Why I am against any Waste Processing Plant in McNab/Braeside

Updated: Aug 24

There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea for our Township.

As a Board Member of Prevent Cancer Now from 2007 to 2013, I fought against any plant contemplated in Canada that would be using heat to change the composition of waste. Dioxins, furans and other compounds are created by heating up plastics and these are carcinogens in the most minute quantities. There are many other environmentally harmful chemicals that are produced in any such process, with or without oxygen. In spite of grandiose claims that none of these compounds enter the environment, worldwide evidence is to the contrary. Why would we risk environmental and health problems for no apparent benefit to the Township?

The proposed Sustane technology uses the same system as the now bankrupt Plasco fiasco in Ottawa. Even if the technology worked, which isn't yet proven, this project is far too big of a financial risk for a small Township. In order for the required 200 tonnes of garbage to be met to make this size of a plant viable, waste would have to be trucked here from 100’s of kilometres away. Proponents of the project are suggesting that we bring all of the waste from Renfrew County, Lanark County and it would be topped up with commercial waste. Council passed a resolution that includes looking into other technologies on August 9th, 2022 but this is a waste of time and resources. All systems will need exponentially more waste than is generated here. Most of these companies do not have enough of a proven track record and we would be left with a financial burden for decades when any plant here becomes the latest waste processing bankruptcy.

Here's some math that hasn’t been revealed properly. If there is 10% of the waste processed left as ash and we are processing 200 tonnes of garbage daily, this ash will be added to our landfill. What this will do will be to decrease the useful life of our landfill from about 70 years according to an auditor’s report in 2021 to somewhere around 20 years. We are not in any pending danger of our landfill reaching capacity but certainly we will be if we bring everybody else’s garbage-turned-to-ash here. There are claims that this ash can be spread around on fields as a fertilizer and this is yet another fallacy. This ash contains many toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and lead.

After attending the Sustane presentation on August 18th, it is clear that they are not anywhere near ready for a second plant. I do give them credit for showing up and taking hard questions but the answers were largely inconclusive and at times evasive. The host municipality of their first plant, Chester NS, was hopeful that they would not have to come up with over $6 million to find a new landfill but have now lost faith in Sustane and have authorized this expenditure. I asked Sustane how much Provincial and Federal Government money would be sunk into the project and received no specific response. In a presentation to Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards on May 3, 2022, "Mayor Peckett stated both the federal and provincial governments are onboard with this project". Surely, they could tell us how much money is being discussed with the higher tier governments. There is only one taxpayer and that is you.

While the current Mayor and his supporters on the current Council have decided that we can make garbage from other municipalities our problem, they have expressed no clear benefit to the Township. Repeated questions along these lines go unanswered. We aren't even certain that there would be no tipping fees for our own waste. Sustane's answer to that was that it was still being negotiated. Our landfill is our asset to take care of our own needs.

We do, however, have a responsibility to future generations to extend the life of our landfill. There are many waste diversion techniques that we can apply locally. As Mayor, I would work with other municipalities to pressure the Province to expand Extended Producer Responsibility. Companies generate employment and are an important part of our economy but the burden of disposing of what they profited from should not be shouldered by municipalities. Companies need to set aside money to deal with their products at the end of their useful life and with any packaging that they have used. If they are paying for the disposal of their products and their packaging, the incentive will be in the right place to produce products that can be reused, recycled and packaging will be reduced.

The Mayor has the authority to strike Committees and I would name a special Waste Diversion Committee. Interested members of the public would be invited to join and there will be many ways for any citizen to contribute to the discussion. I believe in an open, transparent and inclusive model of governance instead of the current model where residents have clearly been kept in the dark.

Together, we will find the right path forward.