Garbage Incineration: What are we Waiting For?

garbage incineration

Are you for or against garbage incineration?  I am a huge proponent of the theory and practice, so encouraged to hear it is being discussed here in Ottawa.

It has been proven to be efficient and successful in many advanced countries around the world, including Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, France, Denmark, and the USA. Canadian cities with success in waste-to-energy include Durham-York and Brampton in Ontario and Burnaby in BC.

The DYEC safely processes 140,000 tonnes per year of residential garbage that remains after maximizing waste diversion programs – reducing, reusing, recycling and composting – in Durham and York Regions.

Durham York Energy Centre

Canada’s Lagging Behind

Why then, if so popular in these other countries, is (most of) Canada dragging their feet with only a pitiful small percent of our trash sent for garbage incineration? We (some of us) are very focused on being the leaders in everything else, why not garbage incineration?

As our nation’s capital city, Ottawa should be leading the way with this proactive and modern technology. The use of dumps or landfills should be relegated to the history books, as the old-fashioned, inefficient relics they are.

MordorIntelligence offers the details on where Canada is on the waste-to-energy movement of which garbage incineration is the best-known method although it has its pros and cons. The biggest disadvantage is the pollution, for which there appears to be a solution:

  • To reduce particulate and gas-phase emissions, incineration plant owners have adopted a series of process units to clean the flue gas stream, which has, in turn, led to a significant improvement in terms of environmental sustainability.
  • Gasification of waste produces fewer emissions per unit of generated power compared to both incineration and landfilling.
  • The wide availability of technology, combined with a change in technology, is expected to lead to the increasing adoption of thermal-based WTE technology 

Support for Garbage Incineration

I read in the Ottawa Lookout, a local newsletter, recently that a few of Ottawa’s councillors are proponents of garbage incinerators. The issue of Ottawa’s garbage dilemma was brought up at the city council due to the opposition to a proposed “bag & tag” policy. The problem with this policy is that it is simply a bandaid fix for the next decade or so until our landfills reach capacity:

Long-term planning is always a challenge in politics. The question is whether council does something about it now, or punts it down the road.

Ottawa Lookout

Ottawa Councillor David Brown expressed his support of garbage incineration in a recent newsletter, agreeing that the proposed bag & tag proposal is a bandaid fix, one that is very short-sighted. In an article in the Ottawa Citizen, Councillor Brown also discusses why he believes a waste-to-energy approach makes the most sense.

From another article in the Ottawa Citizen, I read the good news that, from a motion put forward by councillors Allan Hubley (Kanata) and David Brown (Rideau-Jock), the Council did vote to study garbage inceration, which is a big step in the right direction.

There was a good discussion around the Council table regarding the need to move forward on finding a better solution, one rooted in proven technology that is more responsible to taxpayers, the environment, and future residents. I am pleased to report that the motion was carried unanimously.

Councillor David Brown, Rideau-Jock

So now we wait. The ball is rolling though, let’s hope it catches more support. Read the information within the links above to learn the details behind garbage incineration. Our future depends on support from Ottawa residents.

The Cons: Cost and Pollution

Granted, the start-up cost involved in garbage incinerators is quite significant, but the advantages are also significant:

Senior officials with Varme Energy, a Canadian developer in waste-to-energy and bioenergy projects, outlined an Innisfail, Alberta project that will include a private investment of between 150 to $200 million for a new state-of-the-art plant on 13 acres of land …the completed plant would employ about 30 full-time jobs, including plant manager and power engineers. The construction and facility commission would take about 30 months and employ up to 125 workers. The competed facility would be a consistent source of municipal property tax revenues.

Western Investor

Varme’s facilities would be the first in Canada to both generate energy from waste, and to capture the excess carbon and store it underground, a process that’s been piloted in Norway, but has not yet been tested in Canada.

CBC News

Most investments in our future are expensive. I won’t even go into the astronomical amount of money we have tossed at solar and wind power initiatives.

A few other Ottawa councillors expressed concern about the pollution generated by incinerators. What about the pollution generated when disgruntled residents start tossing their garbage in the ditches if they have to limit the garbage put to the curb every two weeks? Don’t even get me started on that issue, I cannot believe in the hot summer months when maggots are feasting on garbage, we only get our trash picked up every two weeks.

I’m not suggesting pollution is not important but let’s look for a viable solution instead of voting for a bandaid fix. Surely there are new-and-improved, current waste-to-energy solutions out there that are less “dirty.” Whether we find a long-term, viable solution or start looking down the road, we should be thinking proactively.

Recycling and Garbage Incineration go Hand in Hand

No one is suggesting we cut back on our recycling efforts. In fact, according to successful garbage incineration depends on vegetation, cardboard, household waste (no chemicals), and paper. Even plastic can be incinerated according to, in fact, it burns the best. That’s great since our plastic use has doubled in the past five decades and is expected to double yet again within the next two decades! That’s a scary fact for everyone, regardless of whether you are on the climate change bandwagon or not.

Where do you stand on this important issue? Would you rather find a proactive solution or keep our heads buried in the sand or, in this case, in the garbage?