Metro Vancouver lagging behind goal of diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfills

Metro Vancouver lagging behind goal of diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfills

Despite being a national leader on waste reduction and recycling, Metro Vancouver has failed to meet its goals for diverting waste from the region’s landfills for the past seven years.

In 2020, Metro Vancouver had a goal of making sure 80 per cent of the region’s waste didn’t end up in landfill. For five years before that, the goal was 70 per cent.

Now, after stalling between 63 and 64 per cent since 2015the regional authority has adjusted its 2023 waste diversion goal to a more realistic 65 per cent.

“Our goal, our aspirational target, was 80 per cent by 2020,” said Karen Storry, senior engineer with Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Services.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get there, but it continues to motivate us to do better and to continue to improve our diversion.”

Changing behavior takes time: engineer

According to Metro Vancouver, in the last 20 years, the waste diversion rate has improved from well below half to approximately 64 per cent — which is still double the Canadian average of 28 per cent.

“Metro Vancouver is a leader in North America with respect to waste reduction and recycling,” said Storry.

But she says the regional authority still faces challenges when it comes to changing citizens’ behavior around waste.

“That’s a cultural change that takes a lot of time.”

It’s not just about convincing people to recycle: Storry says getting people to reuse and repair items instead of throwing them away could have a big impact.

She explains one of Metro Vancouver’s projects for 2023 is creating more “repair cafes” — a place where residents can come and get broken items fixed or learn how to fix them themselves.

“Part of it is inspiring people to change their behavior. Part of it is changing the way things are designed in the first place. And these are not easy issues to tackle.”

Single-use items are still a challenge, says councillor

Vancouver councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, a member of the zero-waste committee at Metro Vancouver, says high-volume items like coffee cups are still a problem, even though the City of Vancouver introduced a 25-cent fee for single-use items like the cups a year ago.

“In 2018, the City of Vancouver estimated that 82 million coffee cups go into the landfill,” she said. So that’s one item I would point to is that if we can find good recycling streams for those items, that would certainly help towards the goal of zero-waste.

The City of Vancouver introduced a ban on plastic bags and a 25-cent fee on single-use items in 2022. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Storry says the most concrete ways citizens can help reduce the waste that goes into landfills is by recycling food scraps and remembering to use reusable cups and bags.

“If you’re not already doing it, please consider doing it,” she said.

“And if you’ve already been doing it, thank you so much. You’re making a big difference.”

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