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Iain Hunter: We face a future of wallowing in waste

It should be apparent to us all by now that we are a race of shitepokes and dung beetles, aimlessly poking and rolling our waste about without the slightest idea how to get rid of it.

It should be apparent to us all by now that we are a race of shitepokes and dung beetles, aimlessly poking and rolling our waste about without the slightest idea how to get rid of it.

The creation of waste is one of the greatest achievements of what is called the developed world.

And those of us who live within this pretentious world are encouraging other nations to raise themselves to our level, so they will be adding to the burden of our global wasteland.

By the end of this century, it’s said, our planet will reach the condition known as “peak trash” — a wasteline no one can be proud of, our dear Earth a tip unable to absorb more garbage.

Human ingenuity has enabled parts of the world to make use of domestic and industrial waste. San Francisco claims to have achieved 80 per cent “diversion” of its waste, whatever that means.

Houses for Welsh coal miners have been built on slag. Compacted garbage has been used for roads in parts of congested Europe. Apple-cheeked Scandinavians are skiing down hills of the stuff.

But they don’t do much skiing in cities like China’s, expanding like tumours into rice paddies. So they try to burn their garbage and the smog gets worse.

And it’s not until the garbage collectors go on strike, as in Chicago this month, that anyone gives the problem much thought.

We Canadians in our home, our native landfill, have nothing to be proud of. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development gives us a D for effort: Canadians are producing more waste than people in all OECD countries except the U.S.

Vancouver has a “zero waste goal” that, obviously, is unreachable. Mayor Gregor Robertson last week rejected a proposal by Metro Vancouver that one of four waste-to-energy incinerators for burning Lower Mainland garbage be built in South Vancouver.

The Fraser Valley Regional District, downwind from polluting sources in Metro and Whatcom County in the U.S., wants no part of a plan that will add to the problem.

Yet the Metro plant in Burnaby is not able to handle the amount of garbage it will be required to even if Metro reaches its goal of recycling or composting 80 per cent of solid waste.

At this end of our Island, the Hartland landfill is reaching maximum capacity and last week was leaking toxic liquor that the folks at Willis Point feared was contaminating their wells.

But in silly old Victoria, the issue seems to be whether garbage and kitchen scraps shall be picked off the curb or wrestled from backyards by unionized collectors.

Council has voted to keep backyard pickup.

Arbitrary decrees by senior governments have stampeded local politicians into a sewage morass. It’s impossible, apparently, to use treatment and energy-producing technology on the horizon that will provide better treatment than the outmoded pump-and-truck scheme proposed that has so many residents leery.

Something called the Sewage Treatment Action Group has proposed several tertiary treatment plants where there are already pump stations and a gasification plant at the Hartland dump to handle not only sewage leftovers but garbage and kitchen scraps as well.

But the powers that be have determined gasification is “an industry in its infancy.”

Small gasification projects may be OK for places in Japan and Europe, but not for Greater Victoria where tried and true is preferable.

Meanwhile, ordinary folk are being made to sort and sift garbage as if it’s to be displayed at a fall fair.

I’m utterly confused by a pamphlet delivered to my door instructing me to use yet another receptacle for certain types of garbage that may be recycled, composted, buried — or blown up, for all I know.

And nobody seems to be doing anything to curb the packaging that’s worse than what it contains and puts me in a temper trying to undo it.

I remember the days of brown paper and string. I like to feel and smell my food, not look at it through plastic.

I have a compost pile for biodegradable stuff. As for the rest, I won’t sort it.

Shitepokes poke. They don’t sort.