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article imageLots of trash talk in Metro Vancouver Special

By Lynne Melcombe     Nov 12, 2009 in Environment
Trash has been a major point of discussion in Metro Vancouver lately, and that will continue with a series of forums on garbage, recycling, and sustainability from November 18 to November 20 in Coquitlam, Langley, and Vancouver.
Residents in various communities in BC's Lower Mainland have seen a number of community-based garbage-disposal and recycling initiatives over the past several months -- some well received, others not so much. For example, the unpopular idea of biweekly garbage pick-up, which will commence in Port Coquitlam in January, 2010, has been a very popular topic on letters-to-the-editor pages and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore's blog.
But regardless of which initiatives are popular and which are not, they are all part of Metro Vancouver's efforts to reach its Zero Waste Challenge -- and they are putting the region at the forefront of waste reduction in Canada.
"We would like to emphasize that reduction is the best way of managing waste," says Greg Valou, communications officer for Metro Vancouver. "Metro Vancouver is looking at various ways of reducing waste and enhancing waste diversion. After a public consultation process earlier this year, Metro Vancouver has set a target of 70% waste diversion by 2015.
The national waste diversion average is around 22%. Currently we divert 55%."
Changes to waste disposal practices in Metro Vancouver are essential. The region has relied for years on two landfills: The Vancouver landfill (near Burns Bog) in Delta, and the Cache Creek landfill. Both sites are nearing capacity, although there are plans to expand the latter. The use of ecologically diverse Burns Bog for this purpose has long been controversial, and the Cache Creek site raises other issues, such as the carbon footprint and cost of fossil fuels burned by trucks hauling garbage up the Fraser Canyon daily.
With a goal to reducing landfill dependence, Metro Vancouver is partnering in a pilot project with four municipalities (Coquitlam, Langley, Delta, and West Vancouver) to incorporate all kitchen garbage (including meat bones and fat) with yard waste for composting. (On its own, Port Coquitlam became the first Metro Vancouver community to initiate such a program on November 2.)
Coquitlam was also the site for a recent pilot project that partnered Metro Vancouver with Home Depot, Urban Wood Waste, and Urban Impact in a highly successful effort to collect wood garbage from home reno projects and divert it from landfills from recycling into alternative fuels. This project is now in the early stages of being shifted to the private sector, says Valou.
The information gathered from this project will also be helpful in developing eco-centres around Metro Vancouver, which will provide one-stop convenience for people wishing to drop off old electronics, batteries, and other waste items that are recyclable but cannot go into curbside garbage. The goal is to make it as convenient as possible for people to choose sustainable alternatives.
"I haven't heard of other cities in Canada doing this," says Valou, although some cities in Europe have done so.
The series of fora being held by Metro Vancouver is called Future of the Region Sustainability Dialogues on Solid Waste. They will be held in Coquitlam on November 18, Langley on November 19, and at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver on November 20.
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