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Vancouver Observer goes to North America's "Greenest City" to see how it handles garbage: VIDEO

For half a billion dollars, Metro Vancouver could build the world's premier zero waste program, a San Francisco environmental advocate says. So why is it insisting on putting $480 million into garbage incineration? Latest in a series.

City of San Francisco tells Metro Vancouver incineration a bad idea in this video by The Vancouver Observer.

"Over 90 per cent of what's being discarded can be recycled or composted," City of San Francisco zero waste coordinator Jack Macy told The Vancouver Observer. "It makes more sense to invest in that (recycling and composting) rather than to build a large facility to burn material and lock up that stream." He later added that even though Vancouver aspires to become the 'Greenest City' in the world by 2020, that could never happen if a large waste-to-energy incinerator was built in the region. 

As Metro Vancouver forges ahead with its plan to build a $480 million, publicly-funded waste-to-energy plant to deal with the region's non-recyclable garbage, The Vancouver Observer travelled to the Bay Area to explore how North America's reigning "Greenest City", deals with its garbage. What people in San Francisco told The Vancouver Observer is that incinerators destroy recycling initiatives and that building up recycling and composting is the only waste management strategy that makes sense for the future.

"When it comes to a new incinerator, like the one that's being proposed in Vancouver that would cost half a billion dollars, it makes you think about what else a city or region could do with that much money," Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Canada and US program director Monica Wilson said. "For that much program, you could build the world's premier zero waste program, and have plenty left over." 

Currently, Metro Vancouver's solid waste management plan calls to increase the region's recycling from the current 58 per cent to 70 per cent, and build a waste-to-energy incinerator to deal with the non-recycled residual garbage. It will increase composting and ban food/organics from the waste stream in 2015. 

"It is just a really rotten, bad, sh*tty idea," recycling advocate Daniel Knapp said of burning garbage as a solution to deal with waste. Knapp is the co-founder of Urban Ore, a Berkeley-based recycling facility and thrift shop, and helped fight off an incinerator in his home city in 1982. 

A former academic with a PhD in sociology, Knapp doesn't think waste-to-energy incineration makes sense from a either a social or economic point of view.

"If you invest giant amounts of money in some power plant that is going to burn mixed garbage, it will have to be amortized over a 20-30 year period...[governments] go into debt to build it."  



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