Environmental Activist Organization oppose all forms for thermal treatment for waste

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Written by John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., Editor

In a recent response to the Ontario Environment Ministry’s Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities: Discussion Draft, a coalition of seven environmental activist organization spelled out their opposition of thermal treatment in all its forms as a means for managing waste in Canada.

With respect to thermal treatment of waste, the letter reads:

In our view, all forms of thermal treatment (e.g. waste incineration, energy-from-waste (EFW) facilities, pyrolosis, plasma gasification, industrial burning of waste as “alternative fuel”, etc.) should not be considered as diversion measures. Instead, these kinds of projects are – and must remain closely regulated as – waste disposal activities under Ontario’s environmental laws.

The coalition of environmental activist organization that signed the letter are as follows: the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Citizens’ Network on Waste Management, the Grand River Environmental Network, the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Environment Hamilton, hej!support, and the Citizens Environment Alliance.

The opposition by these organization to all forms of thermal treatment of waste should be discouraging news to companies that have developed innovative thermal treatment technologies and advanced air pollution control technologies. It means that there will be continued pressure for more lengthy and costly permitting processes across the country.

The letter should also be discouraging to companies that utilize waste as feedstock in the production of recycled products. In the letter, the authors state that they reject alternative or streamlined environmental approvals process for proven technologies that recover value from waste. In the view of the authors, there is no “red tape” that needs to be cut when it comes to the environmental approval process.

Proponents and involved in the environmental approvals process in Ontario for innovative waste management technologies including waste-to-fuel, waste-to-products, and waste-to-energy often complain about the byzantine, expensive, and lengthy approvals process in Ontario compared to other North American jurisdictions.

As an environmental professional with over 25 years of experience working in Ontario, I see innovative environmental technologies that are being development to help with the waste management problems facing Canadians. I have also seen my share of bad actors and snake oil salesman that have hurt the environment industry.

I believe there is a need for environmental activist organizations and proponents of innovative waste technologies to become educated about each others concerns in an effort to bridge the divide that appears to exist to the environmental risks associated with various technologies.