Waste Organizations in Canada Look at Zero Waste vs. Energy-from-Waste

by | Apr 2, 2013

Canada diverts 24% of its waste stream from landfills, according to John Foden, executive director of Canadian Energy-From-Waste Coalition — but that still leaves 76% of waste going to landfills.

Canadian Energy-From-Waste Coalition is an organization that supports the reduction of waste via incineration with energy capture, writes Waste & Recycling News. Such energy capture is a fundamental part of an integrated waste management system, Foden says.

Another organization promoting solid waste solutions — but taking a different approach — is Zero Waste Canada (ZWC), a group formed in January by five environmental activists who advocate at all levels of government for responsible resource management and policies, legislation and initiatives that eliminate waste and support continuous reuse of resources. ZWC provides resource management demonstration projects and education, and calls itself “a reliable go-to resource that collaboratively promotes social, environmental and economic well-being.”

When waste can’t be eliminated Zero Waste Canada adheres to the Zero Waste International Alliance’s “Principle of Highest and Best Use.” That is: “We continuously evaluate our markets and direct our discarded products and packaging to recover the highest value according to the following hierarchy: reuse of the product for its original purpose; reuse of the product for an alternate purpose; reuse of its parts; reuse of the materials; sustainable recycling of inorganic materials in closed loop systems; sustainable recycling of inorganic materials in single-use applications; composting of organic materials to sustain soils and avoid use of chemical fertilizers; and composting or mulching of organic materials to reduce erosion and litter and retain  moisture.”

In other words, unlike Canada Energy-from-Waste Coalition, ZWC says incineration or waste-to-energy projects do not comply with its zero waste standards. “Such projects are ineffective, inefficient and dangerous methods to deal with our waste. Incineration destroys the highest value, the function of objects and leaves nothing but unusable sludge and ash. Incineration is a short-sighted approach to waste whereas zero waste offers a sustainable method by which we can ensure the highest quality of environmental, planetary, animal and human health.”

But Foden points out that the “dreamland” of zero waste is “a million miles away.” In the meantime, he says, “all of us who are involved with this – have to plan for what we do with the waste that isn’t reduced, reused, recycled.”

The Energy-from-Waste Coalition’s mission statement states that EFW solutions are compatible with proactive recycling and other diversion efforts, but ZWC says eliminating incineration will help, not hinder, their zero waste goal.

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