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British environmentalist David de Rothschild adds another plastic soda bottle to the 12,000 that will be needed for construction of the vessel "Plastiki." De Rothschild is planning an 11,000-mile voyage to Australia on the Plastiki, which is constructed entirely of plastic (except for the masts which will be metal), in effort to raise awareness of the recycling of plastic bottles, which he says are a symbol of global waste.Ben Margot/The Associated Press

Instead of spending millions on waste-to-energy plants, Metro Vancouver should focus on composting, recycling and keeping materials such as electronic and construction waste out of the garbage, a new report suggests.

By doing so, Metro could essentially buy time as it works toward a "zero-waste" goal over the next two decades, the author of the study said.

"My take is that [waste-to-energy]plants commit a lot of funds for something that is not going to prove necessary and in fact is environmentally worse than a lot of other things you can do," Jeffrey Morris, a principal with Sound Resource Management Group, a consulting firm based in Olympia, Wash., said Wednesday.

Mr. Morris's report, Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Waste Management Strategies with a Zero Waste Objective, was commissioned by Belkorp Environmental Services Inc., a Vancouver company whose subsidiary, Wastech Services Ltd., operates the Cache Creek landfill in the B.C. interior.

Wastech, backed by the village of Cache Creek, wants to keep the landfill running past its anticipated closing date in 2010 even though Metro Vancouver voted last year to abandon landfills and focus on waste reduction, composting and waste-to-energy facilities.

Waste-to-energy plants burn garbage to turn it into heat or electricity.

Belkorp did not oversee or edit the study, Mr. Morris said.

The report, copies of which were sent to Metro mayors and councillors Wednesday, adds another twist to the long-running debate over how to handle the region's waste.

Metro politicians are already grappling with a lengthy report from Burnaby-based AECOM Canada Ltd., presented earlier this month that outlined eight scenarios.

AECOM looked at three technologies: mechanical biological treatment, which treats waste before it goes into a landfill or is turned into fuel, waste-to-energy plants, and landfills that have gas-recovery systems.

The scenarios include a 500,000-tonne per year waste-to-energy facility with an estimated capital cost of $470-million.

AECOM's study looked at ways to handle garbage "after all practical efforts to avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle the waste have been exhausted."

Building waste-to-energy plants forces municipalities to generate a steady, predictable stream of garbage to feed them or pay a fee if volumes decline, Mr. Morris said Wednesday.

In a letter to councillors, Belkorp president Ted Rattray said Metro could avoid significant borrowing and additional cost to taxpayers for at least 15 years by continuing existing operations as it focuses on waste reduction.

The Cache Creek landfill is scheduled to reach its permitted capacity by next year. Wastech wants to keep it going for at least a couple of years.

"It is important to understand that if the provincial government grants its approval for an annex to the Cache Creek landfill in July, the landfill will have an additional two years of capacity," Mr. Rattray said in the letter. "This will provide you and colleagues with much needed time to thoroughly evaluate all the options."

The proposed landfill annex would operate on a seven-hectare site next to the existing landfill.

Belkorp is also seeking provincial approval for a landfill extension that would add 30 years to the life of the Cache Creek facility.

Metro councillors are scheduled to discuss garbage options on Saturday. Metro has also proposed an interim solution of shipping garbage across the border to U.S. landfills, but the province has yet to approve that.