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Waste-to-energy doesn’t deal with the root problem

Posted By bradford On June 8, 2010 @ 2:46 pm In Uncategorized | No Comments

Waste-to-energy doesn’t deal with the root problem: As a society, we’re still creating too much garbage
By Lesley Evans Ogden, Coquitlam NOW (June 2, 2010)

Port Moody’s mayor, Joe Trasolini, recently voted in support of Metro Vancouver’s draft solid waste management strategy, which includes expansion of the region’s waste-to-energy (incineration) infrastructure.

Twice in recent months I attempted to contact the mayor to ask him why he supports waste-to-energy, and twice I received no reply. If waste-to-energy is so clearly beneficial to our region, why is the mayor so sheepish about explaining his decision to support it?

Mayor Trasolini’s position is particularly puzzling given that the volunteers of Port Moody’s environmental protection committee summarized their arduous meetings through the summer of 2009 in a report that strongly opposed Plasco’s waste-to-energy.

The mind boggles further considering that the Cache Creek landfill has recently been given an extension to receive waste for another 25 years, thus alleviating our so-called “garbage crisis.” Landfills are not perfect. They slowly release the powerful greenhouse gas methane as organic material buried underground decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen).

However, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam are taking a leadership role as municipalities piloting the removal of organic material from the waste stream, diverting it to composting programs, which drastically reduces landfill methane production. And while we need to move aggressively towards a society where industries are not permitted to produce non-recyclable plastics, in the meantime, those plastics buried in landfill at least represent a stable, solid form of the fossil fuels that created them. Plastics in our landfills will remain unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years. When we take those same plastics and incinerate them, that stored carbon is immediately released as carbon dioxide gas that may persist in our Earth’s atmosphere for centuries. By converting our waste from solid to gas through incineration, (ignoring for now the other solid toxic byproducts of waste-to-energy), we are further contributing to a legacy of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide that will not only affect the Earth’s climate for our children, it will affect our grandchildren’s great-grandchildren.

Throughout Metro’s public consultation process, we have been told to look to Scandinavia as a shining example of countries where waste-to-energy is used and accepted. But comparing our waste system to Sweden’s is like comparing apples with rambutans. Sweden has a highly sophisticated waste-sorting system in which people must separate out at least 12 types of recyclables. Citizens receive hefty fines if they trash recyclable materials.

We’re nowhere near this level of recycling sophistication, so incineration of our unsorted waste would introduce all sorts of harmful products, like electronics and batteries, into the resulting solid and gaseous stew. In addition, Sweden is way ahead of us on extended producer responsibility legislation — requiring companies to take post-consumer responsibility for their products and packaging by means of take-back programs.

The most worrying aspect of this solid waste management planning process has been the lack of a balanced consideration of alternative viewpoints. Metro Vancouver has failed to provide an equal hearing for scientific evidence that opposes the use of waste-to-energy. If waste-to-energy is so solidly supported by science, why was it necessary to bring in experts that clearly had a vested interest in promoting waste-to-energy, rather than unbiased scientists that could take a truly balanced look at the technology?

Take Bettina Kamuk, for example. As market director of the Danish company Ramboll Denmark AS — a company that, according to its website, has spent the past 30 years involved in the planning, procurement and commissioning of waste-to-energy plants — Kamuk is paid to promote waste-to-energy, and her company has a clear financial interest in doing so.

Metro aided the self-destruction of their credibility with the use of “expert” toxicologist Dr. Jim Bridges, who assured us all that waste-to-energy posed no risks to human health. It was later revealed that in the 1990s, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took tobacco giants to task on the adverse health impacts of cigarettes, Bridges was an expert witness testifying for Phillip Morris.

As you can read in court transcripts [1]. Bridges held the position that there was insufficient evidence linking tobacco smoke, either direct or second-hand, to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

And in Metro’s recent decision to deny UBC’s atmospheric scientist Dr. Douw Steyn renewed funding for air quality research because of his outspoken opposition to incineration, they have perpetuated a long chain of historical precedents of politicians and religious leaders shooting the scientific messenger.

After all, if our scientists aren’t telling us what we want to hear, isn’t ignorance and denial so much better? Waste-to-energy is not a sustainable or ecologically responsible energy source, nor is it a wise long-term investment for a society truly committed to the elimination of waste.

Our current overproduction of waste is like a severed artery, and ramping up waste-to-energy is the equivalent of getting faster and faster at bringing trays to catch the spurting blood, instead of applying pressure to stop the flow. Committing to waste-to-energy doesn’t deal with the root problem: that our society has become unwittingly locked into a culture of too much waste. Let’s see some solid commitment to waste reduction, not another Band-Aid.

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Lesley Evans Ogden is a freelance writer, ecologist and lecturer in environmental biology who is based in Port Moody.

This article is archived online here [2]

Also in this issue on An Ounce …


Article printed from Prevent Cancer Now: http://www.preventcancernow.ca

URL to article: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/waste-to-energy-doesnt-deal-with-the-root-problem/

URLs in this post:

[1] court transcripts: http://tobaccodocuments.org/bliley_pm/24415.html

[2] here: http://www.thenownews.com/technology/Waste+energy+doesn+deal+with+root+problem+society+still+creating+much+garbage/3102018/story.html

[3] An Ounce: Introduction to the June 2010 Issue: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/an-ounce-introduction-to-the-june-2010-issue

[4] President’s Panel Report: “Grievous harm not adequately addressed”: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/presidents-panel-report-grievous-harm-not-adequately-addressed

[5] The “waste circus” has arrived in Canada: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/the-waste-circus-has-arrived-in-canada

[6] Interphone study on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk: No clear answers: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/interphone-study-on-mobile-phone-use-and-brain-cancer-risk-no-clear-answers

[7] The Radiation App That iPhone Has Banned: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/the-radiation-app-that-iPhone-has-banned

[8] Electrosmog and our health: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/electrosmog-and-our-health

[9] Alyssa Blondon – A Teenage Survivor’s Account: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/alyssa-blondon–a-teenage-survivors-account

[10] KF-C is for cynical: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/kf-c-is-for-cynical

[11] The Big Test for BPA: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/the-big-test-for-bpa

[12] Worth Reading: Cancer Under the Radar – Young Adults Tell Their Stories: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/worth-reading-cancer-under-the-radar-young-adults-tell-their-stories

[13] Ongoing resources to keep in mind!: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/ongoing-resources-to-keep-in-mind

[14] What’s New?: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/whats-new-2

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