Today I sat in on a meeting of the Sunshine Coast Regional District Board where MMBC's Allen Langdon was briefing the politicians about the new stewardship program for PPP (packaging and printed paper) which will be rolling out in 24 days.
The meeting was very tense, with the politicians struggling to articulate the many basic questions about the program that still have not been resolved -- like, what will it look like?
One question that came up: what is MMBC planning to do with the "residuals" -- non-recyclable materials that are collected in the program. Would they be burning those residuals in an incinerator? This was the allegation made by a well-known, award-winning local recycler, linking the MMBC program to Metro Vancouver's plan to build an incinerator, possibly right up the Sound in Port Mellon.
Langdon insisted that the recycler was "misinformed" and repeated several times that MMBC had no plan to incinerate residuals, but would be landfilling them instead.
It may be true that MMBC has no such plan at this time. However, they will be up against pressure coming from Metro Vancouver to force them to burn their residuals.
This is a component of Metro Vancouver's new solid waste management plan. Section 3.3.3 of Metro's plan, on page 26, says that the region will request the provincial government to develop "requirements for existing and future stewardship programs to use the non-recyclable portion of returned material as fuel rather than landfilling."
It may not be MMBC's plan at this time to burn residuals, but it clearly is Metro Vancouver's plan. And that plan has been approved by the province.
NOTE: In Europe, where the concept of producer responsibility for packaging was introduced in 1991, producers are obligated to achieve targets just as they are under our regulation. But the European directive was amended in 2003 so that the targets don't require recycling any more.
Since 2008, "at least 60 % by weight of packaging waste [is required] to be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery". The Directive underscores the point: [t]he incineration of waste at plants with energy recovery is regarded as contributing to the realisation of these objectives.
Is this where we're headed in BC, with Metro Vancouver's help?