Metro Vancouver (formerly the GVRD) was recently forced by potential first nations land claims to abandon its plan for a new landfill site in the province’s interior. This development is forcing a dramatically increase in the amount of waste Vancouver will attempt to recycle and otherwise divert from landfill in the next several years.
In February, the regional government will introduce an aggressive, comprehensive plan to boost the city’s waste diversion rate from 52 per cent to 70 per cent. If successful, Vancouver would move ahead of North American leader San Francisco, which has a 69 per cent diversion rate. Observers are concerned that waste-to-energy will be counted as “diversion” instead of as disposal.
The plan could include region-wide collection of source separated organics (including restaurants), more aggressive C&D recycling. New targets will be set for recyclable paper, plastics, electronics waste and household appliances. (See article on product stewardship in B.C., page 15.) Meanwhile, the city will continue to use the Burns Bog landfill or ship waste to Washington State over the next three to five years.
Metro Vancouver may construct new composting plants based on a technology being tested at its landfill in which organic material is covered with Gore-Tex to accelerate decomposition. It’s also looking at a possible waste-to-energy facility (in addition to the existing Burnaby plant). A strategy document suggests that a large-scale thermal treatment plant with a 500,000-tonne processing capacity would cost about $375 million to build and process waste at a net cost of $35 per tonne, while producing electricity for 40,000 to 50,000 homes. A smaller plant might divert waste for $125 to $145 per tonne, about double the current $65 per tonne landfill cost.
The next edition of this magazine will take a closer look at Metro Vancouver’s waste diversion plans.