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Aug 25,2009 Maple Ridge News


What’s better -- burying our trash or burning it?

Coun. Craig Speirs says he figured out where he stood by just asking himself of what seemed the right thing to do.

“Give it the gut check – does it feel right?”

Incinerating garbage didn’t feel right for Speirs, who along with Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross is leading the opposition to Metro Vancouver building waste incinerators to burn garbage that’s now being buried in Cache Creek.

Ross sees the waste-to-energy incinerators now being considered by Metro Vancouver’s waste management committee, in the same way she does the Sumas 2 power project that had been proposed a few years ago in Washington state, a major health threat to the air of the Fraser Valley.

And Speirs just considers it a regressive of dealing with our own waste when recycling and reusing waste would save millions.

“It’s got to be efficient. Burning garbage is not efficient,” he said. “It’s an excuse to over consume.”

He makes the latter point because he challenges Metro Vancouver’s goal of increasing the amount of recycling from a present 55 per cent of the waste stream to a future goal of 70 per cent. Allowing 30 per cent to be treated as waste ensures a feedstock of plastic, paper and wood, to ensure incinerators will always have a fuel supply.

Speirs and Ross are coordinating their efforts and working with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Environmental Council which is launching a petition against trash burners. A Zero-Waste Coalition is also forming in the Lower Mainland to focus efforts.

“There’s no way they can create a clean incinerator. It’s just not physically possible,” said Speirs.

Burning also only reduces the waste to only 25 per cent of its original volume, while creating a toxic ash, about which no one knows the long-term health effects. Instead, four times the energy can be saved by efficiently employing the three-Rs, while extending the life of the Cache Creek landfill by years.

One incinerator would cost $700 million to build, he pointed out.

“We don’t have to go there. Other communities have shown they create more problems than they solve.”

The waste-management committee will deal with the topic in September and could pass a recommendation on to Metro Vancouver board.

Mayor Ernie Daykin, who sits on the committee, hasn’t yet made up his mind. He’s looking for more information before taking a position.

But what first should be known is whether the Ministry of Environment will allow the extension of the Cache Creek dump which would buy Metro Vancouver another 10 to 15 years of use of the dump.

Daykin says Switzerland incinerates its garbage while a new burner was built in the middle of Paris. And he says the waste management committee has yet to decide. “We haven’t got the complete picture yet.”

Daykin visited the Lower Mainland’s single garbage incinerator in Burnaby, a 20-year-old facility that generates $10 million in electrical power a year, and noted much of the feedstock consisted of recyclable goods. Pipes carrying water snake through the combustion chamber and the resulting steam turns turbines to generate close to 18 megawatts of electricity.

But a report by the Vancouver Board of Trade raises several questions about burning garbage and says it would be more expensive, $52 per tonne versus the $35 per tonne it costs to bury it in Cache Creek. The Recycling Council of B.C. also opposes incinerators.

Waste committee chair Marvin Hunt said three waste-to-energy plants might be built — one south of the Fraser, one in the northeast sector and one on the North Shore.

He said a new waste-to-energy plant in downtown Paris blends in with the surrounding buildings, powering businesses and homes, and providing exhaust air that’s cleaner than the ambient air.

“They’re right in a very urban setting and most people don’t even realize it’s a waste-to-energy facility.”

That’s likely the model that would be pursued here. It would be a departure from the Burnaby incinerator, which is in an industrial park near the Fraser River, with no nearby residential neighbours.

“The intent would be to put these into more densely populated areas,” Hunt said.

Daykin didn’t know if he’d like one in Maple Ridge.

“That would have to require a good, long think. They would have to answer a lot of tough questions.”

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