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Conference Update

Over the weekend I took the opportunity to reflect on Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge Conference. Overall, I would say the day was a success. Hundreds of people – representing government, private sector, non-profit groups and the community at large - came together to discuss how we can all work together to reduce our impact on the environment through better waste management.

The day started with an inspirational presentation from a group of Grade 4 students from the Village of Anmore who challenged us to do a better job managing our garbage; then Robert Lange from New York City provided participants with a presentation on the Big Apple’s recycling delivery model; the successes and the challenges. In some areas, such as enforcement, we can certainly learn from NYC, but in others, such as multi-family, we have the potential to lead the way, which gives me hope that we can achieve our waste diversion targets.

The “rapid fire” section of the agenda highlighted organizations and neighbourhoods from around Metro Vancouver who are leading by example; the session was both enlightening and inspiring, and I believe everyone in attendance was motivated to make change.

Before lunch we were introduced to Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge Strategy and our goals to achieve 70% waste diversion by 2015 aspiring to 80% by 2020. And we didn’t let lunch stop the journey – not with Clint Mahlman sharing London Drug’s passion and commitment to sustainable waste management and their Green Deal Program.

In the afternoon it was your turn to talk; breaking into concurrent breakout discussions, we discussed the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy identifying barriers and actions based on the five strategic priorities in the Strategy: Organics, Multi-Family, Business and Institutions, Construction and Demolition, and Product Design. It was fascinating to listen to the debate and see agreement on direction, and especially gratifying to witness the discussion and direction being led by participants.

We ended the day with a serious but entertaining debate with our Dragons' Den panel, which included the Sierra Club’s Rod Muir (Bio), Bernie Magnan with the Vancouver Board of Trade (Bio), Neil Hastie with Encorp Pacific (Bio), BOMA BC’s Paul LaBranche (Bio), and sustainability consultant Colin Isaacs (Bio). The Dragons' Den commented on the results of the breakout session discussion; at times challenging the results and at others affirming the results and introducing new ideas to consider as we look to reduce our waste …. it was lively exchange and a great way to end the conference.

I think the sign of a good conference is the number of people remaining in the audience at the end of the day, and so by this measure, the Zero Waste Challenge Conference was a great success, with pretty much every seat still occupied when the Dragons' Den came on. One participant emailed me and said “You and the team did an amazing job today. That conference set the standard for interactive events. It was outstanding. Please let others know. I was hugely impressed."

Please remember that this conference is one of the first steps on our journey towards zero waste; we are all in this together and we must continue to work with each other. I am looking forward to the voyage ahead...!

Over the next couple of weeks Metro Vancouver will be releasing video segments of the conference, including the keynote, rapid fire presentations and Dragons’ Den, so please come back to our website to take a look.

Pre-Conference Updates

The Zero Waste Challenge Conference is only a day away!

Thanks to everyone who has registered – a reminder; you’ll also need to register in person at the conference. Registration will be open at 8:00 a.m. – I encourage you to arrive early to avoid the rush.

Breakout Session Questions
During the breakout sessions in the latter portion of the day, you’ll be asked to consider three questions:

  1. Metro Vancouver has a goal of 70% waste diversion by 2015, and aspires to 80% by 2020. What are some barriers to achieving these targets?
  2. What actions, beyond those identified in the ZWC strategy, are needed to achieve a 70% waste diversion target? Who should do what?
  3. Other than the barriers and additional actions we’ve discussed, what other issues need to be considered to achieve a waste diversion goal of 70% and beyond?

Conference Live Stream
We’ll be live streaming the conference, so if you or your colleagues can’t make in person, you can still follow still the conference in real time at Updates from the conference will be posted throughout the day on Twitter. Make sure you’re following @MetroVancouver and @Greg_Moore for live updates from the Zero Waste Challenge Conference.

Metro Vancouver Waste Counter
We talk a lot about waste and recycling at Metro Vancouver and use a variety of methods to calculate and track the amount of waste and recycling going on across our region. The numbers are huge, in fact, so huge that they can be difficult to comprehend. What does 3.5 million tonnes of waste look like anyway? Our waste counter is a way to look at some familiar data in a different way; garbage and recycling second by second. You can view it here:
 and I would love to hear what thoughts come to mind when looking at our waste stream in this way.

Follow us on Twitter

Levers for Success Part II

In my previous post, I introduced the concept of levers – strategic tools that Metro Vancouver can apply to maximize waste reduction, reuse and recycling under the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy – and identified them as Regulation, Infrastructure and Pricing. A fourth lever, Communications, is embedded throughout the strategy, in recognition that public education is required for each of our Strategic Priorities to facilitate the necessary behaviour changes.

In this post, I’ll explain the levers in more detail and present some examples of how Metro Vancouver is already using these levers and how we plan to apply them further in the Strategy.

Lever 1 - Regulation
As a level of government, Metro Vancouver can implement new bylaws and policies.

Disposal bans are a primary regulatory tactic used by Metro Vancouver. A wide range of materials are already banned from the trash and this list will expand in the near future.

Metro Vancouver will add wood and organic waste to the list of banned and prohibited materials by 2015. This action will coincide with mandatory recycling regulations and infrastructure upgrades to ensure there are convenient and affordable alternatives to disposal.

Lever 2 - Infrastructure
Additional infrastructure is required to accommodate increased volumes of waste diverted from disposal. This includes recycling amenities within multi-family complexes and businesses as well as collection infrastructure and processing capacity for the recyclable or compostable commodities.

As an example, Metro Vancouver signed a long-term contract with Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre Ltd. in June 2009 to provide food and yard waste composting services to the region’s municipalities.

Lever 3 - Pricing
The market prices for recyclable materials often fluctuate according to supply and demand and are not directly influenced by local governments. However, we can set the price for waste disposal. Recent increases in the disposal tipping-fee have strengthened the financial incentive to recycle.

Currently, it costs about $100 to dispose of a tonne of garbage at a transfer station. At the same time, clean, untreated wood, which can be reused, recycled or composted, is accepted at $63 per tonne. Contractors can save money by separating their compostable wood waste from the rest of their garbage. Under the Strategy, we will continue to ensure the cost for recycling organics is significantly lower than the cost of disposal.

Strategic communications are assumed to be a central component of all aspects of the Strategy. Educational and outreach programs will provide information on regulations and other initiatives, and we will continue to work at the community level to remove barriers to change, reinforce new habits and gradually build a public appetite for the fundamental changes needed to approach higher waste reduction and diversion rates.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

Levers for Success Part I

Metro Vancouver is responsible for managing the 3.4 million tonnes of garbage produced by residents and businesses in the region. As both a regional government and service provider, we can use several tools to maximize waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

In the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy, we refer to these tools as “levers.”

The levers are:

  • Regulation Imposing new bylaws and policies that require materials to be diverted or recycled;
  • Infrastructure Providing new facilities and systems to divert, collect and process recyclable material;
  • Pricing Setting differential pricing to provide incentives for desired behaviours;
  • Communications Encouraging the desired behaviour changes through various public education approaches.

The latter portion of the Zero Waste Challenge Conference will feature several concurrent breakout sessions where conference participants, based on their area of interest, will take a closer look at five Strategic Priorities included in the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy – organics, construction, multi-family, business and product design.

The breakout groups will each consider the stakeholders involved, and will discuss and vote on the barriers and other actions that the region as a whole should consider as we seek to increase the amount of waste we divert.

Afterwards, the “Dragons’ Den” Panel will critique the recommendations that come from the breakout sessions.

In my next blog post, we will look at the levers in more detail and I’ll provide a few examples how Metro Vancouver is already using them and highlight a few of the further actions found in the Strategy.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

Zero Waste Challenge Strategy Now Online

I am pleased to announce that Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge Strategy is now online!

This document builds from our Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan, and presents a series of strategic priorities and actions; it also focuses on sectors and materials that we feel offer immediate opportunities for success.

Please take some time to read the Strategy. We have laid out a number of initiatives to get our region to 70% waste diversion by 2015, and that will help make the region a world leader in waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Also, please share your remarks and reactions in the “comments” section below. We are all in this together; we can not only look to government, we must also ask ourselves, business and institutions to work together to reduce the impact of garbage. Provide us with your comments to help our region.

Zero Waste Challenge Strategy

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

The Five Strategic Priorities Pt. II

My last blog introduced the Five Strategic Priorities targeted for immediate action in Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge Strategy and focused on Organics and Construction and Demolition. In this post, we turn our attention to Multi Family, Businesses and Institutions and Product Design.

Strategic Priority 3 - Multi Family

The Multi-family sector’s 16% diversion rate is the lowest compared to other sectors – single family, business, commercial and construction – and is significantly lower than the approximate 55% overall rate we achieve as a region.

This is a troublesome fact since, in the future, the majority of the population will live in multi-family households such as apartments and condominiums.

This sector presents unique challenges, such as shared garbage bins, which reduce individual incentives to divert waste and grants anonymity to those who choose not to recycle.

Also, there is often very little space for additional recyclable or organics containers and the access for recycling collection vehicles can be limited.

Strategic Priority 4 - Businesses and Institutions

Businesses and institutions generate the greatest volume of recyclable materials, including organics, paper, cardboard, and plastics. These materials account for about 1,200,000 tonnes of the overall waste generated in the region each year.

The current diversion rate is 44%, with the main sub-sectors being hospitality, schools, healthcare, offices, manufacturing, warehousing and retail.

Traditionally, waste reduction has been a low priority compared to other business goals, but that is starting to change. Many businesses are taking up their own Zero Waste Challenges and rethinking how their business impacts the environment.

It’s a good start, but more changes are needed. As with multi-family buildings, space and access are issues and current available recycling services have not evolved sufficiently to provide efficient, cost-effective service.

Strategic Priority 5 - Influencing Product Design

I’m sure you’ll agree this is the most challenging and possibly most exciting area of all.

Most designers pay little regard to end-of-life considerations for their products. Many products are designed for single uses, or they are difficult to reuse or recycle. They rapidly become obsolete and are made of composite materials that are difficult to separate into recyclables. Because of poor design, disposal becomes the only economically feasible end-of-life option.

This has to change.

Our objective is to encourage progressive change in manufacturing, distribution and producer responsibility. This will require collaboration with all levels of government and the private sector – locally, nationally and globally.

A major barrier is that those responsible for product design and manufacturing have little or no imperative to design products that minimize waste. Moreover, product development, marketing and distribution are largely beyond the direct control of local governments and citizens.

Zero Waste will only be possible when manufacturers, distributors, retailers and consumers become engaged in reducing waste at its source.

In my next three posts we’ll delve deeper into the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy to explore three approaches, or levers, for action to address the opportunities and challenges in each area. The three levers are Regulation, Infrastructure and Pricing. A fourth lever, Communication, is also critical to the success of the Strategy.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

The Five Strategic Priorities Pt. I

Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Strategy identifies five strategic priorities and proposes immediate actions that are necessary to achieve a 70% regional waste diversion rate by 2015. These priorities form the basis for the afternoon breakout discussions at the upcoming Zero Waste Challenge Conference.

The five strategic priorities are Organics, Multi-Family, Businesses and Institutions, Construction and Demolition and Product Design.

Each priority is unique, with its own opportunities and challenges. My next two posts will explain why we have focused on these priorities and what some of the challenges are.

In this post, we’ll look at the Organics, and Construction and Demolition streams, which believe it or not, have a lot in common.

Strategic Priority 1 - Organics

This area, comprising about 40% of total regional waste, consists mostly of food scraps but also of soiled paper and yard waste.

Organic materials can be recovered and processed into useful products like compost and biofuels instead of creating methane in landfills.

To meet the 70% waste diversion target, about 265,000 additional tonnes of organics need to be recycled annually by 2015.

The good news is that organics recycling from single-family homes is largely established, with most municipalities already picking up – or developing a system to pick up – yard waste and kitchen scraps.

However, multi-family homes and businesses, the region’s largest generators of organic waste, are lagging far behind. Major barriers for these groups include lack of recycling space and limited access for collection vehicles. We’ll also need more composting and biofuel facilities in order to manage the additional volume.

A most shameful waste

It is not uncommon to find unopened or merely expired food at transfer stations. Recent estimates suggest that a whopping one-third of food waste results from over-purchasing. That’s like walking out of a grocery with three bags and immediately chucking one in the garbage.

The infrastructure to process food scraps is certainly important, but even more crucial is a cultural shift in how we purchase and value food.

Strategic Priority 2 - Construction and Demolition

Construction, renovation and demolition activities are the source of over 1.3 million tonnes of waste that is generated in the region annually. This waste consists of, in order of magnitude, wood, concrete, carpet, asphalt roofing and plastic. Because of this area’s relative homogeneity compared with typical municipal solid waste, the recovery and recycling of useable materials is well-developed in this sector, with a high diversion rate at 70%.

However, due to the massive volumes of generated waste, tonnes of recyclable materials are still wasted annually. To meet our 2015 waste diversion goals, we’ve targeted an additional 155,000 tonnes, primarily wood, for recycling.

How are we going to get there? Well, we will need to increase the supply of wood for reuse and recycling by the private sector, increase the processing capacity for large quantities of mixed materials and establish convenient collection facilities for small loads of source-separated wood.

Notice anything?

What do these two areas, organics and construction and demolition, have in common?

Food, wood and paper, the three biggest streams of waste, all come from plants and can all be converted, using industrial applications of Mother Nature’s own processes, into useful products such as compost and biofuels.

Organics should not be wasted in disposal facilities when this valuable resource can be recovered. This notion is central to Metro Vancouver’s plans for managing wasted plant fibre as we approach Zero Waste.

In my next blog, we’ll take a look at the remaining three priorities; Multi-Family, Businesses and Institutions and Product Design.


A recent pilot project at Coquitlam Home Depot allowed residents and small contractors to drop of source-separated wood.


A look at food composting opportunities.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

Meet the “Dragons’ Den” Panel
One thing I am really looking forward to in the Zero Waste Challenge Conference is the “Dragons’ Den” Panel, modelled on the popular Canadian TV series where business professionals critique and improve – and sometimes amusingly decimate – proposals by budding entrepreneurs.
In our version, the Panel will perform a reality check on the ideas that emerge from the roundtable discussions during the second half of the conference.
Our panel consists of experts that have a range of personal perspectives and professional experience…so how will these contrasting viewpoints play out in the discussions? I can’t wait to find out!
Rod Muir National Waste Diversion and Sustainability Campaigner, Sierra Club Canada
Representing environmental priorities is Rod Muir from the Sierra Club, one of the oldest and largest environmental NGOs in the world.
An entrepreneur, Sustainability Campaigner and former marketing executive in the fast food and grocery industry, Rod brings a unique mix of industry experience and green values.
Rod was formerly responsible for “getting bums on restaurant seats”. Now he gets blue bins and green bins to the curb and as he’ll no doubt tell you, there’s very little difference between the two. It’s simply about motivating people to action though words and pictures.
More info:  
Neil Hastie  President and CEO Encorp Pacific 
Neil has an intimate understanding of the realities facing retail establishments and extended product responsibility, with over 35 years experience in the industry.
As the head of Encorp, he oversees the operations of one of the largest industry stewardship organizations in Canada.
Founded in 1994, Encorp runs our local beverage container return program and recently began accepting end-of-life electronics at its collection facilities also.
Neil says the biggest challenge facing Encorp is achieving coordination among the all the stewardship programs so that consumer education is clear and effective.
More info:
Bernie Magnan Assistant Managing Director and Chief Economist, Vancouver Board of Trade
Our second panellist represents the interests of the business community. As one of the Vancouver Board of Trade’s senior leaders, Bernie’s priority is to enhance and promote the economic prosperity of our region.
Bernie is responsible for the development of policy positions and advocacy for the organization as well as advising the Board of Trade’s directors on policy matters. He’s also one of Board’s official spokespeople.
The Vancouver Board of Trade is a well-known advocate for businesses of all sizes in the Metro Vancouver region, and helps its members grow and prosper in the global economy.
Fourth Dragon’s Den Panellist TBC
In addition to the above three panellists we’ll also have a fourth. We’ll update this post once we confirm that person…so please stayed tuned.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

Meet the Keynotes
Our two Zero Waste Challenge Conference keynote speakers bring a wealth of knowledge garnered form years of experience on two very different sides of waste reduction.

Robert Lange
Director, Bureau of Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling, New York City Department of Sanitation

One could describe Robert as the father of recycling in New York City. At the beginning of his career, recycling was still a voluntary activity, and only in a single Manhattan community. Under Robert’s guidance, recycling in NYC became mandatory for all residents in 1989 with the passage of Local Law 19.

Robert’s career with the Department of Sanitation spans the entire evolution of the recycling program. From the outset, he’s has been at the forefront of what is now the US’s largest municipal recycling program, serving over 8 million residents citywide.

Robert and his staff have set a national standard for public recycling education materials and have conducted a number of scientific studies about waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.

We are honoured to have the opportunity to hear from a pioneer like Robert Lange about the waste management challenges and realities facing major metropolitan areas.

Our second keynote is a pioneer of a different kind – retail waste reduction.

Clint Mahlman
Senior Vice-President, Retail Operations and Distribution, London Drugs

Clint is responsible for operations and distribution for London Drugs, one of the largest organizations in Western Canada, where he also oversees the sustainability and waste management programs.

Clint’s vision and dedication to waste reduction has made London Drugs an industry leader in environmental stewardship. Since introducing expanded recycling programs in 2006, London Drugs has experienced 64 per cent waste reduction, chain-wide.

Under its flagship Green Deal program, London Drugs customers can bring all manner of items – electronics, batteries, packaging (including polystyrene) and more – back to the store for recycling.

Not only that, but the London Drugs chain features extensive corporate programs for waste reduction, energy efficiency and eco-friendliness.

The company’s waste reduction and collaborative efforts with community and industry partners have been recognized by the Recycling Council of British Columbia, the Rechargeable Batteries Recycling Corporation, the Orbis Certificate of Merit for Environmental Responsibility, the Phillips PEAK Award and BC Hydro. London Drugs was BC Hydro’s 2009 Retailer of the Year and a BC Hydro Electronics and Lighting Retailer of the Year 2010 finalist.

Clint continues to making London Drugs one of Canada’s greenest retailers and is a frequent presenter at environmental symposiums including our own Future of the Region Sustainability Dialogues, the Recycling Council of BC’s Zero Waste annual conference and others.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee and the Mayor of Port Coquitlam.

What the Zero Waste Challenge Conference is all about
Hi, I’m Greg Moore, Mayor of Port Coquitlam and Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee.

I’m very excited about the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Challenge Conference coming up on Thursday March 10, at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown in Burnaby.

The conference will discuss Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge Strategy, an agenda for action establishing priorities and responsibilities for waste reduction and management in Metro Vancouver.
At its core is a set of activities and actions to reduce waste and increase diversion rates that include the following priority areas and strategic levers:

Priority Areas

  • Organic materials
  • Multi-family housing complexes
  • Construction and demolition industry
  • Businesses and Institutions
  • Influence product design


Strategic Levers

  • Regulations
  • Infrastructure investments
  • Pricing
  • Communication

Cutting waste at its source

The ambitious reduction and diversion targets mean that waste needs to be reduced at its source – the design, manufacture and distribution of products.  While these processes are mostly outside the jurisdiction of local governments, the importance of product design is nonetheless an important component of the Zero Waste Challenge Strategy.

Throughout the conference, you’ll hear keynote speakers such as Robert Lange, New York City Department of Sanitation, presentations of local success stories, a “Dragon’s Den” panel (reality check by local experts) and roundtable discussions from a broad range of stakeholders and specialists.
Significant questions
Approaching zero waste will require work and leadership on everyone’s part – government, business and the public alike.  
How do you fit in?
What should be our priories moving forward?
What are the local successes we can all learn from?
And who’s responsible for waste, really?

These are the kind of questions we hope the conference will help us answer and will also be the subjects of discussion on this blog.

I will continue my blog until the conclusion of the conference and look forward to your comments.

Greg Moore is the moderator for the Zero Waste Challenge Conference. He is the Mayor of Port Coquitlam and Chair of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee.