Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for July 15th, 2007

Zero Waste Challenge

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The following missive has been circulated to the Livable Region Coalition’s list serve, and I thought I would pass it along, with a couple of links added.

There certainly seems to be a pattern here, and the linkage between the Gateway and the garbage has also been raised this weekend by the folks who currently recycle computers, that will now been sent to the Trail smelter rather than be refurbished for resale or export.

I invite you to consider the connection between the landfill and the Gateway project. Landfills, which are provided as a local government service, are the destination for all the stuff that will be flowing in through the Gateway from Chinese sweatshops. Thus, Gateway depends, in a very real sense, on the availability of plenty of landfill capacity in our region.

The senior management at the GVRD have launched a “Chicken Little” campaign trying to convince the public that there is a new landfill crisis. A July 5 media release warned that “the issue of short-term disposal capacity is becoming critical.”  The Vancouver Sun editorial board responded by calling for “quick-and-dirty” solutions to meet this crisis (“Garbage solution has to be quick and it will likely be dirty,” June 29, 2007).

Is this a manufactured crisis? We think so.

A group of citizens is forming “Zero Waste Vancouver” in an effort to support new programs already in place that will make “quick and dirty” solutions obsolete. Nevertheless, pressure is being applied to build new landfills and incinerators. This is a moment of opportunity for the citizens in our region to express their support for going the next step in waste reduction rather than falling back into old wasteful ways.

Would you like to be kept informed about our work? Reply to this message and we’ll contact you.

A year ago, the GVRD Board took a bold step. Faced with delays in the siting of a new landfill, the politicians issued a “Zero Waste Challenge.” They looked at the numbers and recognized that the GVRD could postpone or even eliminate the need for a new landfill if we got serious about waste reduction.

The politicians then directed staff to put the programs in place that would drive waste reduction. Here’s what they asked for:

Disposal bans:
Starting next January it will no longer be allowed to put recyclable or hazardous materials in the garbage. This includes yard and garden waste as well as recyclable paper, plastics, bottles and cans. There are recycling programs for all these materials, and yet, because the public either does not know about them or does not bother to use them, over 200,000 tonnes of recyclable materials and 70,000 tonnes of yard waste go needlessly to landfill each year. Worse, an additional 30,000 tonnes of hazardous products make their way into our landfills and waste incinerator, posing a risk to public health and safety. By simply banning these materials from disposal and enforcing the bans, the GVRD politicians will cut our region’s waste by nearly 300,000 tonnes.

In addition, the politicians directed staff to look at the huge quantity of food waste and other compostable materials that currently go to waste in our region. Other communities (Nanaimo, Duncan, Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto and Halifax, for example) have well-developed programs to compost these materials. A program here to treat food waste and biodegradable organics could remove over 400,000 tonnes of waste from our landfills each year — the exact amount we would be sending to the new landfill. Why not build a composting plant rather than a new landfill?

Producer responsibility:
Our province is a world leader in “Extended Producer Responsibility” laws. Modelled on our successful deposit system for beverage containers, these laws require producers to set up programs to take back and recycle their products. This diverts these products from municipal waste programs. These programs now apply not only to beverage containers, but also to a wide range of hazardous products (paint, oil, pesticides, etc.). The provincial government just announced that it will be adding new products to this program. Environment Minister Penner has said that eventually all products will be covered by these laws, leaving local governments responsible only for organic materials — a 75% reduction in municipal waste.

Our politicians in the GVRD have gone out on a limb for us. They have proposed visionary but practical solutions to our regional waste problem, setting a course of aggressive action on composting and recycling rather than further investment in “quick and dirty” solutions. They need our support to keep the Zero Waste vision on track. Zero Waste Vancouver will help educate the public about these new approaches. To help with our program, reply to this message.

Helen Spiegelman
Zero Waste Vancouver Coordinator

Written by Stephen Rees

July 15, 2007 at 7:27 pm

The Tsawassen Treaty Process

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A dissenting voice is raising serious concerns about how the Province of BC is seeking to influence the key vote of the Tsawassen First Nation on the treaty that would make port expansion possible.

A substantive piece from the Province newspaper – the only one that prints on Sunday. It’s a tabloid but it gave Bertha Williams’ letter to the Premier and the Prime Minister some prominence. And Damien Gillis has produced a short video so that Bertha’s own voice can be heard.

There is definitely something not right about a process which first of all still has some court proceedings under way after the privatization of the rail spur that is crucial to the plan had to be stopped, because of a corrupted process. And now the province getting involved in using public funds to try to make sure it gets the vote it wants.

The idea that BC needs to secure a greater percentage of the cross pacific container trade is itself dubious. But the lengths to which the BC Liberals seem to be going to ensure that they get what they want leaves a nasty taste. The original Roberts Bank terminal put an end to the TFN’s traditional way of life. The environmental impact of this new expansion – removing the mitigative measures put in place to lessen the impact of the existing port facilities, seems to make a bad situation worse. And it is hard to see that the economic benefits for BC as a whole – or even the region – are worth this kind of impact.

Bertha Williams on TFN Vote (from the LRC General email list) updated July 19, 2007

The hand of skullduggery is at play. The chief and council of our band are bouncing around like rabbits after a carrot on a string that the federal and provincial governments are dangling. They use such trickery as an enrollment application? In order to vote on the treaty. In the application
is a section where we have to relinquish our right to claim. If we don’t enroll, we are not allowed to vote. This would pave the way for a more secure “yes” vote. This is an infringement on our sovereignty as first nation people. Our native status is handed down by our forefathers, which I
do not believe may be voted on by other band members, may not be bartered by a treaty team, or taken by any government. Our birthright has to be surrendered by the holder. If this is not true, then why do they resort to such extortion tactics as to blackmail the native population out of their
unique status. Once this is proven, and the treaty is pushed through, then it will not be worth the paper it is written upon. Past and present governments realize we are the true owners of the lands where our ancestors thrived. What better way to usurp the people of their position then to
utilize the greed or ignorance of our leaders. Which ever it may be, it shows gross incompetence and they should be immediately removed from office.
Another scheme in their bag of tricks from the Tsawwassen First Nation, to witness first hand the prosperous Nisga’a Agreement. One should only imagine the perfect picture that will be painted. What they will not show is that after seven years of treaty, 70 to 80% of the Nisga’a people are on
social assistance. And, that the young men have to travel from their homeland, as far away as Calgary in search of employment. Also, will not speak of pending lawsuits and investigations of the misappropriation and mismanagement of funds. So much for prosperity at home! Now the Nisga’a descendants may look forward to possible expropriation when the tax kicks in
next year, and is in full swing 12 years from their signing in 2000. The Tsawwassen treaty will only ensure the demise of our people, where the fat cats have been feeding for the past 14 years of negotiations. To enable an extra jingle in the deep pockets of the already rich. The Tsawwassen treaty wished us to surrender our traditional territory, our right to claim from
our inheritable status, and for that we will receive 0.2% of our lands and have the opportunity to pay taxes on our own lands. Something sure stinks with this deal! Speaking to a TFN elder she said “the treaty is a short term gain for a long time misery!” They may shove this treaty down our
throats today with their conniving schemes, but tomorrow our case will be proven that they never had the authority to bargain away our birthright. Accountability will be made to the aboriginal peoples and the healing process will begin.

Yours truly,

Bertha Williams

Written by Stephen Rees

July 15, 2007 at 7:16 pm