This is the last of a three-part series pertaining to how we manage our waste in honour of the international zero waste conference coming to Nanaimo this weekend (Oct 2-4).
In the first article we gained some history of incinerators and how local citizens prevented them from taking hold in Nanaimo. Then we considered the amount of energy that is required to create the materials – far more than is recovered by waste-to-energy incinerators.
Now we’ll look at how we can improve on dumping or burning the waste resources, thus saving a huge amount of energy, resources and pollution, while simultaneously creating far more jobs – to say nothing of saving those resources for future generations.
Some claim that recovering waste resources is impractical. Twenty years ago most people thought it impossible to recycle more than 40 per cent of the waste materials. Today we are close to 70 per cent. Some cities in the world are now past 80 per cent.
The Nanaimo Recycling Exchange and local entrepreneurs have put the area on the map: we are leaders in recycling in Western Canada.
Consider the efforts of companies that dismantle buildings to reclaim the most valuable materials, a local gal who makes furniture out of old pallets, and how the Loaves and Fishes food bank is increasingly feeding the hungry with perfectly edible food previously destined for composting.
Next we need to better reclaim plastics, glass, foam insulation, clothing, carpets, mattresses and other household and office furniture.
It is doable. Not only is this cheaper for the taxpayer than incineration, reclaiming those resources creates between two and 15 times more jobs in the process.
Instead of stepping up to this plate, Metro Vancouver has decided to burn its garbage, calling this “zero waste.”
Internationally, zero waste means reclaiming at least 90 per cent of the resources – without the use of incinerators.
Greater Nanaimo has shown itself a leader in Canada. Now is the time for us to show Metro Vancouver and the rest of Canada that we can do better.
Ian Gartshore is a director of Energy Solutions for V.I. Society.