I managed an EFW - Energy from Waste - project for 14 months in Ontario, and everything I learned from projects around the world fits the views of Prof. Andrew Weaver (Climate Scientist Defends Incinerators, North Shore News, Aug 3), who, like me, strongly favours EFW over landfill. However, I would add several points to his argument.
Asian and European EFWs exist not just for their energy production, but because modern EFW facilities have less net environmental impact than modern landfills. Modern EFWs are so clean that some are in the middle of towns for district heating.
In embracing this technology, these countries avoid sacrificing land for landfills, which carry a 1,000-year risk of contaminating groundwater. They know that burying burnable solid waste is unsustainable. Metro's post-diversion waste is 1.5 million tonnes per year. That means land filling this is equivalent to burying 1.5 million barrels of oil, worth $100 million plus annually, plus the fuel to truck it to Cache Creek. This is insane.
An EFW, once built, can be modernized as environmental technology advances. Typical EFWs reduce the volume of material going to a landfill by about 85 per cent. Think of the extension in the life of existing landfills and the reduced trucking.
The major ash product from the typical mass burn plant, bottom ash, is non-toxic and does not emit greenhouse gases like landfills - although a hazardous materials landfill may be needed for the small volume of fly ash it produces, depending on the technology used.
Activist Ben West's comments, in my opinion, are inaccurate. We do know what is in our solid waste - we analyse that extensively on a regular basis and would do so again in designing an EFW. Contrary to West's claim, "a third of what comes out of the incinerator" does not go to landfill unless you measure it by weight - by volume, it is about 15 per cent, and bottom ash is useful for day cover in landfills and for other products.