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Massive green waste facility planned for Burnaby park heads to public consultation

A referendum to un-dedicate park land at Fraser Foreshore Park is in the works at Burnaby city hall, as council hopes to develop the land into a green waste processing facility.

A plan to build a massive green waste facility at Fraser Foreshore Park is going to a large-scale public consultation period after a decision by Burnaby council.

The Green Recycling Organic Waste facility – called GROW – would be able to process 150,000 tonnes of green waste like food scraps and yard trimmings from Burnaby, as well as “neighbouring communities and businesses,” according to a staff report, and convert it to high-quality compost for community gardens and urban farming, as well as renewable natural gas (RNG) that could be sold for profit.

Burnaby currently pays about $3.67 million per year for organic waste processing.

Council unanimously approved the project in principle at a meeting on Feb. 6, which includes pursuing a city-wide referendum (officially termed an “alternative approval process”) to remove the park dedication on 21-acre plot of land at Fraser Foreshore Park (4800 Riverbend Dr.), which is required to develop the GROW facility.

More information on the referendum will be brought to council later this month.

One councillor is anticipating public opposition.

Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Pietro Calendino said there might be “pushback from the community,” and recommended staff engage in a “strong messaging and communication plan to ensure that people are aware of the benefits.”

'A fantastic opportunity': councillor

Other councillors praised the environmental and financial benefits of the green waste plant at the council meeting on Feb. 6.

“I think it represents a fantastic opportunity for the city financially, and it helps in our fight against climate change and … GHGs,” said Green Party Coun. Joe Keithley.

Keithley added the city recently dedicated 10 times the amount of park land needed for GROW, after the October election.

Calendino asked if staff could do the project in stages, beginning with 50,000 tonnes capacity and adding another 50,000 tonnes if the need is there.

“That would make me a little more comfortable,” he said. “We plan for the 150 (thousand-tonne capacity) but not all at once.”

Calendino said he had spoken with staff at Metro Vancouver Regional District, who had expressed interest in diverting Metro Vancouver green waste to a Burnaby facility, but added he wanted firmer assurances in place.

“My issue here is we don’t have an agreement in principle with them (Metro Vancouver),” Calendino said. “And even though this is probably four to five years away before it materializes, I think we need to put Metro Vancouver on board.”

BCA Coun. Alison Gu also supported the project, pointing out the park land previously underwent industrial disturbance.

The staff report states the area has “several artificially channelized waterways and was previously disturbed when it was cleared, ditched and farmed” between 1930 and 1965.

“It isn’t the best quality parkland that we have,” Gu said at council and added later, “I think it’s really important that we don’t just protect the lowest value of land … we actually look at where it is valuable to have park land and then do everything we can to enhance it,” she said at the council meeting.

Gu also asked staff to explore including “biochar” producing capabilities from the region’s solid waste, which would create “rich fertilizer” to add to the compost from the facility.

“GROW is an important step towards becoming a carbon neutral city and an equally important investment in a shift to a more sustainable, circular economy,” said Mayor Mike Hurley in a press release.

Staff will begin public engagement this month and consult with potential project partners for further information on the commercial side of the development.

The target start date for construction is spring 2024 if council approves the project, and the facility would open by the end of 2026.

📣 SOUND OFF: Do you want to see an organic waste facility built at Fraser Foreshore Park? Are the city’s environmental efforts enough to offset the loss of park land? Send us a letter.