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Fraser Valley sets 'zero waste' goal

The Fraser Valley Regional District has committed to diverting 90 per cent of solid waste from the landfill by 2024, a big jump from its current 51 per cent diversion rate.

The board of directors unanimously approved the draft solid waste management plan at the Nov. 26 board meeting.

By the district's own admission, the target is aggressive and aspirational.

"Reaching 90 per cent diversion is a formidable target and will be challenging to achieve, but it is achievable," the FVRD notes in the plan, the first update to solid waste management in the district since 1996.

Key to the plan is removing as much recyclable and compostable material from garbage bags as possible so that only 10 per cent of the region's solid waste goes into landfill. The Fraser Valley's 290,000 residents produce about 200,000 tonnes of waste annually.

"We've now adopted a full zero waste goal," said director Jason Lum, who also chairs FVRD's zero waste committee. "We've actually written zero waste into our plan, zero waste being the aspiration to eliminate waste through diversion, waste reduction, and material recovery."

FVRD intends to bridge the chasm between its current diversion rate and its target by developing a largescale organics collection program and reducing the amount of waste produced.

The district also plans to establish the Fraser Valley's first mixed waste materials recovery facility (MRF). The high-tech centre would break open the garbage bag by removing recyclable and compostable material from waste otherwise destined for the landfill. While there are facilities that can process organics and recyclables separately, there are none currently in the Fraser Valley than can remove a large percentage of these items from a mixed bag.

"Traditional recycling and source separation, we know that it's not going to remove all the recyclable material out of the waste stream," said Lum. "There's still going to be recyclable material left in those black bags…What happens with the mixed waste recovery facility is we get to break the bag."

The district would partner with the private sector to build and operate the MRF, which FVRD believes would be less expensive than either landfilling or burning solid waste.

The draft plan is being submitted to the environment minister for approval, and circulated among member municipality councils for endorsement.

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