Metro Vancouver is poised to potentially export its residual waste to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington State. This temporary measure would allow a reprieve while the region constructs waste-to-energy incinerators and/or achieves its goal of 70 per cent diversion by 2015.
Metro Vancouver’s search for a new disposal option dates back to 2000 when it bought the 4,200-hectare Ashcroft Ranch in BC’s Interior for $4.5 million. In 2005, three BC cabinet ministers halted an environmental review of that project and asked Metro Vancouver to find an alternative.
The region currently generates more than three million tonnes of waste annually, of which 52 per cent is diverted. The roughly 1.5 million tonnes of residue is disposed in three places. About 500,000 tonnes is trucked via semi-trailers to the Cache Creek landfill on an arid Fraser Canyon hillside 345 kms away — a 690-km round trip. (The trucks return loaded with wood chips for papermaking.) The Burnaby thermal treatment plant takes in 250,000 tonnes of material, and the Vancouver landfill receives the balance of approximately 750,000 tonnes.
Metro Vancouver faces a crisis since local disposal capacity is maxed out. This year the region could exceed its disposal capacity at Cache Creek by 110,000 to 300,000 tonnes — two years before it’s scheduled to closure. Sending more waste to the Vancouver landfill has been ruled out (even as an interim measure) since this would send more garbage directly to the environmentally sensitive Burns Bog.
The situation was anticipated and by August 2006 a formal solicitation was conducted to find another disposal solution. Twenty-three proponents with different technologies responded. After public consultations and a 17-month assessment of each option by an independent evaluator, Rabanco’s Roosevelt Regional Landfill was selected.
Rabanco’s facility opened in 1991 near the Washington- Oregon border and the Columbia River, and soon after started accepting waste from BC. This includes waste from Whistler, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (on Vancouver Island) and the Powell River Regional District. Metro Vancouver already uses Rabanco for the disposal of ash and other residuals from the Burnaby incinerator and its wastewater treatment plants.
The facility was recently given the Sustainability Award from the Washington State Refuse and Recycling Association for best practices at its site, which recovers methane and sends power to the Pacific Northwest grid. Although the landfill is 780 kms away, the journey can be made by rail, which avoids excessive truck-related emissions.
Use of the Rabanco facility offers convenience; shipments can start and stop at any time and Metro Vancouver avoids incurring capital costs. It’s unknown what Rabanco will charge the region, which currently charges member municipalities and private haulers $65 per tonne for waste disposal. Rabanco will likely try to be competitive, or the region may solicit proposals from other landfills south of the border.
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.