Modes of Governing Canadian Waste Management: a Case Study of Metro Vancouver’s Energy-From-Waste Controversy

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Lougheed, Scott Cameron
Metuzals, Jessica
Hird, Myra J.
Municipal Solid Waste , Governance , Waste Management , Regional Politics , Incineration
Managing municipal solid waste is a pressing environmental and political concern for Canadian municipalities who bear the primary responsibility for waste management (WM). In 2015, Metro Vancouver’s (MV’s) plans to expand their capacity to expand their WM capacity with energy-from-waste technology was abandoned, despite shrinking landfill space and persistent public opposition to new landfills. Using Bulkeley et al.’s [(2005). Governing municipal waste: towards a new analytical framework. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 7(1), 1–23. doi:10.1080/15239080500251700] ‘modes of governing framework’, we analyse MV’s failed attempt to expand their energy-from-waste capacity to better understand the challenges associated with governing WM in Canada. We argue that a history of downloading responsibility for WM to municipalities, regional districts, and industry has fragmented WM governance, posing a challenge for developing new waste infrastructure. We find that this localization of responsibility is incompatible with contemporary WM challenges. The scalar mismatch between waste’s material impacts and the scale at which waste is managed has resulted in co-dependence and conflict between putatively independent municipalities, regional districts, and private companies. This inhibits higher-level WM coordination while the autonomy of individual municipalities is simultaneously undermined.
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