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2008 Paris trip first spark in Metro Van decision-maker's push for incineration here

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Last week, Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore told VO: “Of course we talk to San Francisco all the time. San Francisco is controlled by one body. There is a monopoly there in the sense that the hauler, the processor, the recycler is all run by one, which is a government organization.  So it is a different model that they have chosen.”

Back in 2007-2008, however, Metro Vancouver wasn’t quite sure what the future looked like. They were pretty sure it would include a lot more garbage and few places to put it. More incineration was an easy solution that could solve that problem.

In 2008, with San Francisco and San Jose already achieving 70 percent recycling without incineration, some on the board of Metro Vancouver must have been listening.  

According to minutes of a February 28, 2008 meeting of the Waste Management Committee, “concerns were expressed that the discussion document titled “Strategy for Updating the Solid Waste Management Plan leads to an assumption that Waste-to-Energy recovery technology based on incineration is the selected energy recovery technology strategy. “

Those concerns didn’t slow down the Metro Vancouver incineration push. On April 25, 2008, the board was informed that “a Request for Proposals is being prepared for a long-term waste-to-energy solid waste disposal”.

And three months later, and shortly after the Hunt visit to the Paris incinerators, a new item appeared on the Metro Vancouver capital projects list: “Potential Addition of New Waste-to-energy Facility.” Added to the bottom of the item was this encouragement: “Resolving the need for facilities to handle solid waste is a significant and pressing Metro Vancouver priority. Consequences of delay would be serious.”

That fall, a consultant study comparing waste to energy to landfill was underway. 

Thanks for sharing your concerns, but...

 It was becoming apparent that Metro Vancouver was on a path towards another incinerator and it was not sitting well with community and environmental advocates. Joe Foy, a well known activist with the Wilderness Committee, appeared before the Metro Vancouver board early in 2009 expressing grave concerns about a new incinerator “undermining recycling initiatives.”

His concerns failed to sway many directors. Hunt said he didn't see what problem people had with incinerators, be it their potential impact on recycling or air quality. "Spend two hours in front of your barbecue and you'll get dioxin exposure equivalent to 10 years from our (Burnaby) incinerator," Hunt told Surrey Now.

By June, the board had approved sending four more directors to Europe to study incinerators in Sweden, a country that is now a leading European recycling nation. With no energy resources, Sweden had long been held hostage to the vagrancies of world oil and gas prices to heat its homes and businesses.  The country embraced garbage incineration as an energy alternative and its technology led the continent in waste-to-energy.  Four Metro Vancouver directors toured Sweden in May, 2009 and they too came back with positive reports on its technology, efficiency and low emissions.

By September 2009, it was clear Metro Vancouver was convinced incineration was the only path to deal with future garbage. “Garbage is a resource we waste when we bury it in the ground”, wrote then Metro Vancouver chair Lois Jackson in a Vancouver Sun editorial. “Waste-to-energy comes with a significant up-front capital expense, but it is the least expensive in the long run.”

When the vote on Metro Vancouver's Draft Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan approached in 2010, people sent emails expressing doubts about the benefit of building a new incinerator. But by then, Hunt was so convinced by the several tours he'd had of Europe's incinerators that he sent the same template-style response to people who urged him to consider other options: 

"Thanks for sharing your concerns. I want you to know that I will be supporting Waste to Energy facilities that will in fact reduce pollution in the Valley by cleaning the air. In Copenhagen, the air coming out of their facilities is cleaner that the ambient air in Copenhagen. That is why the Embassies are just down the road for one of their Waste to Energy facilities. 

"As for costs, over a thirty year life cycle, WTE facilities will make a profit of $20 million where as a landfill will cost $1.3 billion.
My vote is for WTE.
Again, thanks for sharing your concerns.
Marvin Hunt"

 

 

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