Wednesday, September 10, 2013



The Air Up There

Burnaby incinerator fly ash has toxic levels of cadmium

Released by the City of Chilliwack


he Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) expresses concern and frustration over reports that ash produced by Metro Vancouverís existing incinerator continues to fail environmental tests. This is despite on-going attempts to properly manage the toxic waste produced by burning garbage.

"It defies logic that Metro Vancouver is continuing with a proposal to build a second, larger incinerator while they have repeatedly shown that they cannot even properly manage the smaller one already in operation", says FVRD Board Chair Sharon Gaetz.

Metro Vancouver General Manager of Solid Waste Services, Paul Henderson, reports that numerous bottom ash samples have failed toxicity testing, some exceding levels of more than twice the regulatory limit. These latest results are in addition to the failed fly ash tests that made headlines less than a year ago.

The most recent failures involve cadmium, a toxic metal that has been linked to cancer, respiratory problems, and kidney failure. Mr. Hendersonís report notes that cadmium levels in the waste stream are most associated with the disposal of household batteries, specifically rechargeable batteries, including electronic device batteries. Henderson also notes that the amount of cadmium in the waste stream is increasing over time, which suggests that cadmium toxicity in bottom ash is a problem that will likely get worse, not better.

"This unsettling report demonstrates the environmental problems that inevitably arise when you burn garbage", said Gaetz. The FVRD is pursuing greener initiatives for waste management, which explicitly exclude incineration. The FVRDís newest Solid Waste Management Plan, expected to be finalized in 2014, includes a more aggressive ĎZero Wasteí strategy, which involves removing considerably more recyclable material from the waste stream with cost-effective, readily available technology.

On the issue of Metro Vancouverís recent proposal to build a second garbage incinerator, Chair Gaetz suggests that, "Burning garbage simply doesnít make sense. We know that there are cheaper, greener, and more energy efficient approaches to waste management." The FVRD promotes maximized waste reduction, which generates more jobs, results in less waste to the landfill, and protects our sensitive airshed.

Maximized recycling and material recovery involves the use of processing and separation facilities for household garbage. Mechanical and manual separation removes all recyclable and recoverable material that has mistakenly entered the waste stream. Waste recovery facilities have been in use since the 1970s, and with advanced technology and broadening capacity for recycling more materials, are recognized as a critical component of an effective waste reduction strategy.

The FVRD believes we have a responsibility to our citizens and our environment to maximize recycling and recovery efforts in the region, and to think beyond burning garbage.

For more information regarding alternatives to incineration please visit 


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