Demonstrators outside the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel Wednesday

Zero waste activists protest Metro Vancouver incineration plan

Wrong to lock into feeding WTE plant instead of cutting garbage, group says

Protesters who want Metro Vancouver to abandon plans for a new garbage incinerator demonstrated today outside a waste-to-energy (WTE) industry conference in Richmond.

Zero Waste British Columbia spokesperson Sue Maxwell said activists will also press provincial election candidates from all parties to take a stand on the issue in hopes the next government won’t give final approval to a new WTE plant.

“Our primary concern is the sheer cost that it’s going to be for the area,” Maxwell said.

She argues the estimated price tag of close to $500 million could instead be spent on new zero-waste initiatives to dramatically reduce garbage and avoid the need for incineration.

“There are other points of view besides the idea that this magic machine will take garbage away and won’t cost us hardly anything, which is the story we’e being presented.”

She was speaking outside a hotel in Richmond where the Canadian Energy From Waste Coalition was meeting.

Metro is considering proposals from 19 firms that want to build a new plant and will this summer ask property owners to propose potential host sites.

Procurement and construction would take until 2018 – if it gets regulatory approval from the province – and Metro would then stop trucking garbage to the Cache Creek regional landfill.

Activists argue Metro Vancouver directors have been seduced by trips to see modern incinerators in European cities and are relying on pro-incineration claims, while discounting opposition from doctors in Europe, among others.

Maxwell said a new incinerator would add more toxins like mercury and dioxins to the air and would be a very carbon-intensive way to generate energy.

Fraser Valley residents are also strongly opposed to a new incinerator on grounds it would worsen air quality there.

Waste reform advocates say it would lock the region into supplying the new plant with garbage, instead of finding better ways to reduce it.

Maxwell said it doesn’t make sense to commit now to building more WTE capacity when most local cities have just begun organic waste pickup and are suddenly achieving big drops in the amount of garbage requiring disposal.