Sierra Club Points Out Dangers of Vancouver's Garbage Burning Plans

From You Tube: Some of the reasons to oppose garbage incineration
Press Release: Nanaimo Sierra Club
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, July 29, 2013

No time to waste for formal opposition to Metro Vancouver’s incinerator

NANAIMO, B.C. – Nanaimo City Council failed to directly oppose the siting of Metro Vancouver’s planned waste-to-energy (WTE)incinerator within Nanaimo city limits at the special open council meeting of July 22 after hearing appeals from Sierra Club Nanaimo and others to take strong measures to protect our local environment and Nanaimo residents from the toxic devastation such a facility would disperse.

“We were dismayed that no direct action was taken despite the fact that seven councillors from Nanaimo sit on the Regional District of Nanaimo board, who had previously passed two resolutions expressing a negative stance toward waste-to-energy incineration within the region,” says Carla Stein, core member of Sierra Club Nanaimo.

Instead, city council directed staff to produce a report on how the city might restrict lands within the city limits from being used for an incinerator, and what the implications might be for the city.

“Nanaimo city council’s action leaves the door open for continued discussion about this issue with Metro Vancouver,” says Rachelle Stein-Wotten, also a core member of the local chapter of Sierra Club BC.

“Duke Point has been rumoured to be a potential site for an incinerator, which would burn 370,000 tonnes of Metro Vancouver’s garbage per year. It’s unfair to residents of the city of Nanaimo and the regional district to be exposed to toxic residue from Vancouver’s waste stream when the regional district has been working so thoughtfully to manage our own solid waste in an environmentally responsible manner.”

In June, the RDN board passed a resolution to oppose any waste disposal method involving waste from outside the region that could reduce the lifespan of the Cedar landfill or necessitate creating another landfill within the district. Last Tuesday, July 23, the RDN board directed staff to advise Metro Vancouver that they do not support a waste incinerator anywhere in the regional district.

Metro Vancouver has been directed by the provincial government to to investigate out-of-district sites for a waste-to-energy incinerator. Discussions are taking place across Vancouver Island, including Nanaimo. Metro Vancouver intends to communicate to local governments any short-listed sites by November 2013.

This impending timeframe makes it imperative that Nanaimo city council act quickly to preclude selection of Nanaimo as a site for Metro Vancouver’s facility. Since a WTE incinerator would need to be located within an industrial zone, amending the present allowances under I4 zoning in the city of Nanaimo to prohibit the transfer or processing of out-of-region waste or a waste disposal facility, including an incinerator, would ensure that Nanaimo is out of the running as a potential location.

Sierra Club Nanaimo is also calling on Nanaimo city council to formally oppose the location of a WTE site within Nanaimo city limits and to communicate their opposition to Metro Vancouver.

WTE incinerators pose extreme risks in the form of toxic pollution to air, land and water. Even with filtration, incineration produces nanoparticles of dioxins, furans and toxic ash. The Stockholm Convention on Persistant Organic Pollutants of which Canada is a signatory, was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. It requires parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of Persistant Organic Pollutants – including dioxins and furans – into the environment.

“The tonnes of ash produced by an incinerator will erase the work the RDN has done to extend the lifespan of the Cedar landfill,” says Stein. “Furthermore, disposal of toxic wastewater would need to be dealt with.”

Last year, fly ash from the Burnaby incinerator, run by Covanta, one of the proponents short-listed to build Metro Vancouver’s new waste-to-energy plant, was found to be leaching cadmium into the Cache Creek regional landfill.

Although WTE facilities purport to be of benefit to the environment by diverting garbage from landfills, in fact, they merely convert these materials into other forms of pollution, including carbon dioxide emissions. Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated than coal-fired power plants.

The economics of energy conversion, in this case, incineration, is insufficient to justify its use. Of the 12 gigajoules of energy Metro Vancouver would produce through incineration, less than 40 per cent would be harvested in the forms of heat and electricity sales; the rest would be lost. On the other hand, about 17 GJ of energy is realized through energy conservation, or recycling.

Sierra Club Nanaimo supports a zero waste approach to dealing with waste. The definition of zero waste includes the development of protocols to manage and reduce the volume and toxicity of waste materials as well as conservation and recovery of all resources, rather than burning or burying them. A zero waste model needs to be adopted by all levels of governance.

A viable alternative to incineration and the traditional linear view of production, that is, extract materials, make consumer goods, then trash them, is a closed-loop resource recovery model where materials cycle through the economy. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes that, using the existing provincial diversion rate of 43 per cent as a benchmark, adoption of a closed loop model could produce 7,000 new direct jobs in the province.

In our own backyard, the Regional District of Nanaimo has leading waste management practices. 10,000 tonnes of organic waste was diverted in 2011 and 2012. The RDN’s average yearly per capita waste is significantly below the national average. Metro Vancouver is almost 4x above the national average.

Although the mayor of Vancouver is painting a picture of his city as the greenest in Canada, Nanaimo and the regional district are light years ahead of Metro Vancouver in its solid waste management practices,” says Stein-Wotten. “We live on a greener island, in a greener city and I want to keep it that way.” 

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