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Protest was counterpoint to MV waste-to-energy plan

The new Metro Vancouver incinerator site has not been decided but there are at least three locations currently under consideration for the Metro WTE project estimated to cost about half a billion dollars. - submitted
The new Metro Vancouver incinerator site has not been decided but there are at least three locations currently under consideration for the Metro WTE project estimated to cost about half a billion dollars.
— image credit: submitted

Aggressively increasing recycling volumes is just one unexplored counterpoint to incineration.

At least that would be a decidedly greener approach, said a Chilliwack city councillor.

It is "asinine" to portray mass garbage burning as a green technology, according to Jason Lum, an FVRD director and Chilliwack city councillor.

Metro Vancouver is pursuing plans for new waste-to-energy technology by building a trash incinerator, as part of a comprehensive plan to divert waste from the landfills.

Lum joined fellow FVRD rep Patricia Ross Wednesday at small protest outside the Hilton at Metrotown, while Metro officials were inside making the business case to stakeholders for their WTE plan.

The opponents were trying to counter the pro-garbage burning direction with some old-fashioned awareness raising — especially about the potential environmental impacts on a vulnerable airshed like the one in the Fraser Valley.

The new incinerator site has not been decided on but there are at least three possible locations currently under consideration for the Metro WTE project estimated to cost half a billion dollars.

"They are trying to qualify it as clean, renewable energy. But the idea that burning garbage is in any way clean or green energy is ridiculous. It's an embarrassment really."

One problem is the toxic fly ash that has to be landfilled after.

There are better solutions out there, Lum said, and the FVRD has put forth some ideas like "advanced material recovery," which would aggressively increase the volumes of recyclables.

But WTE is safe, according to MV.

"To effectively manage this remaining garbage,the Metro Vancouver Board determined that additional waste-to-energy (WTE) capacity is the best solution," according to a handout from Metro Vancouver. "New WTE will be sized to handle only the garbage remaining after we meet our 80% diversion target.

"As a condition of the approval of Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan, the Minister of Environment required Metro Vancouver to consider 'the full range of options both in and out of region in an equal and fair manner.'"

For the Chilliwack city councillor, the prospect of incineration — in or out of the Fraer Valley — is both sad and scary.

"If we build a garbage burner, we lose the incentive to recycle. People want to recycle more and they want to live more sustainably."

The public can play a key role in minimizing the waste, he argued, through efforts like organic waste composting and aggressively increasing recycling.

"We're really just scratching the surface. We need more pressure from the public on this as well."

Citizens of Nanaimo have recently said "no" to the idea, he noted.

Lum is concerned that the costs are escalating according to Metro Vancouver figures, yet the volumes of waste that can be handled is going down.

They cited 500 tonnes of waste, but now they are saying they will only need to burn 370,000 tonnes after waste diversion efforts. It will cost at least $517 million, which is up from an early total of $480 million.

"So they've dropped the volumes and increased the costs, which is not a good thing," said Lum.

Secrecy is also an issue, since they have never been forthcoming with the business case for the project, and tend to hold closed-door meetings.

"They would love to have the public believe that this is a simple choice between garbage burning or landfilling," said Lum. "It is not.

"Garbage burning perpetuates the need for landfilling since the ash must be landfilled. The cost to landfill that toxic ash is very expensive because nobody wants it."

More details on the MV WTE plan are at www.metrovancouver.org, or e-mail to  NWTE@metrovancouver.org

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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