EFW coalition makes its case

Approximately 800 plants provide sustainable, reliable, economical solid waste services to municipalities.

The Canadian Energy-From-Waste Coalition (CEFWC) would like to set the record straight on a few issues raised in your article “Opposition growing to Metro’s incinerator plan (December 11, 2012).”

First, the notion that a “huge groundswell of opposition” is forming is an exaggeration by any measure as a recent IPSOS-Reid public opinion poll shows that 83% of British Columbians support energy-from-waste (EFW) as a means of managing garbage across the province. This has increased by 23% since 2004.  And of those who think positively about EFW, almost two thirds support the use of EFW in their own community.

Since BC municipalities are already responsible for the management of all waste within their boundaries, it’s curious that the BC Chamber of Commerce should suddenly oppose the idea of a government body controlling waste disposal.

Rather than creating a monopoly, the Metro Vancouver Board is simply meeting its mandated obligation to manage a waste flow strategy that will achieve the diversion goals in its Zero Waste Plan.

Of course the Plan includes bans and prohibitions that are designed entirely to encourage recycling.  But the Plan places few restrictions on the 600,000 tonnes of commercial and institutional waste currently handled by private sector haulers.

Nor is there anything heavy-handed about Metro’s approach, as the entire process has been subject to scores of well-attended public meetings, including a recent industry stakeholder information event involving more than 60 participants.

So there will be an important and on-going role for the private sector in the management of waste in the Lower Mainland.

Chamber president John Winter argues for jobs, but does not acknowledge that a typical EFW plant will employ hundreds of construction workers, and once operating could employ 40 to 60 full-time workers at an average salary of $40,000 per year plus benefits.

Mr. Winter goes on to say that an EFW plant offers no financial benefit to taxpayers, and yet EFW systems have the potential to strengthen local economic development initiatives by 1) providing a key component in an integrated solid waste management system, 2) providing businesses and industries with long-term economical waste management services, 3) keeping waste management expenditures in the local community, 4) using the recoverable EFW to provide base load renewable power to complement local alternative energy initiatives, and 5) using recoverable materials to support local manufacturing.

Moreover, the existing Metro Vancouver EFW plant is entirely self-funded and providing a revenue return to the municipality.

ICBA president Philip Hochstein and Jan Field of the homebuilder’s association in the Fraser Valley are also wrong in stating that the Plan will force all solid waste to Metro Vancouver disposal sites; rather, Metro Vancouver may simply direct garbage to the most appropriate and properly licensed site in order to maximize diversion and any potential revenues.

Any higher costs resulting from the Plan will be related to increased diversion rates, not because there are fewer options.

It should also be pointed out that though a group of Vancouver city councillors are working to reduce the amount of waste collected in the region to 200,000 tonnes, Metro Vancouver already has some of the most aggressive diversion programs and one of the highest recycling rates in Canada, and yet the residents of the Region still send more than 1 million tonnes of garbage to disposal.  This represents an amount that exceeds the capacity of Metro-owned disposal sites.

Presumably, the Chamber, ICBA and HBFV will have something else to say if Vancouver city council starts cutting into their hauling opportunities by successfully reducing waste volumes by 500%.

Finally, Councillor Lum unfairly criticizes mass-burn EFW technology.

In fact, EfW is a proven process for the safe disposal of post-recycled municipal solid waste (MSW) and the generation of clean, renewable energy.  These power plants operate with state-of-the-art air emissions control systems run by qualified and experienced professionals certified by relevant state agencies and provincial authorities.

EfW facilities net reducers of greenhouse gases and help to combat climate change.  Every ton of waste diverted from a landfill offsets one (1) ton of GHG emissions (CO2 equivalent), while saving the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil or a quarter ton of coal.

They also significantly contribute to local recycling efforts by recovering thousands of tons of scrap metal from the waste stream that would otherwise be landfilled.

A typical 1,500 tonnes per day (TPD) EfW facility produces enough clean, renewable electricity for 45,000 homes, saving more than 450,000 barrels of oil each year and lessening our reliance on fossil fuel power plants that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when coal or oil are burned.

Around the world, approximately 800 plants provide sustainable, reliable, economical solid waste services to municipalities with no adverse health or environmental impacts.

The most recent development in Canada is the Durham York Energy Centre which will serve the sustainable waste disposal needs of the Ontario regions of Durham and York. The facility, which will operate under some of the most stringent environmental requirements in the world, will begin operations in the latter half of 2014.

There are multiple EfW projects under development and/or construction in Alberta and Ontario.  Other recent North American developments include expansion projects in Honolulu, Hawaii, Hillsborough County, Florida, and Lee County, Florida.

The Canadian Energy-From-Waste Coalition (CEfWC) represents industry, associations, and other stakeholders committed to sustainable environmental and waste management policies.  It stands for the promotion of energy-from-waste (EfW) technology for the management of residual materials within the context of an integrated solid waste management system.


John P. Foden

Executive Director

Canadian Energy-From-Waste Coalition