The Capital Regional District (CRD) hopes to be a national leader in zero waste and the circular economy, but getting there will take curbing construction waste and addressing challenges brought on by the region’s growth.
The CRD’s environmental services committee has endorsed becoming a national leader in zero waste being included in its draft Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP).
The plan supports member municipalities implementing individual zero waste plans, such as Zero Waste Victoria, that align with the SWMP.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, the environmental committee’s chair, says the plan’s waste reduction targets go beyond the province’s and it has aspirational goals that go even further.
She said one of the priorities, if adopted, would be to tackle discarded construction materials, which makes up 40 per cent of the total waste sent to the landfill. Desjardins said the region will move from a demolition model to a deconstruction one, where materials are salvaged instead of being trashed.
Desjardins says the region’s programs are already great at diverting waste from single-family homes. The challenge lies with multi-family dwellings and industrial and commercial buildings.
Settings like these are far less likely to have programs that collect kitchen scraps and garbage separately.
“If we reduce kitchen scraps from going into the landfill even further, we reduce the greenhouse gasses (GHG) that they’re creating,” Desjardins said, noting organics sitting in landfills produce methane – a GHG more potent than CO2.
She said the CRD could look into requiring new buildings to provide waste diversion programs.
The draft plan also includes investigating “pay-as-you-throw” policies to incentivize people to reduce personal waste. But Desjardins has concerns with that idea, as it might lead to illegal dumping.
She said reducing waste to the point where the CRD won’t have to expand the Hartland landfill – which would cut into surrounding natural areas and taxpayers’ pockets – should be incentive enough to reduce.
“We heard loud and clear that nobody wants us to expand that landfill,” Desjardins said. “It would have to be extended if we can’t reduce waste significantly.”
Ned Taylor, the committee vice-chair, says the fact that the plan even includes expanding Hartland’s footprint means it falls short of appropriate action. He called the draft plan a good start, but wants it to commit to reducing waste by two-thirds over the next decade rather than just one-third.
“I think that we should be striving to reduce waste and eliminate waste streams to a point where expanding the landfill is no longer necessary,” he said. “How much longer are we as a species going to destroy the natural environment to make more space for garbage … we know that we can do better and I think that we absolutely should.”
Desjardins said new technology and pushing the province to be tougher on making companies responsible for the waste they create will factor into the region meeting its targets.
“There are a number of things we need the province to step up with to achieve all the things we want to do, but that’s part of the plan,” she said.