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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Let's talk about paper!

Here is an interesting take on paper that helps to explain why recycling makes so much sense. Let's learn more about paper, so we can take better care of it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

We have to ask the producers the tough questions we haven't asked our cities

This summer the producers responsible for throw-away packaging are trooping around BC, setting up meetings with local government waste managers, dangling bags of money, and saying they'll cover 100 percent of the cost of their local recycling programs.

When this opportunity is announced in a Staff Report to Council next September, now many Mayors and Councillors are going to ask their staff:

  • Will we have to track the amount of materials that come in, so the producers can submit that info in reports to the province as required under the law?

  • Are they providing the data-management system and training to do this? How many FTEs are they providing to do this ?

  • How many different kinds of packaging are we going to be tracking? The province will want to know about the performance of all the different kinds of packaging. They'll want to know which packaging is pulling its weight in the program and which is not, so we can put pressure on the producers of poorly performing packaging to choose a more environmentally friendly design. That's the point of EPR, right?

  • Will this program require us to build a MRF (sorting plant)? Upgrade the one we have so it can sort more materials? Will there be restrictions on the percent of "residuals" that the MRF produces -- the stuff that gets thrown away because is not actually recyclable? (And by the way, how many residuals are coming from our municipal program right now?)

We are organizing a Campaign for Real Recycling for September. It is going to hold producers to even higher standards of transparency and performance than we have held our own cities. It's no longer good enough to tell us to put it out on the curb and not know what the real recycling achievements are.

We want to know where everything is going and what is being done with it. And how much it's costing us as consumers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

composting bags - the new Scotties?

Imagine a world without rolled toilet paper.

The advent of indoor toilets gave rise to a whole grocery aisle full of toilet paper of all colours, patterns and grades. And toilet paper rollers to match every decor...

Here we are at a similar moment of human history: the advent of municipal food scraps composting. This is going to open the door to a flood of new consumer products.

The Bag to Earth is made in Ontario.

The patented (US #6,524,667) design makes it "totally biodegradable and compostable" using a material that is locally abundant and renewable: Canadian wood pulp.

Will more Canadian companies recognize an historic opportunity and seize this market before Frankenplastics steal the niche?

Monday, July 11, 2011

GHG accounting - incineration's downfall

Metro Vancouver has hit a snag in its plan to build a garbage incineration empire: provincial regulation of GHG emissions.

In May the Metro Energy Committee learned (Item 5.2 in this agenda) that its existing Burnaby incinerator is the 4th largest emitter of GHG's in the region. Under the provincial cap-and-trade program the emissions from this incinerator alone will cost the region $3 million a year uin 2012 ("equivalent to 30 per cent of revenues," as reported in today's paper.)

This month Metro staff are bringing another report to the Committee ( Item 5.3 in this agenda).

This latest report whines that the province is being unfair to incinerators. Incinerators are subject to cap-and-trade costs while landfills are not. Landfills are covered by a separate piece of legislation. Metro staff admit in the report that they have not been able to bully the provincial officials into giving incinerators a break. Accordingly, the report recommends that the politicians on the Board get involved.

But the province has it right. You can reduce GHG emissions from landfills. All you have to do is keep organic materials out -- something Metro intends to do by 2015. It's rotting organic materials that are the source of landfill GHGs. Once the organics are gone, landfills will be a storage place for materials that potentially will be useful to our grandchildren.

But incinerators can't operate without sending carbon into the atmosphere -- GHG landfills in the sky. They vaporize the resources that future generations will need.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vancouver moves one step forward on food scraps

Our city staff and elected officials need moral support. They are about to do something scarey -- but wonderful!

It's all in a staff report that will go to Vancouver City Council next week.

The report acknowledges that over one-third of our waste is compostable food scraps and food-soiled paper, that this yucky stuff produces greenhouse gases in the landfill, and that we have to get these materials out of our landfill if we want to meet our GHG reduction targets.

This means we have to change our ways, all of us. At home and at work.

The good news is that everybody I talk to is eager to change. The only complaint I've heard about the first phase of the City's composting program (which began just over a year ago) is that apartments and condos were left out.

The report asks Council permission to embark on Phase Two: a cautious pilot program.

Two percent of the houses in Vancouver, along with a small sample of carefully-chosen businesses and apartment houses, will get a chance to set out all their food scraps for composting instead of putting them in the garbage. The City will collect the composting containers every week.

The pilot will start up this fall. Once the 6-month pilot is complete and the City staff have analyzed all the data they intend to collect about the pilot program, they will come back to Council again and ask permission to go City-wide with the new program.

City Council and the cautious engineers who deliver our waste management services need reassuring words from us.

Come to Council Chambers next Thursday, 9:30 am, and let them know you are ready to take this big step.