Vancouver Waste Plan Calls for 70% Diversion and Waste-to-Energy

Date: July 26, 2011

Source: British Columbia Ministry of Environment

Metro Vancouver, BC won approval for its long range solid waste plan that seeks to minimize waste, aims for 70 percent waste diversion, through recycling, composting and other programs by 2015, and calls for the construction of two new waste-to-energy facilities. The Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), submitted last September, predicts that even with 70 percent waste diversion, more than a million tons of waste per year will require disposal for which it recommends waste-to-energy as the alternative that best protects the environment while affording energy recapture. Consequently, waste-to-energy will necessitate a constructive working relationship with the surrounding Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) which shares its disposal needs and a common and critically important air shed.

"Metro Vancouver now has the ability to pursue a mix of options for managing waste, provided they balance the interest of surrounding communities that share their air shed," said British Columbia Environment Minister Terry Lake. "I'm confident this plan will reduce the amount of garbage generated in the region and provide strong environmental protection."


Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Management Plan approved

Environment Minister Terry Lake announced the approval of a solid waste management plan (SWMP) that minimizes garbage generation, maximizes recycling and includes the addition of several conditions to ensure the environment is protected.

The plan, as approved, includes:

  • New goals for diverting 70 per cent of the Metro Vancouver region's waste through recycling, composting and other programs by 2015, increasing to 80 per cent by 2020.

  • Strategies for reducing the amount of waste produced by 10 per cent by 2020.

  • A range of options to deal with the greatly reduced waste stream that this plan will produce.

Solid waste management plans must protect both the environment and the health of people. The ministry thoroughly reviews the plan to ensure it meets both provincial and federal rules for waste management, including a requirement for waste reduction and recycling before landfilling or waste-to-energy (WTE) options are considered.

Local governments are required to consult the public, and First Nations, before submitting the plan and the ministry considers the results of that consultation when reviewing the proposal.

Metro Vancouver's SWMP has met these requirements. Ministry of Environment approval of the SWMP allows local government to begin implementing the plan, including pursuing development of any new facilities outlined in the plan.

A backgrounder follows.

Suntanu Dalal
Ministry of Environment
250 387-9745


Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Management Plan
Conditions of approval

The SWMP has been approved with the addition of a number of conditions that recognize the importance of safeguarding air quality. Among those conditions, Metro Vancouver must:

  • Undertake a competitive process for any new or upgraded WTE facilities or landfills that considers options both inside and outside of the Metro Vancouver region.

  • Recognizing that the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and Metro Vancouver share a common and critically important airshed, if Metro Vancouver pursues establishing additional in-region WTE capacity, it shall consult with the FVRD to address air quality concerns prior to beginning construction of a new or expanded facility.

  • At a minimum, Metro Vancouver must establish a working group with the FVRD on the potential impact to the airshed due to additional WTE capacity. The working group may include the local health authority(s) and must, within one year of any Metro Vancouver decision to pursue in-region WTE:

a. Develop recommendations for WTE emission standards that do not conflict with provincial or federal policy and/or legislation;

b. Develop recommendations for an environmental monitoring program for any new or expanded in-region WTE facility(s);

c. Establish mitigation measures that address reasonable concerns of the FVRD with respect to additional WTE in-region;

d. Include any other reasonable related issue agreed to by the parties;

e. If the parties are unable to reach consensus within the timeframe, they will submit their respective positions to an arbitrator who will render a recommendation and report to the Ministry of Environment's Director responsible for the Environmental Management Act for consideration in any concurrent or subsequent regulatory process;

f. Be supported and resourced by Metro Vancouver;

g. Provide quarterly updates to the Regional Manager, Environmental Protection.

  • Ensure methane gas collected from solid waste management facilities can be used as an alternative fuel, and for generating clean electricity or heat.

Waste to energy regulations

Approval to pursue WTE under a solid waste management plan should not be considered a license to burn garbage. Proposed WTE facilities require a number of further authorizations - beyond approval as part of a SWMP - before they can be built and begin operation. The details of these authorizations will vary depending on the size, location and type of technology proposed for the facility.

A permit or operational certificate will most likely be required. This would include an extensive review of the proposed location, size, amount and type of emissions and other factors. This process includes further public consultation.

Depending on the size and scale of a proposed facility, an assessment by the Environmental Assessment Office may also be required.

Proposed WTE facilities must have a high degree of energy recovery, consistent with European standards. They must also meet B.C.'s emission standards, which are among the most stringent in the world.

The Ministry of Environment also requires communities to target 70 per cent waste diversion through reducing, reusing and recycling before they consider waste-to-energy as an alternative to landfilling.

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    Province approves Metro solid waste plan

Delta mayor says plan gives the region 'building blocks' for a progressive plan

The debate about garbage incineration plants is set to once again heat up following the provincial government's approval of Metro Vancouver's solid waste plan.

The regional district and province announced Monday that Environment Minister Terry Lake has given the stamp of approval for the region's Solid Waste Management Plan.

The plan includes new goals for diverting 70 per cent of Metro Vancouver waste through recycling, composting and other programs by 2015, increasing to 80 per cent by 2020. The plan also includes the construction of waste-to-energy facilities, either within or outside the region.

"Metro Vancouver now has the ability to pursue a mix of options for managing waste, provided they balance the interest of surrounding communities that share their airshed," said Lake. "I'm confident this plan will reduce the amount of garbage generated in the region and provide strong environmental protection."

Metro chair and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said the region would be able to meet the requirements set out by the government.

"As a result of provincial approval, we now have in place the building blocks needed for a progressive, environmentally sound and economically responsible long-term plan for the management of waste in our region. Based on years of public consultation, the plan is founded on the overriding principle of waste avoidance," Jackson stated.

She noted the region already recycles or diverts about 55 per cent of the garbage produced, which is far better than the 22 per cent average Canada-wide, but it intends to do much better though the new waste plan.

However, even with high diversion rates, the region still needs to deal with the more than one million tonnes of waste that can not be recycled, she said, adding waste-to-energy is a solution for a large portion of that material.

"Most of our so-called garbage is a resource that we should not waste by burying it in the ground, and the plan will help us preserve non-renewable resources, save energy, generate revenue, protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gases," Jackson said.

"A thorough and independent analysis made it clear that additional waste-to-energy capacity that includes district heating is our best option. When we look at lifecycle costs, air quality impacts and greenhouse gas issues, reduced reliance on landfills and more waste-to-energy capacity is the clear winner."

The plan will allow the region to consider a wide-range of technologies for additional waste-to-energy capacity. A more detailed examination options is their next step, she said.

The Wilderness Committee was quick to respond, saying it's disappointed by Lake's approval of Metro Vancouver's shortsighted waste management plan.

The real fight will start when a location is chosen for a waste incineration facility, said the environmental group.

Meanwhile, Delta taxpayers will find themselves paying more once new incinerators are built and less garbage heads to the landfill.

A report to Delta council a couple of years ago looking at the implications of Metro's proposed solid waste plan noted the financial benefit Delta residents currently enjoy as a result of hosting the landfill is "significant."

The report found the municipality annually received over $2 million in royalty revenues and a value of close to $3 million in being able to dump garbage without paying a fee. Once property taxes and sewer fees are included, the total value of the landfill's benefit to Delta was close to the $7 million range.

If the amount of garbage going there is reduced drastically, and if Delta had to start paying fees to dispose trash, the cost on Delta taxpayers could be significant, the report stated.

"Until further details are made available on the costs of future solid waste treatments, it is not possible to provide a clear picture on the potential for increased costs with the introduction of the new SWMP (Solid Waste Management Plan). However, it is possible that combining these impacts with other regional initiatives, such as TransLink, water treatment and liquid waste handling may be beyond what taxpayers can afford," the report noted.

Civic finance director Karl Preuss told council that losing the royalty revenues would work out to a property tax increase of 2.5 per cent or higher, while losing the free disposal of garbage would result in another $100 added to utility bills.

Province approves Metro Vancouver's plans to build waste incinerator

But region required to work with Fraser Valley to address air quality concerns if it builds facility in the Lower Mainland

METRO VANCOUVER - The B.C. government has given the nod to Metro Vancouver to build a waste incinerator to burn the region's garbage, as long as it meets a host of conditions that includes appeasing the Fraser Valley over air-quality concerns.

Environment Minister Terry Lake said Monday that Metro Vancouver officials would have to consult with the Fraser Valley Regional District before considering any incinerators in the region, as well as establish a working group to deal with potential air-quality issues.

He also warned that "approval to pursue waste-to-energy should not be considered a licence to burn garbage." All proposals will have to meet stringent provincial emission standards and possibly an environmental assessment before they go ahead, he said.

"What we're saying is we're breathing the same air here whether you live in Metro Vancouver or in the Fraser Valley," Lake told The Vancouver Sun. "If you're [building an incinerator] in the region, play nice with your neighbours and do it in a way that's not going to negatively impact them."

Metro Vancouver chairwoman Lois Jackson said Monday was a "red-letter" day for the region.

But while Jackson was optimistic that Metro would be able to win over the Fraser Valley, Metro chief administrative officer Johnny Carline conceded "it'll be a big challenge" to get the neighbours on board.

Fraser Valley residents have long opposed Metro's solid waste management plan, which recommends investigating options for a trash incinerator in or outside the region or using waste "conversion technologies" such as anaerobic digestion or gasification to dispose of 500,000 tonnes of the region's garbage annually.

Valley officials fear an incinerator would send pollutants and toxins into their community and raise potential health concerns. The Fraser Valley is only responsible for 14 per cent of the pollutants in its air, FVRD spokeswoman Patricia Ross said, while 57 per cent comes from Metro Vancouver and 29 per cent from the United States.

"I'm not a happy camper; I'm so disappointed," Ross said. "We've hashed this out ad nauseam. Everything we've asked for in terms of consultation has been denied. I don't have any faith that it'll go any better."

The province has said that if an agreement can't be reached between Metro and the Fraser Valley over a proposed incinerator, the matter would go to arbitration.

That doesn't comfort Ross, nor do the province's assurances that any proposals could be subject to environmental assessments.

She argued that every project should be heavily scrutinized, noting that once an incinerator is built, the community has to continue to feed it, which will end up generating a demand for more waste to meet the plant's operating targets.

Carline said the location of an incinerator would depend on the request for proposals and potential financial models. Covanta Energy on Gold River has expressed major interest in building an incinerator there to take Metro's garbage, but Carline said the region hasn't ruled out one in the Lower Mainland. Surrey and the Tsawwassen First Nation have expressed interest in having an incinerator. The Wilderness Committee warned "the real fight" will start when Metro decides on a location. "Wherever they try to do this we will be there to make sure people know the truth about what is being proposed in their backyard," said the committee's Ben West.
B.C. government approves overhaul of Metro Vancouver garbage system

Posted on Mon, Jul 25, 2011, 8:30 pm by Dirk Meissner VICTORIA The B.C. government has given the green light to Metro Vancouver's plans to overhaul the way the urban region handles its garbage, including an aggressive recycling program and a potentially controversial plan to burn waste.

Environment Minister Terry Lake said Monday Metro Vancouver's solid waste management plan is designed to cut the amount of garbage the region creates by 70 per cent within four years.

Lake said the 70 per cent target with a further 80 per cent reduction goal by 2020 may appear ambitious by today's standards, but it is attainable. He noted Port Moody already diverts 70 per cent of its waste through recycling and San Francisco is at 74 per cent.

"The plan is aggressive by today's standards, but I think the future's moving very quickly and looking forward to 2015 and (by) 2020, I don't think these diversion rates will be unusual at all," he said.

Metro Vancouver sent its waste reduction plans to the government for approval in September 2010.

Lake said the government has built in regulations to ensure the Fraser Valley has a say in any plans by Metro Vancouver to burn its waste, attempting to ease concerns that Lower
Mainland air pollution always finds its way to Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

Metro Vancouver must consult with the Fraser Valley Regional District about any plans to incinerate or transport waste that could end up in the Fraser Valley in one form or another, he said.

"We're all breathing the same air," said Lake. "We recognize that there is a concern in the Fraser Valley about the quality of the air shed."
But Abbotsford South Liberal John van Dongen said he is not pleased with any incinerator plan because it will eventually bring more air pollution to the Fraser Valley.

He said he told Lake he was not happy and believes local Fraser Valley politicians will oppose any incinerator proposals.

"I'm not comfortable with a conditional approval of the plan as a local MLA," said van Dongen. "I have indicated that to the minister. I can't be sure that it won't negatively impact our valley. I'm concerned."

Attorney General Barry Penner, who represents the Chilliwack-Hope riding, said he hasn't studied the details of the announcement, but agreed that Fraser Valley political representatives must be consulted about any future Metro Vancouver plans when it comes to waste incineration.

Penner was part of a successful push to halt an American proposal to build a potential pollution-causing energy project near the Canada-U.S. border near Chilliwack.

But environmentalists sounded the alarm shortly after the approval announcement, saying they will fight the location of any garbage incinerator in the Lower Mainland area.

"The real fight will begin when they pick a location and try to build one of these pollution-spewing garbage-burning monsters," said Ben West, a Wilderness Committee health campaigner.

"Wherever they try to do this we will be there to make sure people know the truth about what is being proposed in their backyard," West said in a statement.

Studies examining the pollution and potential health problems created by incinerating garbage have produced conflicting results with some finding minute, harmless amounts of pollution and others suggesting health risks from the tiny particulates in the air.

A recent study released by the World Health Organization estimated that two million people die prematurely every year due to health effects caused by lack of clean air.

A European Commission report found that Europeans lose eight months of life expectancy due to fine particulate pollution caused by emissions from diesel engines, heating systems and other urban factors.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said urban life contributes to poor air quality, but he's convinced garbage incinerators are safe.

Corrigan is on the Metro Vancouver board and is a member of the waste reduction committee that proposed incinerating some Vancouver garbage and using it to create energy.
Burnaby has been using a garbage incinerator since 1989 to create enough energy to power the equivalent of 15,000 homes, he said.

"The primary purpose of the incinerator is to create energy from garbage," said Corrigan.

He said environmentalists should focus their air pollution energies on cleaning up airborne waste created by cement plants rather than from high-tech incinerators where particulates are barely measurable.

Corrigan said incinerators are located in downtown centres in Europe and Japan, and in Europe the Green Party supports incinerators.

"They laugh at the fact we still have these fights in North America when the technology has been so accepted throughout Europe and Asia," he said.

Lake's announcement came as a disappointment to the Interior community of Cache Creek, where much of Vancouver's garbage has been trucked for decades.

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said Vancouver garbage creates about 120 jobs in his community and the new plan threatens those jobs.

He said he's also upset that the plan also includes plans to truck garbage to the United States.

"To approve this plan which allows the potential export of waste to the United States, I'm wondering how Premier Christy Clark really feels about the impact of that approval of the waste management plan on jobs for British Columbians living in the Interior," Ranta said.

Metro Vancouver chairwoman Lois Jackson said in a statement the government approval puts in place the potential building blocks for a progressive, environmentally sound and economically responsible long-term plan for waste management in the Vancouver area.

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