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Incineration: Burning Issues – 2009 in Review

Despite all we know about the harm caused by incineration, promoters continue to propose burning garbage as a viable waste disposal option. Several communities in Canada are facing either mass burn incineration or “incinerator in disguise” proposals.

Over the last year, incineration proponents and their allies – consultants, lobbyists, municipal staff and some politicians – saw some gains in their attempts to frame the waste debate as simply being “incineration vs. landfill”. It is important to remember that incineration means both burning and burying: residues (ash, char, slag) still need to be managed (i.e. buried) after burning, a point often minimized by incineration proponents and not fully explored by decision makers. The debate further distracts municipalities from addressing waste issues at the “front end” – working to reduce, re-use and divert waste. Rachel’s Democracy provides a good review of how burning garbage impedes our transition to sustainability, yet seems to be making a comeback.

As people become more aware of the serious public health and economic impacts of burning garbage, and its inflexibility as a disposal option, incinerator vendors will find it much tougher to flog their technology.

2009 –Year in Review

Durham Region, Ontario – Despite a record number of citizen delegations, opposition by medical professionals and the efforts of a coalition that included labour, health and community organizations, Durham and York Region politicians voted in June 2009 to submit Environmental Assessment (EA) documentation to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for the construction of a waste incinerator.

During the first round of EA public inspection, ending last September, citizens identified many errors, omissions, gaps and inconsistencies in the study documents. The amended EA was even more incoherent and difficult to review. Further, the council of the Municipality of Clarington, the potential host community for the Durham-York incinerator, prematurely terminated the work of independent experts to review proponents’ EA studies. Durham citizens have asked the Minister of the Environment to refer the EA study to the Environmental Review Tribunal so that all matters could be thoroughly aired at a public hearing. They continue to await a response from the Minister.

If approved as proposed, the Durham project would not employ state-of-the-art emissions control and monitoring technology, as promised by the politicians pushing it. It would be the first incinerator approved in over 20 years in Ontario.

Elsewhere in Ontario – Brant, Dufferin County, Port Hope and Sault Ste. Marie are looking at proposals for incineration. So far, there is no organized opposition in these towns. If you are interested in doing so, be sure to check our Canada-wide list of groups formed to oppose incineration proposals for some contacts and ideas.

Vancouver – Metro Vancouver released a draft waste plan at the end of November with a decision expected by next summer. Zero Waste Vancouver and Zero Waste B.C. are actively opposing this focus on incineration, and need your support to move Metro Vancouver towards more sustainable alternatives.

Elsewhere in BC – A number of proposals are causing concern across BC:

What You Can Do

An informed and engaged community can be very effective at beating back mass burn incineration and “incinerators in disguise” proposals before projects gain too much political momentum.

  • First, act locally. Reduce your personal waste footprint. Consider back yard composting – even if your municipality has a green bin program.
  • Find out how waste is managed in your community. Learn about waste reduction, re-use and diversion options available to you.
  • If your municipality is considering any form of incineration, take the time to learn about what this entails and educate your fellow citizens and decision-makers about safer and more sustainable alternatives. Refer to PCN’s recently updated Incineration Tool Kit to learn more.
  • Sign our Position Statement, and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to add their names to the growing opposition to burning garbage, and the call for safer and more sensible options.
  • If you live in BC, sign Zero Waste B.C.’s position statement and find out how else you can help guide B.C. towards a Zero Waste future.
  • For resources on global waste, go to the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance/Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) website. Join others fighting incineration on GAIA’s active list serve, where members share winning strategies and timely information.

PCN is here to support you, providing information and linking you with individuals and groups across Canada who oppose incineration. If you live in a community where no group is monitoring a specific proposal, please consider taking on the challenge to oppose incineration and lead your community towards more sustainable and healthy alternatives. Then please let us know who you are and how we could help.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and incinerator-free 2010!

Article by Linda Gasser, PCN Anti-Incineration Campaign Coordinator
E-mail: gasserlinda@gmail.com; Telephone: (905) 983-5249

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