Time to Talk Trash

When the City of Toronto was forced to turn to Michigan in order to handle its oodles of garbage, I thought that it was, at best, a temporary solution. I thought that the additional cost compared to the (now closed) Keele Valley landfill site north of the city would be enough incentive for the city to look at more innovative ways of handling its trash problem. It’s discouraging that it looks like it will take a vote by Michigan legislators to close the border to Canadian trash to force Toronto to finally consider alternatives. It’s even more discouraging that, so far, the alternatives being considered all amount to different landfills.

You know, this is one counterargument to the suggestion that higher gas prices are going to automatically lead to investment in renewable technologies in short order. We’re forgetting that governments and consumers value more than just cost. They also value convenience. The hydrogen car won’t take off unless fill-up stations are as ubiquitous as petrol stations, and until then, the internal combustion engine will reign supreme even as gasoline tops $5 per litre. Governments care even less about costs than consumers do, and bureaucracies have a lethargy about them that makes innovative thinking almost unthinkable.

But it’s time to get thinking, and I’m almost hoping that Michigan gets the powers it needs to close its border to Canadian trash sooner rather than later, because I suspect it’s going to take a crisis for Toronto (and, through it, other Canadian municipalities) to look at more environmentally sensitive ways of dealing with their trash. Incineration should be on the table (even if thinking so appears to have cost one Toronto official his job). The technology is a lot cleaner today than people give it credit for and given that we’re stuck with smog-producing Nanticoke power plant until 2009 and STILL short of electricity, the idea of burning our garbage for power should be a no brainer.

Heck, why don’t we just convert Nanticoke to burn trash?

Pario at Talk, Talk, Talk tells us of another system called SUBBOR, already tried and tested by the residents of Guelph, and which has successfullly diverted 70% of the city’s trash without landfilling or incineration, and produced power to boot.

Well, what are we waiting for, other than the borders to close to Canadian trash? We have a system, let’s use it. It’s likely the politicians are waiting for a groundswell of interest towards this solution. Lord knows they don’t move on other things unless personal self-interest is involved. The sooner we can communicate to our politicians that their self-interest is involved in this regard, the sooner we can start dealing with our trash sensibly.

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