We believe every effort should be taken to minimize waste generation, and to recycle and recover materials to the maximum extent possible. But even then, some material will still need to be disposed–until all material can be redirected for the purpose of reuse or recycling (“closed loop”). For this simple reason, landfills will continue to form a part of our cities’ waste management strategy for the foreseeable future.
Metro Vancouver is an example of a regional district that has made landfills an explicit part of its own, provincially-approved Solid Waste Management Plan. Goal 4 of that plan is to “Dispose of all remaining waste in landfill, after material recycling and energy recovery.”
One of our affiliate companies operates the Cache Creek landfill, in the dry interior of BC, where less than 25% of Metro Vancouver’s waste is sent today.
However, our company shares the goal of minimizing the amount of recyclables and compostable material that end up both in the landfills and the incinerator. We are investing financial and human resources behind that vision, and we continuously explore options to divert as much material as possible from disposal toward beneficial purposes. This is driving our vision to grow the material recovery sector in Canada, including the lower mainland.
While there is a role for landfills at the back end of any disposal option (an incinerator produces toxic ash that needs to be treated and disposed in landfill), we recognize that we can do better at the front end by separating, recovering and recycling the maximum amount of material possible. This is the purpose of NextUse, and we plan to invest $30 million to make it a reality in the City of Coquitlam.
The fact is even with Metro Vancouver’s proposed new incinerator, considerable residual waste will end up in landfills. The difference is that the residual waste from a material recovery facility can be made inert through composting, while the waste from an incinerator is toxic ash that requires special treatment and disposal. Today, some of the ash from the Burnaby incinerator is treated and trucked across the Canadian Rockies for disposal in Alberta.
We all share an interest in reducing waste that ends up in a landfill. But we should also be interested in ensuring that the air is not treated as a dumping ground, and we do not create new, toxic waste through the incineration process.
Maximizing recycling and material recovery is a key strategy.