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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Public meeting Tuesday night

Zero Waste Vancouver "wasteheads" will gather on Tuesday, June 21st, 7:30 - 9:00 pm. Location: Langara College/Building A. Everybody welcome.

We will talk about "The Perils of Single Stream Recycling" with Louise Schwarz, who has operated a 100% locally-owned waste management company called Recycling Alternative since 1989.

I'll provide an overview of the province's new "EPR" packaging regulation and Zero Waste Vancouver's Bin Doctors composting program.

Composting + EPR = Zero Waste.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Recycle your old bicycle tires

One more reason to celebrate living in BC.

If you've got a tangle of old bike tires and tubes in the garage, you can unload them at a participating bike retailer and they will be recycled as part of our province's tire recycling program.

Twenty years ago BC put a $3 "levy" on new auto and truck tires and the money fuelled the development of a tire recycling industry.

The industry is made up of retailers taking back tires, truckers hauling them, processors preparing the rubber for reuse, and manufacturers taking the crumb rubber and making products with it. Once the industry was on its feet tires became regulated under the BC Recycling Regulation.

Now that we have a tire recycling industry, those levies on tires don't go to the government, but to one of the "stewardship organizations" that have sprung up in BC to handle recycling of particular products and packaging covered under the regulation. For an overview of this "stewardship industry" see this interesting Recycling Handbook.

Now there are tire recycling programs in every province of Canada that are modelled more or less on the BC program. Some programs are still in earlier stages of their evolution. The evolution is from traditional government-run recycling to entirely industry-run recycling where government sets environmental standards. This evolution is happening to everything we buy. It will be as easy to recycle an old tire (or whatever) as it was to buy it in the first place.

Tire retailers are the backbone of the tire return system. What's new this year is that bicycle retailers have joined the system as a pilot to take back bike tires and tubes. For more information see the Tire Stewardship website.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Three reports challenge landfill gas to energy concept

The City of Vancouver -- and all of us citizens -- have a liability to overcome in our pursuit to be the world's Greenest City.

Each year we send nearly a half-million tonnes of mixed garbage to our City-owned landfill in Delta, a practice that produces the potent GHG methane.

To address this vulnerability, the City installed pipes to capture the gas in 1991. The captured gas was "flared" -- burned in an open flame -- so that it emitted CO2 rather than CH4. Then in 2002 the City signed a 20 year agreement with Maxim Power to use the captured gas to produce electricity. The City receives revenues of $200 - 300 thousand per year to offset the cost of maintaining the system. The captured gas produces enough energy each year to power 6,000 homes. (see the 2009 Vancouver Landfill Annual Report and this Solid Waste page from the City's Sustainability website.)

The bad news is the gas that escapes.

Two reports this week call for a policy of methane prevention, rather than end-of-pipe approaches.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report slammed the landfill-gas-to-energy concept in an interview, saying that "landfills are inherently leaky" and that the "process of using landfills as digesters is faulty."

Also in the news this week is a report released by North Carolina State University that points to contradictory policies that encourage landfilling of biodegradable materials that break down before the gas capture systems are in place.

Twenty years into effort to control the emission of methane from the Vancouver landfill, we still have no way to measure the amount of gas that escapes. Furthermore, the City report admits that fully one-third of the gas that is captured is not put to "beneficial use" to produce electricity, but simply flared.

In his report looking at the full spectrum of GHG emissions, Gord Miller advised his province: "Given methane's significantly higher short term global warming potential, the prevention of fugitive methane emissions from landfills should become a near-term priority."

In January 2010, a report by the Sierra Club called for a shift to methane prevention -- and also pointed to other harmful pollutants in landfill gas.

Zero Waste Vancouver will be pitching in to help the City get more folks composting in their backyards this summer....