipalities busy solving waste problem while Metro dithers

Metro Vancouver is increasingly living in a world of its own, isolated from the reality unfolding all around it.

Two cities have openly challenged the regional government's proposed solid waste management plan. More cities will defect as the preposterous cost and risk of Metro's proposal become clear.

And meanwhile, our cities are busy building programs to eliminate the million tonnes of "non-recyclable waste" that Metro wants to burn.

Half the waste in our region is compostable organics. Port Coquitlam and Port Moody are already reducing their waste by collecting food scraps for composting. The City of Vancouver is prepared to ban compostable organics from disposal in a mere 5 years. By that time there will be composting plants and anaerobic digestion facilities across the region turning these materials into soil amendments and truly clean energy. Abbotsford has already approved a special facility to turn agriculatural manure into clean energy through anaerobic digestion.

The other half of our waste is the throw-away products and packaging that have become a hallmark of our Disposable Society. But these, too, are not inevitable. Policies are in place to make them obsolete.

A ground-breaking waste reduction policy pioneered in British Columbia two generations ago when the Social Credit Party introduced North America's first mandatory deposit refunds on beer and soft drink containers will end the municipal responsibility for cleaning up after the producers of throw-away products.

Producers are being called to the table one sector of industry at a time, and told to take back their products and recycle them: old paint, old televisions and computers, used oil, tires -- soon any appliance with a cord will go back to be recycled instead of ending up in our municipal waste system. The current minister of environment has told municipalities that ultiimately provincial law will require producer responsibility for all products and packaging.

Our municipal and provincial governments are busy solving the waste problem while Metro Vancouver is still caught in a time-warp.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cities defecting from Metro's incinerator plan

Two data points don't make a trend yet, but Metro staff are probably not going to be pleased that a second city appears to be defecting from the region's incinerator plan.

Coquitlam Council's Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Environment received a report on Monday that is sharply critical of assumptions in Metro's proposed waste management plan and recommends asking the Metro Board to develop a better case for building incinerators.

The report presents a number of "issues that are yet to be resolved," mainly relating to Metro's projections of the actual cost of incineration compared to other options. The report calls for Metro to either put out a request for proposals with detailed cost estimates or have an independent review of Metro staff's assumptions.

Cost and risk are important issues for the region's municipalities.

"Local ratepayers will have to carry the full cost of capital and operations [of new disposal facilities] as it is highly unlikely that other levels of government will participate in capital cost-sharing, unlike in other Metro Vancouver services where senior governments often assist with capital costs."

(Metro's draft plan proposes senior government financial support.)

The report also covers a number of measures that Coquitlam is undertaking right now to reduce waste, including a going city-wide with a comprehensive composting program. A successful pilot this year found that the city-wide program could cut disposal costs by $70K per year.

Pic: Lou Sekora, long-time Coquitlam politician who leads the city's Regional Solid Waste Solutions Standing Committee appointed by the Mayor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

E-waste program success story?

In BC we take computers back to be recycled in a program that is authorized by Sony, Dell, HP, Apple, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

All those good names and logos are on the line that our e-waste won't end up in the place pictured here.

This is the place where our federal government sent its e-waste until good work by the Basel Action Network brought images like this home.

The timing couldn't have been better. British Columbia's landmark, earth-changing Industry Product Stewardship legislation was shining the spotlight on major brand-owners, calling them to the table, saying: "This is your problem. Solve it."

The brand-owners got the message. Seeing the handwriting on the wall -- that they were going to have to take back e-waste and recycle it -- they developed a sheet of Vendor Qualifications setting out for the recycling companies wanting to do business with them what could, and couldn't, happen to all those products bearing their brands. What couldn't happen was prison labour or export to non-OECD/EU countries (such as China).

The Electronic Stewardship Association of BC is the group of brand-owners that oversees what happens to ewaste in our province. They are asking their Advisory Committee (on which Zero Waste Vancouver has a seat) what should be their priorities for the coming year when they sit down in the fall to develop an Annual Plan for 2011.

What should I tell them on your behalf?

For myself, I'm going to ask them what they are doing to avoid the public relations disaster being suffered this week by the Ontario government, which is allowing e-waste to end up in landfills.