An integrated approach to waste management in Metro Vancouver: challenges and opportunities

Human society is steadily becoming more urbanized. In 2018, the UNs Department of Economic and Social Affairs found that 55% of the human population lived in an urban environment. They predicted that if the current population trends continue, 68% of humans will be living in cities by 2050. This means that the urban population will increase by 2.5 billion in three decades. As a result of cities as the major hubs of consumption, waste production will increase. Thus, there is an immediate need to make urban centers as renewable as possible. This research project analyzes cities waste production problems and proposes solutions to those challenges. The first problem is the unsustainable heating of buildings. Approximately 100 000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from heating buildings in the city of Vancouver. In 2010, Vancouver was able to apply sustainable district heating to the Southeast False Creek community using heat generated by the districts sewer system. This reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and provided 70% of the energy demanded by that community. If this small-scale project can be replicated throughout the city of Vancouver, the environmental benefits would be astounding. The next problem involves food waste generated by excessive consumerism. In 2017 the National Zero Waste Council of Metro Vancouver researched food waste produced by average households in Canada. Findings showed that in one year Canada wasted over $17 billion worth of edible food, while in Vancouver, 34% of all waste is edible food. Following positive European examples, our solution is to prohibit supermarkets from discarding unsold edible food by obliging them to donate it to a charity organization instead. The final problem we are tackling is non-recyclable solid waste. According to a Metro Vancouver Recycling and Solid Waste Management report, 37% of municipal solid waste ended up in landfills. Approximately 20% of the disposed waste is sent to the Waste-to-Energy (WOE) facility. WOE generates electricity and produces bottom ash as a by-product. Currently, bottom ash is sent to landfills. We are proposing a plan to use this by-product in various building materials such as a binder and cement substitute to effectively reduce waste production.

Associated space

Metro Vancouver Regional District

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