Metro Vancouver gets recycling advice from Denmark

Danish expert pans garbage-sorting plants as poor way to separate recyclables from waste

Jacob Simonsen is managing director of the Danish Waste Association.

Jacob Simonsen is managing director of the Danish Waste Association.

A waste and recycling expert from Denmark has advised Metro Vancouver against the use of mechanized plants that attempt to sort recyclables from garbage.

Jacob Simonsen, managing director of the Danish Waste Association, said mixed-waste material recovery facilities (MRFs) have failed in testing in his country.

Recyclers generally don’t want to pay anything for the recyclables that are extracted because they are often heavily contaminated, he said.

“From an environmental point of view. I would not be able to recommend it,” Simonsen said in an interview after a June 25 presentation to Metro’s zero waste committee.

“I do not see any positive environmental impacts from going down that road.”

Metro has been under pressure from Belkorp Environmental to authorize a proposed material recovery plant in Coquitlam.

Metro officials have been skeptical that it would work, and other critics fear that, taken to the extreme, mechanized sorting of recyclables from garbage would encourage residents to throw everything into one garbage bin and stop separating recyclables.

“The way to go about it is to have source separation if you want to move towards a zero waste society,” Simonsen said.

In Denmark, 56 per cent of residential waste is recycled, while 41 per cent goes to waste-to-energy plants, and three per cent is landfilled.

Danish waste incinerators are often located in densely populated areas and tied into district heating systems.

Simonsen said there’s been increasing success in extracting more metals from the bottom ash of incinerated garbage as technology improves.

“We can actually sort out all sorts of metals, down to grain size that’s less than 0.5 millimetres,” he said.

Denmark is building new waste-to-energy plants to replace older ones and is counting on district heating as a key part of its strategy of generating energy with minimal carbon emissions.

He acknowledged the case for waste-to-energy plants may be stronger in Denmark, where energy recovered from waste replaces the carbon-intensive burning of coal, compared to B.C., where electricity is generated renewably from hydroelectricity.

Each Dane throws out 600 kilograms of garbage per year, worse than Swedes at around 400 kilograms each, but not nearly as bad as Metro Vancouverites, who generate more than a tonne of garbage per capita.

“We throw out a lot of buildings,” observed Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer.

Belkorp vice-president Russ Black dismissed Simonsen’s views on material recovery facilities as “fear-mongering” by the incineration industry.

“These things work and they continue to be built,” he said, pointing to new MRFs coming on stream in the U.S. that he said are more advanced than previous European efforts.

He said MRFs aren’t generally compatible with waste-to-energy plants because they remove the paper and plastics from garbage that generate the most energy when burned.

“In Denmark, they are heavily invested in incineration,” Black said. “Mixed waste MRFs would jeopardize that investment.”

 

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read