Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Trash incineration

August holiday weekend and the family gathered for a visit at my in-laws. As only my mother-in-law could put it 'only 18 for dinner'. Eighteen of us, gathered to eat, chat and hang out. Now everyone pitches in, brings food, drink, towels and chairs but we forgot garbage bags to take our waste home: my brother and sister in law are restricted to one garbage bag per week: challenging for a family of 4, not feasible when you host a clan of 18 for a few days.

Why? Not because garbage actually is that problematic. Lots of landfilling space in Ontario, we could even join the 21st century and incinerate -- but as this editorial describes, support for incineration continues to soften in the heart of Canada.

Waste is a very popular ecomyth. Waste need not be a problem: it is easily disposed of through a range of context-specific options ranging from sanitary landfills (where land is plentiful), to incineration (where it is not, and/or energy costs are high) all the way through to the extended use of goats (where technology is too expensive an option).

So why all the angst in a province like Ontario about garbage? Well trash means consumption. For ideological environmentalists to simply dispose of trash is to legitimize consumption -- the real sin -- thus garbage, household garbage, is another way to attack the "overly" consumptive lifestyle that is destroying the planet.

Force people to deal with, i.e. restrict, their garbage and you force them to face up to their sins of consumption. Don't apply technology (or even common sense) and supply a solution: enforce demand management, constraint and let everyone see in their own homes how bad they are for the planet.

Such hogwash. Especially when the vast majority of what is sorted and organized into municipal recycling efforts, ultimately ends up in the landfill anyway.

Their will be no enlightened trash management in Ontario until first this ideology of eco-poverty is broken. It is perhaps our most prevalent ecomyth.