News / Vancouver

Metro Vancouver shelves plan for $480-million waste incinerator

The three-year process of selecting a site and a contractor to build the new facility was cancelled because of collective achievement of those living in the region to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

Metro Vancouver's Waste-to-energy incinerator in Burnaby.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

Metro Vancouver's Waste-to-energy incinerator in Burnaby.

After years of preliminary work, the Metro Vancouver regional district announced Thursday that its plan to build a new $480-million garbage incinerator has been put on ice.

“Due to uncertainty around future waste volumes and continued reduction in residual waste, Metro Vancouver has discontinued its current waste-to-energy (WTE) procurement process,” Metro Vancouver announced Thursday.

The three-year process of selecting a site and a contractor to build the new facility was cancelled, largely because of collective achievement of those living in the region to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, said Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore.

“We’ve seen our waste flow volumes decrease quite substantially over the last few years,” explained Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver.

With the volume dropping, he said, Metro Vancouver didn’t want to overbuild a new incinerator, so decided “Let’s pause for a while to get a better handle on it.”

When the regional district began looking five to six years ago at building a new waste-to-energy facility, the capacity needed was 500,000 tonnes a year.

“But that was reduced to 250,000 tonnes last year,” Moore said, adding that waste volume is dropping again this year after the regional district imposed a ban of organic material in garbage, which now is being diverted to compost.

Metro Vancouver will take at least a year to evaluate efforts to further reduce waste, he said.

Metro Vancouver still plans to spend $30 million over the next five years to upgrade its Burnaby incinerator to improve emissions controls, Moore said.

The move to delay the plan to build a new half-billion dollar incinerator was applauded by Jon Garson, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“We feel that is a wise decision,” he said Thursday, adding it is good news for both taxpayers and business.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, also had high praise for the decision to cancel planning for a new incinerator.

“While we are happy that Metro Vancouver has made the decision to abandon a second facility, it does not placate us in any way,” she said.

“Continuing to invest in antiquated methods of waste reduction and greenwashing it with the term ‘waste-to-energy’ is rather disingenuous and a shameful waste of resources. Quite simply, incinerating garbage is not efficient, clean, or safe,” Gaetz said.

“The toxic by-products of burning garbage include known carcinogens. The FVRD is committed to supporting true Zero Waste strategies such as those found in material recovery facilities.”

Gaetz noted that the announcement to cancel the new facility came a year after the provincial government rejected Metro’s proposed Bylaw 280, which would have required waste haulers to use only Metro-based disposal facilities.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work together with Metro on more positive waste management programs going forward,” she said.

Metro Vancouver said earlier that it would announce this month a shortlist of sites for one or more new incinerators.

There were 10 proposals for sites, including two in Delta, two in Nanaimo and one in Port Mellon on the Sunshine Coast. The other sites under consideration were not publicly disclosed.

The regional district was considering approving up to three incinerators to burn up to 250,000 extra tonnes a year of garbage and recover the energy.

The Burnaby incinerator, operating since 1988, already burns up to 290,000 tonnes a year -- about a quarter of the region’s garbage.

It generates enough electricity to power 16,000 homes and recovers about 8,000 tonnes of metals each year.

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