Usman Valiante’s article (in the June/July 2001 edition), construction of a conspiracy theory and history on the use of life cycle assessment (LCA), does little to inform Solid Waste & Recycling readers on the intended purpose of the Integrated Waste Management (IWM) model to identify the environmental and economic impacts of waste management options.
Unfortunately, the article only succeeds in suggesting that the author lacks knowledge and expertise on this topic. Of major concern is that Mr. Valiante erroneously leads readers to surmise that the IWM Model can be used to develop stewardship policies using the life cycle inventory approach. It cannot. The model was created and is intended only to examine the impacts of changes on the municipal waste system over which municipal waste planners have control.
As members of the EPIC and CSR IWM Committee, which comprises of municipal, government and industry representatives, we can state categorically that the model was created to assist municipalities to address not just the economic impacts of their waste/ diversion decisions, but for the first time, the environmental burdens that should be considered along with social impacts.
These three areas of impact — economic, environmental and social — are called the IWM “triple bottom line.” Because of this approach, the IWM model is considered by experts around the world as a more sophisticated, scientifically based planning approach to waste management compared to the general 3Rs hierarchy guideline. It is an acknowledged fact that the 3Rs guideline is considered only that — a guide — and does not deal with economic and environmental sustainability, for which we should all be striving.
Mr. Valiante says the life cycle approach to municipal waste systems is flawed because, in his opinion, “it ignores all up stream life cycle considerations.” But he is wrong. The model does address up stream impacts on the displacement of virgin raw materials and energy through various waste diversion and treatment options.
Seldom are waste management decisions based only on one factor, whether they are environmental, economic or social. Three key players — municipalities, government and industry — must work together to balance all these factors within solid waste management goals and objectives. The life cycle approach to municipal waste systems provides this information so municipalities can make decisions based on fact, not speculation.
We think Mr. Valiante loses sight of this and instead turns to a philosophical argument over who is responsible for all these impacts. This has nothing to do with the IWM model and its intended use; rather, the issues surrounding responsibility are handled in other forums and ultimately decided by governments, which, after all, have control. For what it’s worth, the members of the IWM committee believe that the parties along the whole product distribution chain share responsibility and that each player should seek to minimize the impacts in the areas of the chain over which they have exclusive control.
In summary, the IWM Life Cycle Model for Municipal Waste Systems is one tool that many leading municipalities such as London, Calgary, Hamilton and Markham are currently using to help plan their waste/diversion systems. Others interested in striving for more sustainable solid waste management systems are examining this new approach. Evidence is growing worldwide that this system is the preferred approach.
It is disappointing that such an excellent opportunity to explain the features of the tool to Solid Waste & Recycling readers has been lost to them. We encourage readers to look beyond Mr. Valiante’s comments and speak directly to the municipalities and industry who are working together to implement more sustainable waste/diversion systems through the use of this and other planning tools. More information on the IWM Tool can be accessed through a link to www.solidwastemag.com.
V. P. Municipal Development
CSR: Corporations Supporting Recycling
Environment & Plastics Industry Council (EPIC)
The Sphinx’s Riddle
Normally Guy Crittenden’s editorials are excellent, but this one is very weak (August/September 2001 edition). It is true that hot and cold periods occurred over the lifetime of planet Earth and this is well documented by paleontologists. An excellent account is The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples (Tim Flannery, 2001). The periods measured in this science are, at the very best, in thousands of years. And the potential error from carbon dating has been amply explained in this book. The range of uncertainty is considerable.
“…climate change (of the kind that brought an end to the dinosaurs or the last Ice Age)…” Dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago as a result of an asteroid impact. Such an event could reoccur at any moment — or tens of thousands of years from now. It is hypothesized that a warming trend in North America was strongly influenced by (and coincides with) the arrival of the Clovis people and their lifestyles, such as extensive hunting which in turn affected the plant life, which has significant impact on the climate balance. We talk today in the modified Kyoto Protocol about recognition of carbon sinks, which would be credited to our efforts in reducing greenhouse gases! This means there is clear recognition of the effect of plants on climate.
Mr. Crittenden states, “Mr. Hancock considers copies of ancient maps that accurately describe the coastline of Antarctica, its mountain ranges and dry river beds.” This is fascinating since the southernmost continent has been buried under the mile-deep glaciers since about 6,000 B.C. — for some 8,000 years. How old are these ancient maps? Which medium has been preserved for over 8,000 years? Or are the maps of much newer origin, i.e., they were generated after the continent had already been covered by ice?
The Mayan civilization dates back to approximately 200-900 AD (classical epoch). Mr. Crittenden has in bold print the remark “According to the Mayan calendar, the world will be obliterated in 2010!” This statement carries as much credibility as the (not infrequent) apocalyptic statements of certain religious groups. If I follow the logic advanced: we really don’t have to care about the breaks on cars, since we will be exposed to black ice in the next winter where breaks don’t work very well anyway.
Sorry, but I am certain Mr. Crittenden can do a lot better than this.
Dieter Leidel, P.Eng.
[Dear Reader: Thanks for your letter. From time to time I allow myself to romp around in what I call the world of “wacky science.” I don’t claim that author Graham Hancock is strictly correct — I only wish to share his refreshing and thought provoking ideas. In addition to the book you recommend, I direct readers to his official Internet site for more fun and intellectual adventure: www.grahamhancock.com — ed.]
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), in an obvious attempt to blame landfill sites for the continued deterioration of Ontario’s groundwater, are doing a survey. (See www.solidwastemag.com for a copy of the survey.)
On August 29, 2001, the St. Thomas Times published an article about tax breaks for residents of Sparta, Ontario, a nearby community with a drag strip whose owners stand accused of disturbing peace each weekend. The residents are not amused and have sought and received property tax relief from the courts.
Extend that argument to other commercial activities throughout Ontario and taxpayers will have a field day suing for municipal property tax relief from intensive livestock operations, monster commercial malls, and noisy/smelly industrial ap
No business operation is exempt from responsibility for the impact of its operations on its neighbours.
A cash crop farmer friend told me recently that whenever he travels in a former township in Kent County it is reminiscent of driving through Holland several years ago. The smell of animal waste fills the air. Holland addressed the issue by strict control of the number of animals per hectare and is said to have solved the problem.
The private landfill operators of Ontario are currently without peer in addressing impacts on society from their operations. We at Green Lane are proud of our accomplishments.
The OFA, seeking to find someone else to share the blame for groundwater contamination, is welcome to search its domain, but each business operation (and that includes farmers) will still have to take responsibility for and prevent, by existing modern technology, both air and water pollution resulting from their operations.
All that will come at a price. Welcome to the $7 hamburger.
R.A. (Bob) McCaig
Green lane Environmental Group Ltd.