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Vancouver Debates Zero Waste

Metro Vancouver's adoption of the "Zero Waste Challenge" -- a "sustainable" framework for its waste management -- was the focus of discussion at the Waste Management Forum Series, Part 1, hosted by Th...


Metro Vancouver’s adoption of the “Zero Waste Challenge” — a “sustainable” framework for its waste management — was the focus of discussion at the Waste Management Forum Series, Part 1, hosted by The Vancouver Board of Trade.

The forum was the first in a series that will explore various solutions and opinions on proposals for waste management in Vancouver. Metro Vancouver has set a goal to increase the rate of diversion (recycling and composting) from the current 55 per cent to 70 per cent by 2015.

Discussions centered around the diversion and landfill/zero waste option as well as a recent report compiled for Metro Vancouver by AECOM Canada Ltd. The report analyzes the waste to energy (WTE), landfilling, and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) options for managing waste after diversion, comparing their economic and environmental implications.

Mary Anne Davidson, chair of The Vancouver Board of Trade’s Community Affairs Committee, opened the forum by welcoming the sponsor, participants and speakers.

“Metro Vancouver is facing a momentous decision, and needs to look at the environmental impacts of the different options,” said first speaker Dr. Jeffrey Morris. principal of Sound Resource Management.

“A zero waste strategy is the best solution for Metro Vancouver, with waste disposal acting as an interim solution,” he added.

Morris stated he preferred a landfill strategy for waste disposal over the WTE solution recommended in the AECOM report, due to climate, human health, and environmental factors.

Morris said his own research suggests it’s possible for Metro Vancouver to achieve an even higher level of diversion at 80 per cent. He mentioned several strategies that would encourage “zero waste,” such as linear garbage rates and sin taxes, and touched on achievements in Seattle, where 97 per cent of yard trimmings are composted due to regulatory bans in place.

Paul Levelton, director of KPMG’s Global Infrastructure and Projects Group, stressed the need for more information in order to make a good decision on what Metro Vancouver should do for future waste management.

“The majority of the costs of the waste disposal solution will be levied on the business community,” Levelton said, with Metro Vancouver generating approximately 3.4 million tonnes of waste per year. He believes that with the risks and uncertainty of the costs involved, Metro Vancouver will need to take into consideration the changes in new capital costs, changes in waste volume, and the possible impact of removing organic food waste from waste disposal.

Levelton suggested Metro Vancouver perform a detailed financial analysis, assess risk, and assess non-financial matters (through a multi-criteria analysis), in order to make a fully informed decision.

He said the costs of landfill practices are known, and will likely be consistent with current experience but WTE and MBT costs and risks are uncertain and harder to account for.

Levelton called for more information in order to fully complete a thorough multi-criteria analysis of all the available waste management options by including the implications on financial, human health, ecosystem toxicity, climate change, operational flexibility, public acceptability, customer, public policy compatibility, and economic development considerations.

He also stressed he felt more time and information is needed to fully assess the waste after diversion disposal options.

A question and answer session followed, including a question from Patricia Ross, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, who asked about the waste management solution’s impact on agricultural food sources; Dr. Morris responded by explaining a methodology involving Toluene and Mercury levels.

Ted Rattray, senior vice-president of Belkorp, was also in attendance and talked about the status of the Cache Creek landfill. An application to extend the life of the current landfill for two years is in the final stages of the approval process and an application for a long-term extension of the landfill on an adjacent piece of property is going through the government approval process as well.


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