All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Eew, our garbage is leaking out

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That's not garbage...just used packaging.

That’s not garbage…just used packaging.

Recently I found out that some companies are shipping garbage out of the area, in order to avoid the high tipping fees that Metro charges.  This endangers the recycling initiatives of the area.  Further, these companies are lobbying the environment minister to enable them to do so at will.  No, no,no.  Not only is it the right thing to deal with our waste where we produce it; but, if they have their way, our recycling efforts will collapse.

So I wrote to the minister; here’s my letter, below.  If you agree with me, hey, here’s a situation where plagiarism is encouraged!

Dear Minister Polak

I am writing to add my voice to those who support Metro Vancouver bylaw 280.

I recently learned that some interests are trying to convince you not to approve bylaw 280; should their efforts be successful, this would be an unfortunate mistake. I am saying this as a voter and taxpayer, but also as the instructor of a course in solid waste management. It is while researching material for this course that this situation has come to my attention.

As a taxpayer, I see the issue mostly as one of fairness. Under the current situation, large waste haulers are taking more and more waste away from the Metro system, to Abbotsford, a trend that has started at least two years ago and is getting worse. This is a problem because it creates a lack of revenue to properly operate the waste management system of the region. As a result, small operators and general taxpayers are left with heftier costs than need be. In my understanding, it is this unfairness that bylaw 280 is designed to prevent and it is clear that it should be fully supported.

Should the bylaw not be approved, it is the full integrity of the recycling system, from source separation, producer responsibility, organics collection, and other initiatives, that would be compromised.

It has been said that large industrial haulers from the private sector would be able to operate more efficiently than the public sector. I see nothing to substantiate this assertion. On the contrary, I can only conclude that the outcomes would be either an increased cost to the taxpayer, or a greatly diminished system with a much worse environmental footprint.

It has also been said that bylaw 280 is designed only as a means to impose incineration as a waste disposal system. Whatever the merits of incineration, again I see nothing to that effect in bylaw 280; on the contrary, the bylaw appears to be designed to have the flexibility to adopt the most efficient and environmentally sound technology, whatever that may be, now or in the future.

As an instructor investigating the issue, I have to conclude that the opposition to bylaw 280 is driven by some members of the private industry that aim their preserve profitablity by bypassing the region. In particular, I am concerned that this waste is simply landfilled (with its resulting climate impact); and should the waste be disposed of south of the border, any liability that could occur in the future would remain with the originator – that is, the Province.

There has been much discussion of Mixed Refuse Facilities (MRFs) by opponents to the bylaw, but I don’t see the relevance of this argument. I am not suggesting that proposals such as MRFs have no merit; they may, but since monitored MRFS remain possible under bylaw 280, I conclude that their mention is irrelevant and may be designed, unfortunately, to mislead the public.

In fact, I would stress that a key issue of concern is public perception. Currently, our source separation system works reasonably well because of buy-in on the part of residents. Should a rumour arise that source separation is futile, if waste is hauled away out of region anyways, it will be more difficult to maintain, let alone improve on, our recycling rates. Further, in the context of the Mount Polley mine accident, there is now, most unfortunately, a fairly low trust in the government by the public. Should bylaw 280 not be approved, there is a risk that this would be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the government rewarding private industry at the expense of good governance. Whether or not this reflects the reality of government decisions is immaterial; public perception is key, and failure to approve bylaw 280 risks fostering a negative impression that the government does not have the public interest foremost in mind. And since public perception is key to any environmental initiative, should this negative perception be created, this would have negative consequences for other environmental regulations, proposed or current, beyond the waste management issue.

Very respectfully, as a member of the public and as someone whose occupation has enabled me to carry out a dispassionate analysis of the situation, I enjoin you to do what is best for the province and the environment, and approve bylaw 280.

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Written by enviropaul

September 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

One Response

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  1. […] managed to fool the environmental community into doing its work, even though there was no link, as I described here, and even though, for that matter, WTFs deserve a fair […]


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