Despite a recent report criticizing waste incineration, Mayor Derek Corrigan defends the practice as an optimal alternative to landfills.
A study released last week from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and Wilderness Committee stated that waste incineration was not only worse than coal burning and bad for air quality, but it also creates a demand for more waste consumption.
Corrigan, also the vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's zero-waste committee, said most people don't know that Burnaby has had a waste-to-energy incinerator since 1988, which has high environmental standards.
"Those of us who have been working on this for many, many years find it frustrating when a group of academics come and simply dismiss all of the work that's been done," Corrigan said of the study, Closing the Loop: Reducing Greenhouse Emissions Through Zero Waste in B.C.
Burnaby's waste-to-energy facility has been extremely useful because the alternative would be to put garbage into the landfills, according to Corrigan.
"It's much more severe in a landfill," he added. "I think everyone world wide agrees on that. It's been essentially banned in Europe.
"I thought the CCPA report was really a polly-anna approach to reality."
He said Burnaby's incinerator has been successful in dealing with the city's garbage - by reaching high standards of environmental protection that has been set - and may need to be replaced in the future.
Corrigan said the best rate of recycling in the world is at 70 per cent, which means there's still leftover waste.
"Even with the best rate of recycling in the world . it's still going to leave us with a residual (waste)," he noted.
Corrigan said a 100 per cent recycling rate is unrealistic and unlikely to occur any time soon.
Most municipalities recycle 50 per cent and he said Burnaby is trying to set its goal at 70 per cent.
"I just don't know if there's any other alternative but to expect some degree of incineration," Corrigan said. "We do it the cleanest way possible."
According to a Metro Vancouver document about Burnaby's waste-to-energy facility, it turns about 285,000 tonnes of garbage into steam and electricity. The steam is sold to a paper-recycling facility and the electricity is sold to B.C. Hyrdo, with enough power for 15,000 homes.
Metro Vancouver is now looking to develop new incinerators in Burnaby's model.
"The next generation of incinerators will improve with the last 25 years of research and development," Corrigan said. "It will ensure the highest environmental (standards)."
The regional organization has identified waste-to-energy recovery as the best approach to handling waste after recycling, reducing and re-using efforts.
The process to develop new waste-to-energy capacity has eight phases and is in its second phase, which means sites are being identified for groups proposing technology and areas for the next incineration project in Metro Vancouver.
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