Monday, June 24, 2013

Composing, Recycling, and Waste to Energy in Metro Vancouver

As I’ve posted about in the past, Metro Vancouver is responsible for the management of solid waste in our region. It has the goal of diverting 70% of all waste generated in the region from going to a landfill by 2015, and has set an 80% diversion target by 2020. These are ambitious targets, but it appears that the region is on the path to meeting them. Besides supporting recycling collection throughout the region, Metro Vancouver has just introduced organics collection regionally. Right now, most single-family homes have organic waste collected which ends up at regional composting facilities. Organics collection will be coming to multi-family housing (apartment and townhouses), commercial buildings, and institutional sites by 2015.

One the recycling front, complexity has been added to the system due to changes in Provincial regulations. In 2011, the Provincial Government changed recycling regulation to shift the responsibility of recycling product packaging and printed paper to industry. Multi-Material British Columbia is the non-profit society setup by industry to manage the program which will be fully operation by 2014. While more material will be included in this new program, there are some challenges.

Multi-Material British Columbia is hoping to sign collection agreements with local governments and pay them a fee to collect packaging and printed paper recycling at the curb side. Some local governments feel that the payment being offered does not cover the cost of collection. Also, Multi-Material British Columbia is considering not collecting glass and plastic films at the curb; only accepting them a depots. This may reduce the recycling of glass as it is currently accepted at the curb today. Also, the program also does not address commercial or industrial recycling. There are some details to be worked out, and hopefully this program will see an increase in recycling and not a decrease.

For the 20% to 30% of material that will still be landfill-bound, Metro Vancouver is looking to build a new waste-to-energy facility in the region. Right now, Metro Vancouver has short-listed ten companies that could build and manage a waste-to-energy facility. The region hopes to get more information on these companies’ plans in the fall which will help Metro Vancouver choose a provider. At the same time, Metro Vancouver is now looking for a site for the waste-to-energy facility. One on the potential sites may be in the Township of Langley. According to Metro Vancouver, waste-to-energy facilities are normally close to residential neighbourhoods in Europe, as it makes it easy to provide district energy (heating homes from the heat created by waste-to-energy). I’m sure there will be controversy surrounding any site selected in the region. Apparently a shortlist of site will be released in mid-July.

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