Another Metro Vancouver upgrade to protect air quality

WORK is underway on another upgrade of the environmental control systems at Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility in Burnaby.

The $8 million upgrade will further reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides at the mass-burn incinerator, which processes garbage we cannot yet recycle and generates enough electricity to power 16,000 homes.

Metro Vancouver has invested an additional $60 million in environment-related improvements since it opened the Waste-to-Energy Facility (WTEF) in 1988. The regional district plans to spend another $30 million there on environmental system upgrades over the next few years.

“Our Waste-to-Energy Facility is part of an integrated, cost-efficient system that is focussed on reducing garbage and managing residual waste in a manner that ensures protection of the environment,” said Zero Waste Committee Chair Malcolm Brodie. “Metro Vancouver is committed to continuing operational and environmental upgrades which further reduce emissions and protect our air quality. We all care about the air. Good air quality is one of our priorities.”

Metro Vancouver is responsible for monitoring and managing air quality in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed, which includes the Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District. Emission inventories show that that cars, trucks, bulldozers, marine vessels and other transportation-related emissions account for most of the region’s emissions of nitrogen oxides. On sunny days, nitrogen oxides can combine with other types of air emissions to make ground-level ozone – the grey-brown “smog” that appears on the horizon a few days a year, usually in the summer.

The nitrogen oxides reduction program at the Waste-to-Energy Facility will reduce smog-forming emissions by about 60 per cent from present levels. NOx emissions at the WTEF are now estimated to be 0.9 per cent of total NOx emissions in the region. When the $8 million upgrade is completed later in 2014, that tiny contribution will become even smaller: approximately 0.4 per cent of all NOx emissions in the region.

Systems are also in place to ensure that environmental parameters such as particulates, heavy metals, and dioxins and furans are emitted at such minute levels they can only be detected with sophisticated monitoring equipment.

An environmental mass balance diagram (see below) shows what comes out of the WTEF for each tonne of garbage (1,000 kgs) processed. In total, only 2.9 kgs of trace air emissions (including NOx emissions) are produced for every tonne of garbage processed through the WTEF. Parameters such as particulates, heavy metals, and dioxins and furans are emitted at such minute levels they can only be detected with sophisticated monitoring equipment. For example one tonne of garbage produces only 0.0005 kg of particulates or only approximately 100 kg per year – roughly the annual particulate emissions from 10 heavy diesel trucks (2002 model year).

Waste to Energy is globally recognized as one of the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible means of dealing with residual wastes that cannot otherwise be diverted from disposal. There are more than 800 waste-to-energy facilities across America, Europe and Asia.

Developed nations in the world with high recycling rates – countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium – make extensive use of waste-to-energy technologies to recover energy and resources from garbage.

Because revenue sales from electricity reduce operational costs, the region’s existing Waste-to-Energy Facility is the lowest-cost disposal in Metro Vancouver’s solid waste system.

More information is available on Metro Vancouver’s website,