Poll: 66% of Canadians Back Waste to Energy Technology

Two thirds of Canadians have a favourable perception of waste to energy technologies, according to a poll Commissioned by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), and undertaken by Nielsen in April 2014.

Two thirds of Canadians have a favourable perception of waste to energy technologies, according to a poll Commissioned by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), and undertaken by Nielsen in April 2014.

The CPIA explained that the Canadian waste to energy market has shown robust potential over the past eight years, growing by 200%, from just four operating plants in 2006 to 12 facilities in an advanced stage of approval or construction by summer 2014.

Moreover, organisation said that the trend toward waste to energy technologies is a national phenomenon, with a range of plants and equipment under consideration from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island. The trend continues independent of size, with investigations underway in communities as diverse as Port Hope, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia.

This progressive approach to waste management and local energy generation makes Canada a world leader. Of course, there are not as many installations as Europe (300+) or the US (80+), but the growth curve is notably more dynamic.

The poll included 1044 respondents from across the country, with a +/- 3.0% margin of error 19 times out of 20.

The results were said to clearly show that two thirds (66%) of Canadians have a favourable impression of waste to energy technologies. Across the various technologies, gasification and feedstock recycling received most positive support at 60%, followed by solid recovery fuel (59%).

Traditional mass burn combustion achieved 50% support and the use of waste as an energy source merits a higher overall impression than other power sources. Almost seven out in ten (69%) said they had a warm or favourable impression of waste to energy, while natural gas trailed at 59%, oil at 37%, nuclear at 34% and coal at just 19%. Only solar (90%) and wind (75%) ranked higher.

Feedstock and plastics

When it came to feedstock, the CPIA said that an overwhelming 89% of Canadians prefer that non-recyclable plastics go to an EFW facility rather than landfill.

The organisation added that this support holds steady across both geography, ranging from a "low" of 85% in Quebec, rising to 87% in BC, 88% in Alberta, 90% in Ontario, 92% in Atlantic Canada, and 94% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

"These polling results help us to understand the perceptions of the Canadian public when it comes to managing unrecyclable plastics," commented Krista Friesen, vice president of Sustainability at CPIA.

"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,” she continued.

“For those materials, we believe that alternative technologies which allow for energy recovery have an important role to play in Canada's waste hierarchy," Friesen concluded.

The poll found that recovering energy from non-recyclable plastics, as opposed to landfill, has solid support in all age groups, ranging from a "low" of 86% among the 65+ set to 94% among those aged 55-64 - 89% of young people (ages 18-34) see waste to energy as a preferred option.

Additionally, there is solid support from both sexes. Women are more likely than men to say they would prefer non-recyclable plastics go to a waste to energy facility, with 86% support among men and 91% among women.

Canadians also understand that these strong opinions come with consequences - 63% indicated they would support the use of waste to energy in their immediate community.

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