Concerns that an industrial scale garbage incinerator might be built in Duke Point persuaded organizers of an international environmental conference to come to Nanaimo.
The Alternatives to Incinerators Landfills; Zero Waste International Alliance Conference and Dialogue started Thursday at the Coast Bastion Hotel. The annual conference attracts environmentalists from around the world, with an emphasis on science to reduce the carbon footprint of humans on the global environment.
“One of the issues our international committee was very concerned about (is) British Columbia seems to be the battlefield for zero-waste right now,” said Barb Hetherington, conference chairwoman and Gibsons resident.
Zero waste supporters have a global goal to end all disposal of solid waste in landfills or incinerators, through a combination of diversion, through the so-called three Rs — reducing, re-using and recycling items humans has buried or burned for centuries.
Reducing requires a long-term process of public education to change behaviours that led to waste of limited resources and pollution. Recycling is an incremental process that each community takes on.
Nanaimo residents already divert almost 70 per cent of their household waste from the regional landfill in Cedar, through recycling and composting.
But as communities get closer to 90 per cent diversion, it becomes increasingly difficult. Many products, such as running shoes and certain other manmade materials are not easily reused or recycled.
When incineration proponents suggest burning garbage to extract energy, the international Zero Waste community worries about what Hetherington calls “green-washing” of the brand of zero waste.
“B.C. is a very green province. We have an incinerator industry that’s really targeted British Columbia, so selling incineration as zero-waste and this is a Band-aid solution. It is a polluting solution. It has nothing to do with zero waste — it’s a disposal option.”
The three-day conference covers a range of topics around the theme of how to get closer to the zero waste target. Organizers acknowledge getting there won’t be easy, but say it’s achievable.