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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beyond incineration

The important question before us now that Metro's incinerators are pretty much off the rails is this: What will we do instead of building incinerators?

Our recycling programs are failing. The formulation that waste is a "resource" is rooted in a 19th Century economic world view. Just as we set up industries to plunder our natural resources (forests, fisheries, mineral deposits) for a quick financial return, we are setting up recycling programs that squander far more value than they conserve. We are culling bales of low-grade commodities from our garbage and selling them off cheap on the global market -- and the irony is: we don't even get much return (recycling has a net cost of $190 million a year!).

Meanwhile at every month's end, I am told by those who know, there are long line-ups at the garbage transfer stations. People are bringing stuff by the truckload that they don't want to take with them when they move. Perfectly good pots and pans, furniture, building materials, clothing, etc., etc., etc. These are things that have far greater value -- if exchanged -- than dirty plastic or old newspapers.

As we approach Peak Oil, and supply lines are cut off and we can no longer rely on the constant flow of cheap goods from Asia (sorry, Gateway), the inventory of stuff in our basements and closets is going to be hugely valuable. What are our cities going to do to help us "steward" those goods, so they can create new cycles of economic activity in our communities?

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