Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Evaluation in Integrated Waste Management: Understanding the Crisis and Improving Practice through Planning Theory

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Evaluation in Integrated Waste Management: Understanding the Crisis and Improving Practice through Planning Theory

Article excerpt


CBC Reporter:

"The Chair of Toronto's Public Works Committee says he doubts Ottawa will stay out of the Adam's Mine issue. The Federal government is considering a request for an [federal] environmental assessment of the mine. The City of Toronto wants to ship its garbage to the mine starting in 2002. Yesterday City Councillor Bill Saundercook made a quick trip to Ottawa with his staff to appear before the Federal Environment Committee."

Bill Saundercook:

"The focus seems to be on why Toronto is so far behind in the new and emerging technology and we tried to explain to them that the disposal problem has been something looming over Toronto for the last dozen years; and, you know, 150 million dollars in total has been spent up 'till the start of this process and, in all those dozen years, they spent that amount of money and came up with nothing."

CBC Reporter:

"Saundercook said he told the Committee members that an [federal] Environmental Assessment will mean that Toronto will have to find a new place to dump a million tonnes of garbage a year. "

"Here and Now", CBC Radio One

September 27, 2000, 5:34 p.m. (1)

Over the past 30 years, environmental planners in Ontario have invested many millions of dollars and many years of work in environmental impact assessments (EIA) for waste disposal facilities. However, this massive outlay of time and money has resulted in the implementation of few new waste-disposal facilities. Siting failures have been blamed on, among other things, NIMBY activists, political interference, false perceptions of risk, inadequate public participation, and overly rigorous EIA regulations (Temmemagi 1999; Shaw 2000; Maclaren 2004). "Siting waste management facilities has become a conflict-ridden process characterized by massive public opposition, disagreement over the environmental impacts of the facilities, and a general lack of faith in the traditional regulatory or closed approach to facility siting" (Maclaren 2004, 391).

Conflict-ridden planning processes have left the Greater Toronto Area and many other municipalities in Ontario with no approved disposal capacity. The net result is a capacity crisis that sees most solid waste being exported to private-sector landfills in Michigan. Export has become the subject of much public and political controversy, garnering significant attention in Michigan and Ontario over such issues as the environmental impacts of long-haul truck transport. Furthermore, the social equity implications of Toronto not being able to deal with waste in its "own backyard" has created another major trans-boundary political football between Canada and the USA. The issue garnered international media attention in the 2004 presidential election campaign. As reported in the Toronto Star: "John Kerry has vowed to immediately ban Toronto's trash shipments into the border state of Michigan if he wins the Nov. 2 election ... Kerry said ... 'George W. Bush has let Michigan become Canada's landfill'" (Maskoll 2004).

In order to understand the history and context of the waste crisis, it should be noted that prior to the passing of environmental regulations in the 1970s in Canada and the USA, waste planning was conducted in an ad hoc manner (Tarr 1985). With the introduction of sanitary landfilling, concern moved from late 19th century public health issues to economic efficiency in the early to mid 20th century. The primary role of waste management, dominated by engineering, was to dispose of waste as efficiently as possible by burning or burying it (Anderson 1993; MacLaren 2004; Melosi 2005).

The passing of the US National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Review Process in 1973 (and similar state and provincial statutes) led waste planning away from an economic efficiency model to a comprehensive approach based on EIA's rational paradigm. …

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