As Canada's capacity to generate energy from waste grows, most of its citizens approve of the trend.
Two-thirds of Canadians have a favorable impression of energy-from-waste technologies, according to a Nielsen survey commissioned by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association. Gasification has the highest support — 60 percent, CPIA reported on Nov. 21. Even large-scale combustion got a positive response — 50 percent support — after years of unpopularity among governments and criticism from environmental activists.
“These polling results help us to understand the perceptions of the Canadian public when it comes to managing unrecyclable plastics,” stated CPIA vice president of sustainability Krista Friesen in a news release.
Some 12 EFW plants both in operation and also on the drawing board will be able to convert about 2.2 billion pounds per year of waste into energy, estimates John Foden, president of the Canadian Resource Recovery Council in Toronto. EFW plans span the country and range from small facilities to the current largest installation in Burnaby, British Columbia, capable of burning 616 million pounds of waste annually to generate energy.
Although EFW schemes are catching on in Canada, the country lags other jurisdictions where geographic space constraints encourage intensive waste management. Europe has more than 300 EFW plants, and the United States has more than 80 such facilities. Foden said EFW schemes are especially numerous in countries such as Sweden, Germany and Denmark where recycling rates are high.
CPIA noted that 89 percent of Canadians polled support shipping non-recyclable plastics to an EFW facility rather than to landfill.
“While we are very committed to building the infrastructure to collect and recycle all types of plastics, we know there is a certain percentage of the material that is unrecyclable due to contamination or lack of mechanical technology,” explained Friesen. “For these materials we believe alternative technologies which allow for energy recovery have an important role to play in Canada's waste hierarchy.”
About 63 percent of respondents indicated they would support an EFW facility in their immediate community.
Nielsen polled 1,044 people and calculated its results based on a 3 percent margin of error.