Burning garbage poses drawbacks

NANAIMO – City council denied support to a proposal to build waste-to-energy incinerator.

The idea of obtaining energy from garbage is an enticing one, not only because it makes the garbage problem ‘disappear,’ but it also provides some jobs and a local supply of electricity.

While Nanaimo city council recently sent a shot across the bow of Metro Vancouver’s plans to have us burn their garbage, we could still end up having their, or our own, incinerator. The regional districts of Nanaimo, Cowichan and Victoria began considering incinerating our garbage in 2008.

Certainly incineration is superior to landfilling, by most standards. It provides electricity (and heat, if wished), greatly reduces the far more dangerous climate-altering methane gas, and new sites don’t have to be created every few decades.

But there is another side to this story. Apart from dangerous emissions (which can never be fully prevented), incineration is actually a net energy waster. The energy captured by an incinerator is nowhere close to the amount of energy imbedded in the fuels used.

The most extreme example is glass: it requires a tremendous amount of energy to create glass, but it renders no energy when it is incinerated. At the other end of the scale, paper obviously burns well. Even so, the amount of energy invested into that paper by the sun, soil and manufacturing processes (not to mention transportation) is many times that produced when the paper is burned. Only the solar component contains renewable energy.

In actuality, burning garbage is a net energy waster, even if all of the recoverable heat produced is used.

The greatest difficulty in burning garbage is that it destroys the resources used to produce those now-discarded items. These resources will never be recovered from the air, water and soil. It means we have to spend increasing amounts of energy mining and fertilizing the raw materials, many of which are in limited quantities. This will leave future generations without many of the raw materials required to live a modern life.

The answers? Consume less, package better, and separate the various types of products in our homes and businesses so that they can more easily be reused, re-purposed, recycled, remanufactured and composted. Did you know that more gold is recovered from waste than is mined?

This approach better utilizes the waste’s embedded energy, creates many times as many jobs, improves the air, water and soil quality, and saves the mayor and council from being bombarded by thousands of e-mails, letters and presentations – itself a considerable saver of energy.

Just Posted

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read