Metro Vancouver’s waste management proposal draws criticism from Abbotsford council

Councillors say the plan is being used to justify new incinerator in the Lower Mainland

  • May. 31, 2013 5:00 p.m.
A proposed Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator

A proposed Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator

The City of Abbotsford is opposed to Metro Vancouver’s proposed waste management plan, stating it contradicts the goal of garbage diversion by committing the regional district to a garbage incinerator instead of diverting waste.

Metro’s solid waste program is primarily funded by tipping fees of $107 per tonne at its own facilities, but revenues are declining as waste is being exported to private transfer stations in Abbotsford and First Nations landfills, where tipping fees can be as little as $70 per tonne.

Metro also expects to raise tipping fees to between $150 and $200 per tonne in order to pay for a new $500-million incinerator that could potentially be built in the Lower Mainland. The regional district hopes to ensure garbage haulers only take trash to Metro-approved facilities, keeping waste – and money – from being siphoned from Metro’s program.

Jim Gordon, Abbotsford’s general manager of engineering, said at Monday’s council meeting that seeking to control the flow of waste is not necessarily a problem, as it stops haulers from taking garbage to unregulated sites and ensures revenue for diversion programs. But he said there are issues with Metro’s proposal, which does not allow for diversion alternatives proposed by the private sector.

He said Metro seems to be opposed to allowing some of the waste flow to go to private material recycling facilities (MRFs) – which separate recyclables out of solid waste – in order to ensure that there is enough garbage and funding to run the proposed incinerator.

“We think this could be detrimental to diversion. It also looks as if potentially, they are trying to direct all of the waste to the proposed waste-to-energy facility, and also direct revenue towards that facility.”

Members of council, the Fraser Valley Regional District, and many residents have opposed the proposed trash incinerator, which could have a negative effect on the Fraser Valley airshed if built in the Lower Mainland.

The proposal for the waste-to-energy plant predicts the plant would consume 370,000 tonnes of garbage annually by 2018.

Coun. Patricia Ross has heard that private businesses have been discouraged from building MRFs even though they could increase the diversion of waste from landfills. Ross said Metro’s plan is just an excuse to have enough garbage to feed the incinerator.

Coun. Henry Braun agreed, calling Metro’s restrictions on waste removal “heavy-handed.”

“All this is going to do is drive up costs. They need the material for the caloric intake of the incinerator… and the taxpayers are going to pay for it.”

Abbotsford has already achieved high levels of waste diversion following the implementation of a new composting, recycling and garbage disposal program in January. The initiative achieved up to 60 per cent waste diversion in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 33.5 per cent in the same period of 2012. Those numbers are expected to increase.

Ross said the residents of Abbotsford have already responded to the need to recycle, compost and divert waste, and that no incinerator is necessary for waste disposal.

“It’s proof to Metro Vancouver that you don’t have to build these monsters.”

Malcolm Brodie, a Metro board member and Zero Waste Committee, said the plan for waste flow management is unrelated to any incinerator plans, which have not been finalized. He said Metro is trying to ensure waste goes to their facilities so it is disposed of according to their environmental standards, and produces enough revenue.

A report from staff states that the city will work with the Fraser Valley Regional District to investigate alternatives to Metro’s garbage disposal system, ensure its waste is not sent by Metro to the incinerator, and its future tipping fees are not being directed to Metro for construction and operation of the incinerator.

Representatives from Metro Vancouver will be present at the June 10 council meeting.