VANCOUVER - BC should look to zero waste policies to challenge a culture of wasteful consumption that is creating both carbon pollution and solid waste, says a CCPA-BC report, A Zero Waste Agenda for BC, released today.
While BC is ahead of most North American jurisdictions in implementing composting and recycling programs, the total volume of waste produced has been increasing. Too many everyday products have a useful lifespan of mere moments before being trashed, including many single-use items like plastic bags, bottles and packaging, the report notes.
“The challenge of our times is not to recycle a little more, but to fundamentally redesign systems to reduce the amount of waste that is created in the first place,” says co-author Marc Lee, CCPA-BC senior economist, of the new report, noting that it calls for BC to achieve zero waste by 2040.
“Well-designed policies can reduce waste and carbon emissions while also supporting local economic development and social justice goals in BC,” he adds, explaining that in addition to aggressive product design change and reduction of materials used, a system of repair and re-use before recycling is needed.
“By dramatically reducing the volume of materials that flow through the economy, we can reduce the associated energy consumption and carbon emissions. And, because climate change and wasteful consumption are connected we must do this immediately,” says co-author Sue Maxwell, a sustainability consultant and board member of Zero Waste BC.
The report calls for new regulatory frameworks in BC in two pressing areas, plastics and construction/demolition waste.
In Canada, government action on plastic has been painfully slow, mostly improving low rates of recycling rather than reducing the volume of plastic entering the economy. Beverage containers are an example of a sector where reuse and refilling opportunities could dramatically reduce the amount of plastic in circulation.
The construction and demolition (C&D) sector represents 50 per cent of waste generation and 30 per cent of disposal in Metro Vancouver. The report calls for the province to create model municipal solid waste policies and regulations that can be adopted at variable rates, but with a provincial “backstop” as in the BC Energy Step Code.
"New policies and investments to reduce and manage food waste and organics can greatly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and produce compost for local use,” adds co-author Belinda Li, a solid waste management consultant and Director of Innovation of the Food Systems Lab at Simon Fraser University.
“Waste problems are not unique to BC,” says Maxwell. "There is a growing movement around the world to shift to a system that lives within the means of our planet while not leaving people behind. BC should embrace this."