Is there an alternative to the Burnaby incinerator?

Burnaby's neighbour wants to bring in an advanced material recovery and recycling facility, but the waste diversion alternative will most likely never replace incineration in Metro Vancouver.

The City of Coquitlam has given an early green light to Belkorp Environmental Services Inc. to invest about $30 million to develop a 260,000-tonne capacity facility, which the company says will create 80 jobs, ensure more than 80 per cent of customers' unsorted waste is diverted from disposal, and be built with no expense to the taxpayer. But, Metro Vancouver's bylaw 280 specifically deals with recovery facilities and has specific stipulations with sorting garbage.

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At the Jan. 20 Coquitlam council meeting, council further reiterated their support for the facility, which hinges on Metro Vancouver to approve the pending licence. However, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro Van's zero-waste committee, said while they support private material recovery facilities, it must have garbage separation at the source.

"In other words, homeowners take out the cardboard, newspaper, plastics, and we have had that program in place in Metro Vancouver for at least 20 years, and a reason for that, we believe that if you have source separation for your recycling and your organics, then the quality is the best if it's separated at the source as opposed to being separated later."

Would it serve as an alternative to Burnaby's incinerator? Not likely, since Metro Vancouver has committed to a second incinerator within the region.

"The other thing to note, this is something important, companies always miss this fact, they ask, 'Let us do this, that and the other,' avoiding having to provide to the incinerator,'" Brodie said. "The fact is, we have a million tons per year of garbage, materials that have to be disposed of either in an incinerator in Burnaby or at the Vancouver landfill in Delta, and the Cache Creek landfill - it has to be dealt with at those places."

Brodie said the new incinerator will replace the Cache Creek landfill, which will bring up the capacity from 370,000 tons to 700,000 tons.

"So, we have to make significant progress in terms of reducing the garbage stream," he said. "Right now, the reason we're at 58 per cent diversion and want to get to 70 per cent diversion, then we want to get to 80 per cent and the new facility we're planning for is based on getting to that 80 per cent."

Brodie said the other reason why Belkorp is pushing for this new facility, is because it runs the Cache Creek landfill and the contract ends in 2016.

However, Russ Black, Belkorp's vice-president of corporate development, says Metro Vancouver has achieved what it can with the Burnaby incinerator for the last 20 years.

"The choices now are burn it and put it into the air, or break the bag and recycle it - communities that don't want to put it in the air are going to advanced material recovery and recycling facilities."

Other than in Coquitlam, there are also proposed facilities in Vancouver and Surrey that Metro Van is also stalling on with bylaw 280.

"We want to see source separation happen, Mayor Brodie is out of step with the new regulations that have just occurred."

Black also said Metro Vancouver's 58 per cent diversion number is just an average, while the single family residential numbers recycling rate was 56 per cent in 2012, but multifamily residential sites had a 27 per cent recycling rate in 2012; demolition, land clearing and construction recycling rates were 75 per cent in 2012; and industrial, commercial and institutional recycling rates were at 38 per cent in 2012.

"That's 20-plus years of source separation," he said. "That's what they've got so far. You can take out organic materials, but there will still always be a fraction. No one is perfect."

In a previous interview with the Burnaby NOW, Mayor Derek Corrigan echoed Brodie's comments and noted that there's no real alternative to incinerating garbage as the best form of dealing with it.

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