2014 is gearing up to be a big year for Canadian garbage. Last year, the Conference Board of Canada reported that we generate more waste per capita than any other country in the world (777 kg per citizen in 2009). But while you might suppose most of the news this year would be about reducing our output, it’s mostly been about where it’s ending up.
The most recent reports come from Edmonton, which is getting ready to open the world’s first filth-to-fuel facility. The city’s garbage, excluding ceramics, metal, and glass, will be converted into methanol, which will mainly be used as a gasoline additive and for windshield washer fluid. Edmonton Waste Management is so confident in the new facility that they predict 90 per cent of the city’s waste will end up as ethanol, rather than sitting in a landfill.
In Vancouver, however, plans for their own facility were diverted in April. Unlike Edmonton, Vancouver’s agenda involved shipping the Lower Mainland’s garbage across the Georgia Strait, where it would be disposed of at a proposed incinerator in Nanaimo — effectively storing their garbage in the sky above Vancouver Island. After harsh local opposition, Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan publicly shot down the idea.
Equally unpopular was Saskatoon’s plan for turning waste into public art, which we covered in April.
Trash disposal also made a stain on national news, after 50 shipping containers of mixed garbage and recyclables from Canada sat unclaimed in a Manila, Philippines dock. The unwanted trash prompted an online petition, signed by 20,000 locals, to have the trash sent back — most likely to Vancouver (where, of course, it could be safely burned in Nanaimo).
Canada’s garbage problem threatens to become a garbage culture. Watch the video below, and ask yourself, is this the Canada you envisioned? I didn’t think so.