Metro Vancouver gets recycling advice from Denmark

Danish expert pans garbage-sorting plants as poor way to separate recyclables from waste

Jacob Simonsen is managing director of the Danish Waste Association.

A waste and recycling expert from Denmark has advised Metro Vancouver against the use of mechanized plants that attempt to sort recyclables from garbage.

Jacob Simonsen, managing director of the Danish Waste Association, said mixed-waste material recovery facilities (MRFs) have failed in testing in his country.

Recyclers generally don’t want to pay anything for the recyclables that are extracted because they are often heavily contaminated, he said.

“From an environmental point of view. I would not be able to recommend it,” Simonsen said in an interview after a June 25 presentation to Metro’s zero waste committee.

“I do not see any positive environmental impacts from going down that road.”

Metro has been under pressure from Belkorp Environmental to authorize a proposed material recovery plant in Coquitlam.

Metro officials have been skeptical that it would work, and other critics fear that, taken to the extreme, mechanized sorting of recyclables from garbage would encourage residents to throw everything into one garbage bin and stop separating recyclables.

“The way to go about it is to have source separation if you want to move towards a zero waste society,” Simonsen said.

In Denmark, 56 per cent of residential waste is recycled, while 41 per cent goes to waste-to-energy plants, and three per cent is landfilled.

Danish waste incinerators are often located in densely populated areas and tied into district heating systems.

Simonsen said there’s been increasing success in extracting more metals from the bottom ash of incinerated garbage as technology improves.

“We can actually sort out all sorts of metals, down to grain size that’s less than 0.5 millimetres,” he said.

Denmark is building new waste-to-energy plants to replace older ones and is counting on district heating as a key part of its strategy of generating energy with minimal carbon emissions.

He acknowledged the case for waste-to-energy plants may be stronger in Denmark, where energy recovered from waste replaces the carbon-intensive burning of coal, compared to B.C., where electricity is generated renewably from hydroelectricity.

Each Dane throws out 600 kilograms of garbage per year, worse than Swedes at around 400 kilograms each, but not nearly as bad as Metro Vancouverites, who generate more than a tonne of garbage per capita.

“We throw out a lot of buildings,” observed Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer.

Belkorp vice-president Russ Black dismissed Simonsen’s views on material recovery facilities as “fear-mongering” by the incineration industry.

“These things work and they continue to be built,” he said, pointing to new MRFs coming on stream in the U.S. that he said are more advanced than previous European efforts.

He said MRFs aren’t generally compatible with waste-to-energy plants because they remove the paper and plastics from garbage that generate the most energy when burned.

“In Denmark, they are heavily invested in incineration,” Black said. “Mixed waste MRFs would jeopardize that investment.”

 

Just Posted

Gardening: George and the family berry plan

Pitt Meadows family’s farm roots go back to 1925.

Letter: Premier has ‘no clue’ on PR

Or Horgan is deliberately hiding his intentions.

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

MacDuff’s Call: I will be voting to stay with First Past the Post

‘This referendum isn’t about good governance.’

Clear skies for Fraser Blues Remembrance Day flyby

It was the first time the formation team flew over the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Remembrance Day ceremonies

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

18-year-old to hospital after shots fired in White Rock

Police investigating early-morning incident

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

‘Weird Al’ brings Strings Attached tour to Lower Mainland next summer

Legendary musical satirist performs with full symphony orchestra

Most Read