Thursday, March 14, 2013

Waste incineration 'has to be looked at' for Toronto: Solid waste boss

TORONTO - This should make the steam come out of the heads of the so-called environmentally friendly faction at City Hall — most particularly those lovely councillors who rammed waste diversion down our throats five years ago.

I’m referring to Gord “I Never Met a Plastic Shopping Bag I Liked” Perks and Glenn “Thou Shalt Not Drink Coffee Out of a Cup with a Plastic Lid” De Baeremaeker.

Solid Works general manager Jim Harnum told me Thursday they intend to hire a $500,000 consultant — a proposal contained in his report to public works committee next week — who will help them develop a long-term strategy for the city’s waste that could include (state-of-the art) incineration technology.

I repeat, incineration technology.

“Incineration is definitely an option that has to be looked at,” Harnum said. “We can’t just look at expanding landfill.”

He said there might be some interesting partnering opportunities with Peel Region, for example, which is going out to market to look at whether they should build their own incinerator.

Sweden, Norway, England and Italy all have waste-to-energy incineration plants.

Other options may include expanding the landfill, buying another landfill or a public/private partnership to deal with the city’s garbage once Green Lane landfill runs out of capacity in 2034 or thereabouts.

“We need to look all over the world ... and see what’s happening in the industry,” Harnum said. “Problem is we got so focused on Target 70, (diversion) we forgot to look at the business side of it.”

Any moves to expand the landfill or build new technology take at least 15 years so the clock is ticking, he adds.

Harnum says the truth is, they didn’t get to 70% diversion by 2010 or 2012 — at least in part because the city has actually reduced its garbage output by 27% and because print and glass materials are smaller and lighter.

“The reality is we’re never going to get to 100% diversion,” he said. “I’m trying to set realistic targets and goals based on what’s happened in the last few years.”

Harnum says they have “made great strides” diverting the city’s waste. However he stressed they must look at strategies once Green Lane runs out of capacity, in addition to diversion.

Oh my goodness, incineration — the state-of-the-art waste-to-energy technology David Miller and his green pals on council vociferously refused to even consider while buying a $220-million environmentally unfriendly landfill site (aka a toxic time bomb) in 2007.

Go figure.

What’s more, it is refreshing to hear someone who actually doesn’t make grandiose promises about the amount of waste we should and could divert — at any cost.

I’ve been listening to the grandiose goals, plans and promises since 2001 when mayor Mel Lastman and his Task Force 2010 chairman councillor Betty Disero assured us we’d reach 100% diversion by 2010 and all of Toronto’s households would be separating our garbage into three streams by 2005.


That goal was revised to 72% by 2010 when Miller and his environmental police came on the scene, spending more than $256 million in capital and operating dollars over five years to move the diversion needle a paltry 7%.

Let’s not forget the $55.8 million spent on our green, black and blue Brontosaurus bins, which we’ve all been forced to get used to but are still a pain to roll over the snow drifts in winter and not easily stored. Did I mention that they were all constructed in the U.S.?

Now the green bins must be replaced after five years because they are “wonky, tip over, the raccoons have figured out the latch” and they are too small to be hoisted on automated trucks, says Harnum.

That is expected to cost around $15 million. But the good news, according to Harnum, is that the new bins are expected to last 15-20 years.

While I’m at it, it seems the on-again, off-again plastic bag ban — which has occupied far too much of City Hall’s time, attention and resources in the past few years — has accounted for .3% of the 7% change in the city’s residential diversion rate.

Council’s decision — with great fanfare and much back patting — to discontinue the sale of bottled water at civic centres and many city facilities hasn’t even appeared on the radar. Considering that the plastic bottles are recyclable, it was merely window dressing.

Thankfully, the silly proposal to ban coffee cups with plastic lids was put on the back burner when the industry put the heat on the Millerites.


    Date waste diversion efforts started: Jan. 2001
    Original goal: 100% diversion by 2010
    Projected cost to reach goal: $100-M
    Goal revised in 2007: 72% diversion by 2011
    Newly revised goal: 70% diversion by 2016
    Amount spent between 2007 and 2011 on diversion initiatives: $256-M
    Increase in diversion rate during same period: 7%
    Increase in diversion rate due to plastic bag ban: .3%
    Amount spent on green, grey and blue brontosaurus bins: $55.8-M
    Amount to be spent on new, improved green bins that last longer than 5 years: $15-M
    Amount to spent on a consultant to create a long-term waste strategy: $500,000
    Costs per tonne for green bin: $140
    Garbage: $78
    City revenues per tonne for blue bin: $70

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