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Province approves Metro solid waste plan

Delta mayor says plan gives the region 'building blocks' for a progressive plan

The debate about garbage incineration plants is set to once again heat up following the provincial government's approval of Metro Vancouver's solid waste plan.

The regional district and province announced Monday that Environment Minister Terry Lake has given the stamp of approval for the region's Solid Waste Management Plan.

The plan includes new goals for diverting 70 per cent of Metro Vancouver waste through recycling, composting and other programs by 2015, increasing to 80 per cent by 2020. The plan also includes the construction of waste-to-energy facilities, either within or outside the region.

"Metro Vancouver now has the ability to pursue a mix of options for managing waste, provided they balance the interest of surrounding communities that share their airshed," said Lake. "I'm confident this plan will reduce the amount of garbage generated in the region and provide strong environmental protection."

Metro chair and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said the region would be able to meet the requirements set out by the government.

"As a result of provincial approval, we now have in place the building blocks needed for a progressive, environmentally sound and economically responsible long-term plan for the management of waste in our region. Based on years of public consultation, the plan is founded on the overriding principle of waste avoidance," Jackson stated.

She noted the region already recycles or diverts about 55 per cent of the garbage produced, which is far better than the 22 per cent average Canada-wide, but it intends to do much better though the new waste plan.

However, even with high diversion rates, the region still needs to deal with the more than one million tonnes of waste that can not be recycled, she said, adding waste-to-energy is a solution for a large portion of that material.

"Most of our so-called garbage is a resource that we should not waste by burying it in the ground, and the plan will help us preserve non-renewable resources, save energy, generate revenue, protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gases," Jackson said.

"A thorough and independent analysis made it clear that additional waste-to-energy capacity that includes district heating is our best option. When we look at lifecycle costs, air quality impacts and greenhouse gas issues, reduced reliance on landfills and more waste-to-energy capacity is the clear winner."

The plan will allow the region to consider a wide-range of technologies for additional waste-to-energy capacity. A more detailed examination options is their next step, she said.

The Wilderness Committee was quick to respond, saying it's disappointed by Lake's approval of Metro Vancouver's shortsighted waste management plan.

The real fight will start when a location is chosen for a waste incineration facility, said the environmental group.

Meanwhile, Delta taxpayers will find themselves paying more once new incinerators are built and less garbage heads to the landfill.

A report to Delta council a couple of years ago looking at the implications of Metro's proposed solid waste plan noted the financial benefit Delta residents currently enjoy as a result of hosting the landfill is "significant."

The report found the municipality annually received over $2 million in royalty revenues and a value of close to $3 million in being able to dump garbage without paying a fee. Once property taxes and sewer fees are included, the total value of the landfill's benefit to Delta was close to the $7 million range.

If the amount of garbage going there is reduced drastically, and if Delta had to start paying fees to dispose trash, the cost on Delta taxpayers could be significant, the report stated.

"Until further details are made available on the costs of future solid waste treatments, it is not possible to provide a clear picture on the potential for increased costs with the introduction of the new SWMP (Solid Waste Management Plan). However, it is possible that combining these impacts with other regional initiatives, such as TransLink, water treatment and liquid waste handling may be beyond what taxpayers can afford," the report noted.

Civic finance director Karl Preuss told council that losing the royalty revenues would work out to a property tax increase of 2.5 per cent or higher, while losing the free disposal of garbage would result in another $100 added to utility bills.

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