Councillors on the Environment Committee discussed the City contract with Plasco Energy Group on August 22 (Item 4). Plasco is a corporation contracted by the City to convert Ottawa’s residential waste into electricity through the use of plasma gasification. The Environment Committee as well as City Council granted Plasco another extension (until December 2014) to meet its contractual obligations to secure funding for the project. City Councillors are demonstrating their continued reliance on Plasco’s technologies as a solution to waste disposal but are doing so prior to finalizing Ottawa’s 30 Year Waste Plan. Ecology Ottawa believes City Council is also not giving enough careful consideration to the most effective waste reduction policy, Pay As You Throw.
The city’s current landfill has the capacity to last us until 2035-2040 so the need for alternative storage is not immediate. It is worrisome that City Councillors are willing to rely on Plasco’s (unproven) technology rather than doing far more to promote waste prevention and diversion to eradicate the need for a successor to the city’s current landfill. It would be great if Council had first firmly defined their strategy to prevent, reduce, reuse, and recycle waste prior to entering a contract with Plasco.
Councillor Hubley reminded Councillors on the Environment Committee to consider their long term 30 Year Waste Plan and asked if it would be possible to receive a brief report and environmental scan on all technologies that are available every year, so that Councillors are aware of the options. Councillor Fluery agreed with Councillor Hubley that it is important to research options and encourage diversion, and to look at alternatives to landfills. As a result, Councillor McRae asked the city’s Environmental Services General Manager Dixon Weir to return to Council by the end of September with a bulleted list detailing alternative waste management options (without being too specific due to contractual obligations with Plasco).
Councillor Moffatt proposed a motion so that the City is able to seek out alternatives to Plasco if it cannot acquire funding by the new deadline of December 31, 2014. Councillor Moffatt’s motion was carried, with Councillor Hume’s dissent. Councillor Hume expressed regret that the city is primarily focusing on solutions to waste disposal, deeming it unproductive, and said that he would rather Council’s attention be focused on maximizing diversion. He claimed that simply knowing alternatives will not change the fact that the landfill will need to be replaced. Councillor Hume said that he would be more interested in learning how the life of the landfill can be extended through increased diversion initiatives to prevent packaging and waste. He believes that the City would be better off focusing on waste diversion than on waste disposal, and for this reason dissented on Moffatt’s motion. Councillor Hume receives a Thumbs-up for his comments in support of waste diversion over waste disposal.
Councillor Hume raised a valuable point that with enough diversion and changes in the composition of the waste in need of disposal, there may no longer be a need for an additional landfill at all. Rather than spending large sums of money on waste disposal, those tax dollars may be better spent on waste diversion tactics to eliminate the need for additional methods of management. At the very least, Council should have determined its waste management plan for the next 30 years prior to agreeing to a contract with Plasco.
*The item was carried at City Council on August 28