Metro Vancouver's existing waste-to-energy plant in south Burnaby.

New Metro Vancouver incinerator may not have inside track

Other waste-to-energy technologies to bid directly against conventional burners

One critic of garbage incineration says she’s now more optimistic Metro Vancouver’s strategy to procure a new waste-to-energy plant for the region could lead to alternative technologies being used.

Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer said she does not believe the process now advancing is skewed in favour of a conventional incinerator over emerging low-emission technologies like gasification.

Metro’s board earlier this month agreed to reduce the proposed capacity of the new plant from the 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes previously envisioned to between 250,000 and 400,000 tonnes in light of declining garbage volumes.

The board also decided it would issue a single request for proposals later this year to handle all the garbage, rather than two bid calls with one reserved only for alternative technologies.

Some directors had previously warned that one winner-take-all process would inevitably favour incineration, which has better efficiencies of scale.

But Reimer said she thinks the decision is the right one.

“The idea of splitting into two streams, while it guarantees a tonnage for more appropriate technologies, also necessarily guarantees a minimum tonnage for mass burn incineration,” Reimer said.

She said the final decision on whether incineration or alternative technologies are used would heavily depend on the bid evaluation criteria, which Metro has yet to determine.

Reimer and other directors on Metro’s waste management committee have asked if the proposed plant might be shrunk further – and whether it may not be needed at all in light of improved recycling.

They also want more detail on the potential risks and mitigation strategy before finalizing the procurement process.

Board chair Greg Moore also said he believes the alternative technologies may do better now that the size of the project has been reduced, eliminating much of the advantage for incinerator proposals.

Many Fraser Valley residents and politicians believe any new incinerator would worsen local air quality and strongly oppose the idea.

Metro already has an incinerator in south Burnaby that converts close to 300,000 tonnes of garbage per year into electricity and steam for industry.

The region’s waste strategy calls for it to stop sending garbage to the Cache Creek Regional Landfill.

Proponents seeking to build a new waste-to-energy plant are expected to propose multiple sites both in the Metro Vancouver area and at locations outside the region, such as a former pulp mill on the west side of Vancouver Island.

Surrey, Burnaby, New Westminster and the Tsawwassen First Nation have all expressed some interest in hosting a new plant.

Metro garbage volumes fell from 1.3 million tonnes in 2007 to just one million last year.