Durham encouraged by European advances in waste incinerators

Despite skepticism and some opposition, Durham Region is deeply committed to building the GTA’s first garbage incinerator in 15 years, says the region’s works commissioner.

“Years ago, there was a fundamental commitment by Durham Region that there would be no new landfills established (here),” says Cliff Curtis. “And council seems to have bought into the concept that we need to look after our own waste.”

Besides, he says, it’s not environmentally sustainable or neighbourly to ship garbage to outlying jurisdictions. That seems to be a unique position in the GTA, where disposing of trash in one’s own backyard tends to stink politically.


Toronto and Peel have signed long-term deals to use landfills outside the GTA, though Peel already incinerates half its waste.

After the province promised Michigan legislators that Ontario would stop shipping garbage to landfills in the state by 2010, councils across the GTA scrambled to find alternatives.

Incinerators are criticized in part because they need a constant stream of garbage to be economically viable. Environmentalists argue that runs counter to efforts to reduce and recycle, principles to which the GTA has committed itself.

Incinerators are also viewed as a health hazard. But don’t say that to the Durham politicians who recently returned from Europe, wowed by the advances they saw in incineration technology and how people and smokestacks live cheek-by-jowl, apparently without conflict or fear. Although Durham appears to be going it alone for now in championing incineration, it may yet find itself in good company — Niagara Region and Hamilton have talked of building a joint incinerator.

Toronto may someday find itself ringed by incinerators, even as its trucks loaded with trash rumble down Highway 401 toward the Green Lane landfill site near London, Ont.

Smaller incinerator

  • Original plans were for a plant ­capable of burning 250,000 tonnes a year. It’s now 200,000 tonnes.