Is incineration the solution to garbage disposal in Metro Vancouver?

As Vancouver moves into a new age of environmentalism, garbage disposal has become a major focus for city planning.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has recently presented a new draft of the “Regional Solid Waste Management Plan,” which refers to the use of waste-to-energy garbage disposal. The Management Plan Draft was created in 2009 to reduce material waste and to gain back energy from waste that cannot be recycled.

This waste-to-energy process is often referred to as incineration.

Incineration involves the burning of garbage, which is later used to produce electricity. During this process, waste is tumbled inside of an incineration machine while being exposed to high heat levels of over 1000C. The process produces ash, steam and gases. The steam and gas are collected  and converted into electricity, while the ashes are processed to remove toxins and then taken to a landfill.

Incineration is currently only used as a main source of garbage disposal in the City of Burnaby, at the Waste-to-Energy plant, where waste from Burnaby, New Westminster and the North Shore is processed and converted to energy. This plant manages 20 percent of the Lower Mainland’s garbage disposal. According to a City of Burnaby document, an estimated 280,000 tons of garbage is processed each year, resulting in 900,000 tons of steam.

The steam from this process has been sold to local paper recycling factories, but is also converted to electricity and sold to BC HYRDO.

The City of Vancouver has been considering placing more waste-to-energy plants in the Vancouver area to deal with waste management, but is still in the processes of review.

The problem, according to a UBC report, is that emissions from this process could cause a major threat to the quality of Vancouver air.

The report, created by Ian McKendry of UBC’s Department of Geography and Atmospheric Services, says that emissions from incineration plants could be harmful to human health, as the pollution levels in Vancouver are already increasing, and the addition of incineration plants, or any other new form of pollution, would not be advisable.

Greenpeace is also taking a stand against the use of Incineration worldwide, stating on their website that “incineration is not a solution to the world’s waste problems, but part of the problem.” According to Greenpeace, incineration processing releases ashes and gases that contain toxins. The group also states that “incineration creates the largest source of dioxins, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to science.”

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