Should Nanaimo accept Vancouver's garbage?

Should Nanaimo be the site to burn garbage from the lower mainland?

As I see it:


As an energy advisor I know that the more local source of electricity we generate the more stable the electrical grid becomes.  The proposed plant would yield little actual power output; not much more than the potential of power being generated from our drinking water supply (gravity-fed from the mountains). But every bit of power counts.

It is FAR better to burn garbage than it is to landfill it in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Why? Rotting compostable materials in the absence of oxygen (typical in dumps) create enormous amounts of methane gas, thousands of times more powerful in changing climate than is the carbon dioxide created when incinerating the same material.

Local construction and maintenance jobs would be created.

Local garbage could be incinerated.

The waste heat could be used by another facility (which would then be responsible for the emissions, giving the impression the WTE facility was emissions-free)

The barge operation currently located downtown would more likely be moved, freeing the City to consider a wider variety of options for the Wilcox site.

These arguments are worthy of consideration.


With toxic industrial pollutants already present in our air shed this proposed plant would burden it even more, leading to more respiratory problems and illness from heavy metal contamination. Children and seniors are particularly at risk from the very fine particulate matter released into the air

The ash would have to be added to a landfill, which means that landfills would still be required. If the ash were added to concrete future generations would have to figure out what to do with toxic concrete, just as we currently have to deal with asbestos used in building insulation. Concrete would be far more difficult to manage.

This approach flies in the face of our efforts to reduce the amount of garbage generated in our region

This approach goes totally contrary to Vancouver's stated goal of becoming the “greenest city in the world[1]”: exporting its garbage rather than sending it to an Advanced Recycling Centre (as well as reducing the amount of garbage in the first place) would actually move them toward their goal; incineration would not.

Far more jobs would be created if the garbage were instead processed in an Advanced Recycling Centre. Such a Centre would also generate revenues for the City of Nanaimo

There would be a negative impact on the desirability to move to, or live in, Nanaimo. I have a friend who said that should this facility be built she and her family would leave Nanaimo. In fact, one reason for moving here was to avoid the air pollution in the lower mainland. Residential property values, especially in south Nanaimo and Cedar, would fall.

With such a facility located in Nanaimo our annual provincial carbon tax would increase due to the fact the incinerator would generate CO2.

By burning the waste today the raw materials that are found in the garbage would be unrecoverable. If processed in an Advanced Recycling Centre most of those raw materials would be recovered and reused. Even placing them into a landfill would later provide access to most of those raw materials. We live on a finite planet; if we do not recycle or reuse the earth's resources then how will future generations enjoy what we currently have? By burning those resources we rob our children and grandchildren what we so take for granted today.

Recycling is less costly than is incineration, especially once manufacturers are forced to use packaging that is easily recyclable, reusable or compostable. 

Lastly, recovering the raw materials found in the garbage stream we would create even more jobs putting those materials back into use -at least some of which would be local, we would greatly reduce the need for landfills, if done correctly would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions more than even an incinerator, would improve the air quality as compared to incineration, and obtain other benefits.

After weighing the pros and cons of this proposal I conclude that it is not in the best interest of our city to accept this proposed Waste to Energy incinerator.

Recommendation: point out to the proponent that it would be less financially costly to them, would create more jobs, and be more in keeping with the goals of becoming sustainable if they were to instead put out a call for an Advanced Recycling Facility. I think that this would also be far more acceptable to the residents and region of Nanaimo should such a facility be located at Duke Point, and would additionally provide two of the four advantages listed above.

(Slightly revised from the letter sent to City Council in November, 2013)

[1] See their Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, including mention of garbage, at


  1. Very logical analysis by the author. The notion that people would actually move from a community is a very real liability. The fact that fewer people move to a host city of garbage incinerators is also is also factually correct, this is why some climatologists/experts who have jumped onto the garbage burning bandwagon see hosting an incinerator in a city other than their own, a good idea. This seems somewhat hypocritical. The ultimate NIMBY argument can only be tempered if misinformation and intimidation precedes the incinerator "talking heads" who will drone on and on to local elected officials and staff, wine them and dine them, then peddle this bad burning garbage idea as "something they must have to broaden the tax base and create jobs". Mr. Gartshore, you have so correctly pointed out why this argument flies in the face of logic. But one thing you might want to add the list of cons (you have just scratched the surface) is the massive negative impact a host city of a garbage incinerator will have on local tourism, especially the many eco-tourism outfits that are in BC.

    The “advanced recycling facility” you speak of are actually called Resource Recovery Centres” which are part of local community Zero Waste design and planning around the globe. If we all get into synch with one another, the ability to share positive ideas and information with each other around the globe, puts us onto the Zero Waste path. And considering that Metro Vancouver have made the bold claim to be “supportive of Zero waste” and going as far as to create to taxpayer paid for departments/agencies, one called their Zero Waste Committee and the other the National Zero Waste Council, both who support burning garbage. There is no incineration in “authentic” Zero Waste, so whatever version of Zero waste being peddled by Metro Vancouver, must be taken with a grain of salt.

    Use your own good common sense. If this burning garbage was such a good idea, why are the folks in Vancouver region trying to dump this garbage burning program onto other communities, including First Nations communities ?

    Zero Waste Canada


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