City of Burnaby to backtrack on new $182 million organic waste facility in a park

Mar 18 2023, 12:37 am

It appears the City of Burnaby is set to go back to the drawing board over its controversial plans to build a regional-sized green recycling and organic waste (GROW) processing facility on Fraser River waterfront land that is technically designated as park space.

On Thursday, Mayor Mike Hurley announced he will ask Burnaby City Council to approve a reconsideration of the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) for the $182-million project, following the public outcry over the location. The Mayor’s reverse course action is expected to be approved by a majority of City Council.

“We’ve been listening to the public, and it’s clear from what they’ve told us that they don’t support the trade-offs that the GROW project would require in its current form. Council has heard loud and clear that while this may be the right project, it is not the right location,” said the Mayor in a statement.

According to the provincial government’s legislation governing how BC cities operate, the AAP acts like a counter petition, which requires 10% or more of eligible electors to sign a petition in opposition to a proposed municipal initiative. If the minimum threshold is met, the municipal government must either proceed to assent voting within 80 days or put the matter on hold and consider alternatives to the proposed action.

Moreover, direct approval from eligible electors — such as through a referendum or AAP — is required for specific municipal proposals relating to designating park space for other uses, municipal boundary extensions, and municipal loan authorizations.

If the AAP for this facility is rescinded, City staff will find another location for the facility that has the support of the public or explore other solutions that address the processing needs of organic waste from Burnaby’s residents, businesses, and municipal operations.

“We know that we need to treat climate action like the emergency that it is, and we need to make difficult and bold decisions. Bold moves mean there will always be trade-offs, but they need to be trade-offs our community can support,” he continued.

green recycling organic waste grow burnaby 4800 riverbend drive

Planned location of the City of Burnaby’s Green Recycling Organic Facility (GROW) at 4800 Riverbend Drive, Burnaby. (Google Maps)

green recycling organic waste grow burnaby 4800 riverbend drive

Planned location of the City of Burnaby’s Green Recycling Organic Facility (GROW) at 4800 Riverbend Drive, Burnaby. (City of Burnaby)

As currently envisioned by City staff, GROW would be a fully-enclosed facility on the City-owned property of 4800 Riverbend Drive in the Big Bend area in South Burnaby. It would require a footprint of 21 acres within a 100-acre site that forms a part of the Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park.

The site is not currently used for recreational purposes, and was previously cleared and used for farming as recent as 1965, according to the City.

This facility is also immediately adjacent to Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Waste-To-Energy Facility, which incinerates garbage and generates electricity.

The intent of the municipal-owned and operated facility is to reduce the significantly higher and unpredictable market-rate costs of sending Burnaby’s organic waste to a private facility.

The City’s facility would be able to handle 150,000 tonnes of organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, with Burnaby using up 33% of the capacity and the rest of the region using the remaining 67%.

The excess processing capacity for the rest of the region beyond Burnaby’s current and long-term needs would serve a revenue-generating opportunity for the municipal government.

This facility would also include the ability to collect biogas from the anaerobic digestion process for its conversion into renewable natural gas to power municipal vehicles and facilities, with excess capacity sold to the Fortis BC gas distribution network. Additionally, the end product of the organic waste would also produce thousands of tonnes of high-quality compost each year for sale to farms.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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