The province has endorsed the regional waste plan, which includes the incineration of garbage.
The region adopted the Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan (ISWRMP) a year ago this week. On Monday, Minister of Environment Terry Lake gave it his approval.
Aside from incineration, plan also calls for an aggressive push for increased recycling and composting of household organics.
Metro board chair Lois Jackson said Monday the provincial approval was great news.
“This solid waste management plan will help us preserve non-renewable resources, save energy, generate revenue, protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gases,” Jackson said.
The ISWRMP was the result of an exhaustive public consultation and involves several methods of waste disposal as the region attempts to cut down the amount of garbage headed for the landfill.
The targets are an 80 per cent diversion in the amount of waste heading for landfills, which are quickly hitting their maximum allowable intake.
“But even with high diversion rates, we still need to deal with the more than one million tonnes of waste we cannot recycle, and the new plan does that by focusing on the recovery of materials and energy from the garbage that remains,” Jackson said.
Surrey Acting Mayor Marvin Hunt said he was thrilled the plan got provincial approval.
The former chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Committee said it was about 15 years in the making to find a plan regional directors could agree upon.
“Now the work comes as we try to deal with technologies and find out what are the best technologies in the world to deal with our solid waste,” Hunt said. “This is a very good day.”
Jackson said the plan looks at garbage as a resource and an opportunity to find better ways to protect our planet.
“This is a plan that protects the environment and also generates revenue that will help pay for the things we need to safely and responsibly manage our garbage,” Jackson said.
Mayor Dianne Watts said at the time the region passed the plan that there’s a huge host of emerging technologies that should be considered.
She also noted the Fraser Valley is vehemently opposed to incineration close to home.
“We have to respect their views as well,” Watts said, adding she would approve of an out of region facility. “I think it’s the most balanced approach.”
Because of strong public reaction to decrease the amount of garbage going to landfills, Metro staff are recommending an 80 per cent diversion by 2020. Previously, the goal had been a 70 per cent diversion by 2015.
Part of the plan is to compost all residential organics by 2012 and by 2015, banning all such food and kitchen waste from landfills.
At least one green group is upset with the fact that Environment Minister Terry Lake approved the plan.
“Decisions like this one today would seem to suggest that Minister Lake sees his job as helping big companies get around dealing with environmental concerns, rather than actually protecting our environment,” said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.
“The real fight will begin when they pick a location and try to build one of these pollution-spewing garbage-burning monsters,” said West. “Wherever they try to do this we will be there to make sure people know the truth about what is being proposed in their backyard.”