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March, 2016:

Electronic road pricing plan for Hong Kong’s Central district slammed by local councillors

Government should instead target rampant illegal parking in business district as way to ease congestion, they say

Central district councillors on Thursday united in bashing the government’s plan to introduce electronic road pricing in the neighbourhood, saying the policy by itself could not ease chronic road congestion and pollution in Hong Kong’s core business district.

They argued the government should instead prioritise confronting problems such as rampant illegal parking and the lack of parking spaces.

Liberal Party councillor Joseph Chan Ho-lim, representing the Peak constituency, said the root cause of traffic jams in Central was widespread double-parking in key arteries such as Queen’s Road Central and Chater Road.

“Right now, the problem of severe congestion in Central is not about more cars or fewer cars coming to Central. The problem is the cars in Central don’t move at all,” said Chan. “Why the cars don’t move? It’s because of illegal parking … parts of the roads are always blocked.

“What angers me the most is when the police and traffic officers see illegal parking, they don’t issue a ticket and just ask them to leave.”

Council vice-chairman Chan Hok-fung questioned why a road tax was needed at all.

“It’s illegal parking. We said this 90,000 times in district council … but nothing was done to alleviate [it],” said Chan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong .

“We are going to have the Central-Wan Chai Bypass. Is there a need to do electronic road pricing? Why can’t we wait until the bypass is opened?”

The bypass is a highway being built to alleviate congestion in Central, but it will not open in 2017 as scheduled because of technical difficulties.

Cheng lai-king, of the Democratic Party, worried the road tax would be implemented at the expense of residents in Mid-Levels.

“I felt angry after reading the documents,” Cheng said. “It’s punishing the residents of Mid-Levels. Some streets in the area aren’t served by public transport and driving is a must.”

Kam Nai-wai, of Sheung Wan constituency, blamed the government for creating the congestion in the first place because of poor town planning.

“There is so much commercial development in Central. This was the reason why there was so much more traffic into the area in the first place,” he said. “There is a car park in Murray Road but [the government] is planning to remove it.”

In response, principal assistant secretary for Transport and Housing (Transport), Cordelia Lam Wai-ki, reiterated the administration currently holds “an open attitude” on electronic road pricing, which is only one of the 12 suggestions it was studying to ease traffic jams in the city.

“We are not only relying on electronic road pricing to solve traffic congestion,” said Lam. “Last year, the Transport Advisory Committee suggested to increase fixed the penalty for illegal parking by 50 per cent from HK$320 to HK$488. We are working on it.

“As to the details of [electronic road pricing], we haven’t set any framework and we want to hear your voice.”

The public consultation on the road tax ends next Friday.
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Carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere spike

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The development is significant because Mauna Loa Observatory is the oldest continuous atmospheric measurement station in the world and is widely regarded as a benchmark site in the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Atmosphere Watch network.


WMO will issue its own report on greenhouse gas concentrations in 2015 later this year, based on data from 50 countries, including stations high in the Alps, Andes and Himalayas, as well as in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the far South Pacific.

In January and February 2016, the monthly average concentration of CO₂ across the globe (not just Mauna Loa) passed the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per million.

In February, the level was 402.59 ppm, according to NOAA.

The jump in CO₂ is partially due to the current El Niño weather pattern, as forests, plant life and other terrestrial systems responded to changes in weather, precipitation and drought, according to NOAA. The largest previous increase occurred in 1998, also a strong El Niño year.

“The impact of El Niño on CO₂ concentrations is a natural and relatively short-lived phenomenon,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “But the main long-term driver is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. We have the power and responsibility to cut these.”

“This should serve as a wake-up call to governments about the need to sign the Paris Climate Agreement and to take urgent action to make the cuts in CO₂ emissions necessary to keep global temperature rises to well below 2°C,” he said.

CO₂ remains in the atmosphere even for tens of thousands of years, trapping heat and causing Earth to warm further.

Its lifespan in the oceans is even longer. It is the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities.

Concentrations of CO₂ are subject to seasonal and regional fluctuations. The seasonal maximum usually occurs early in the Northern hemisphere spring before vegetation growth absorbs CO₂. Levels are lower for the rest of the year.

The amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere has increased on average by 2 ppm per year for the past 10 years, reaching new record levels every year, according to WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The next Bulletin, based on observations from around the world, will be published in November 2016.

The Global Atmosphere Watch network spans more than 50 countries. All stations are situated in unpolluted locations.

Reinhold Pape

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How Can Product Designers Help Solve The World’s Massive E-Waste Problem?

Every gadget you casually toss helps destroy the planet—and lives. It’s time we think about the lasting effects of what we’re building and buying.

In February, a new smartphone launched in India that cost the equivalent of $3.60. The quickly dropping price of electronics, along with rising incomes around the world, means that there will soon be many more gadgets in the market. And when a newer, cheaper one comes along in a year, many more of them will end up as electronic waste.

That’s one of the points made in a new exhibition on e-waste at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, which shows the changing landscape of electronic production, consumption, and disposal, and asks how designers can start to help address the problem.

“I think when you live in the U.S. or Europe, you’re not so exposed to this—you don’t see the social and environmental consequences,” says Shaun Fynn, CEO and creative director of StudioFynn, a design firm that collaborated on the exhibition. While living in India for a commercial design research project, Fynn started photographing waste pickers sorting through e-waste in unregulated dumps, and researching the full lifecycle of products such as phones and tablets.

For a waste picker, a cell phone—filled with copper, silver, and a little gold—is a valuable source of income. But shredding and burning a gadget to get out those valuable components can also expose someone to lead poisoning or toxic dust that can lead to respiratory disease.

In the past, most e-waste might have been sent to the developing world from places like the U.S. Today, almost as much is now generated domestically. Over the last seven years, domestic e-waste in India and China grew about eight times larger. By 2014, China generated over 6 million metric tons of e-waste. By 2018, the world will be throwing out 50 million metric tons of gadgets. By 2019, 5 billion people will own a mobile phone, with 1.4 billion connections in China and 1 billion in India.

Designers can help by designing phones and other electronics for easy disassembly and recycling at the end of the product’s life. But they can also try to pressure brands to rethink their responsibility for a gadget when a consumer no longer wants it.

“I’d be interested to see how designers can influence the thinking of their clients to look to how we can have services to take things back,” says Fynn. “I think designers are in a position now with clients and corporations where people listen to them a little bit more. I think they should have a little bit more of a voice to encourage that responsibility.”

Brands usually ignore the end of a product’s life, but that doesn’t really make sense. “Once products reach the end of their lifecycle, the brand promise of the advertising message is no longer true,” he says. “It’s no longer there, yet the product still exists in the environment. People are working with it; it’s affecting people’s lives. It’s affecting their health.”

Though a few state-of-the-art e-waste recycling centers exist, most processing still happens in the informal economy. “E-waste workers are really doing work that no one else wants to do, or no one else has collectively come together to do,” Fynn says. “So really they’re forming a front line. Without them in the environment, nothing would be reprocessed. They’re filling a part of the system that we haven’t yet really evolved our own methods and services to understand.”

It’s something that brands could easily take on. “I think we’re very good at understanding production, understanding consumers, but we’re not very good at understanding the world of the receiver—the people that work with the waste,” he says. “I think that’s what strikes me most from running a design agency. I know how sophisticated production methods are. I know how sophisticated clients are to bring things to market, but once we get to this end of market, it’s a different world.”

It’s an issue that design schools like Parsons are also trying to tackle. “We are interested in the myriad generative ways diverse fields—including industrial design, psychology, and urban policy—can begin to model a more sustainable future,” says Rama Chorpash, director of the industrial design MFA at Parsons, who helped organize the exhibit as part of student work exploring design for disassembly.

The project will bring together experts to talk about the problem of e-waste on March 11.

Countries Generating The Most Trash Per Capita

Island nations seem to have a proclivity towards generating trash.

Despite pushes for recycling and responsible resource use globally, waste generated from human activities is still a major problem virtually everywhere. Below, we have listed the countries generating the highest levels of per capita household waste in the world, based on mucinicpal waste management data. According to World Bank data, island nations, including several in the Caribbean, top the list.

The Bahamas, 3.25 kilograms per capita per day

The Bahamas is made up of a series of islands in the Caribbean Sea, located to the south of the U.S. state of Florida. Its capital, Nassau, can be found on the island of New Providence, and that same city has a population of more than 250,000 residents. The Bahamas has a serious waste disposal problem, with its Harrold Road landfill taking up an area of 100 acres and being prone to outbreaks of dangerous fires. These often result in contaminating the surrounding area with toxic materials such as mercury. Although the nation’s trash is separated into residential and commercial waste, unlike other nations citizens of the Bahamas have become accustomed to disposing of hazardous materials like paint, oil, and old batteries directly into garbage bins. This is done without regard to the damages these substances may cause the environment, on either a short- or long-term basis.

Vanuatu, 3.28 kilograms per capita per day

Vanuatu consists of over 80 islands. The country is located in the South Pacific Ocean, just to the east of Australia. Besides threats caused by climate change, such as a rise in water levels, Vanuatu is also dealing with a significant level of environmental damages due to pollution. Trash management is limited in the village areas where most of the nation’s residents live. Vanuatu’s important tourism industry has also contributed to its large scale waste disposal problems. Rather than being handled by municipal authorities, the business of collecting trash in areas devoted to international visitors is handled by private companies. Despite having several recycling facilities, most citizens of Vanuatu are accustomed to either burning or dumping their trash in convenient locations, many lying not far from their homes or workplaces.

Ireland, 3.58 kilograms per capita per day

When most people think of Ireland, they imagine fields of green, scenic vistas, and picturesque country towns. The Emerald Isle is also known for its beer, culture, history, and vibrant tourist industry. Beneath this attractive surface, however, lurks an ugly reality. In recent years, the country’s infrastructure and public services have suffered, and currently the state of its domestic public sanitation system is sorely lacking in efficiency. Littering has become a major problem, especially in the nation’s most populated urban centers. Many local residents seem to have little concern for this problem, nor for the serious environmental repercussions such illegal activities have on the Irish quality of life and the future of their country.

New Zealand, 3.68 kilograms per capita per day

New Zealand lies in the southern portion of the Pacific Ocean, just southeast of Australia. With a population estimated to be over four and a half million residents, this island nation’s demography consists of a mix of Europeans, Maori, Asians, and Pacific peoples, as well as those from the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. Over the last 25 years, the amount of trash thrown away by New Zealanders has gone up by a staggering 75%. Because of the environmental and economic importance of the nation’s relationship with the Pacific Ocean, it’s in the best interest of all New Zealanders to play a more positive role in cleaning up the country’s garbage-clogged waters and shorelines. Trash, especially plastic, is toxic to aquatic sea life, and presents a significant danger to the ecosystem as well as the food chain at every level.

Tonga, 3.71 kilograms per capita per day

Tonga is a Polynesian country located in Oceania. It consists of over 170 islands, and is geographically characterized by a landscape composed of white sandy beaches, coral reefs, limestone cliffs, plantations, and rain forests. Besides facing national problems such as significant obesity rates, residents of Tonga must also contend with numerous environmental challenges due to the nation’s limited solid waste management facilities. Some of the main issues connected to Tonga’s poor trash treatment policies include littering, drainage contamination, and the proliferation of rats and insects, as well as drinking water pollution. All of these concerns have dire consequences, not only on the natural environment, but also in regards to the long and short term health of its citizens, as well as that of the flocks of international tourists who regularly travel there on vacation.

Solomon Islands, 4.30 kilograms per capita per day

The Solomon Islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean, and were named after King Solomon by Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana in 1568. With a population of over half a million people, this tropical archipelago faces a growing problem in terms of its lack of proper waste management policies. In the nation’s capital city of Honiara, less than half of the citizens receive regular trash collection services from the city’s Environmental Health Division. Unfortunately, for environmental and public health reasons, most urban residents have grown accustomed to simply piling up their garbage on the side of the street, where it is then “disposed of” by simply being set on fire. Another major concern facing the country is its lack of composting facilities, which has further contributed to the problem of effectively dealing with organic waste.

St. Lucia, 4.35 kilograms per capita per day

The idyllic Caribbean island of St. Lucia is located off of the north coast of South America, and is a well known and popular resort area for tourists from around the world. Visitors journey here to enjoy the country’s sandy beaches, beautiful weather, Sulphur Springs, rain forests, and upscale resorts. The issue of littering has become a major problem, however, both in terms of locals as well as island visitors. Illegal dumping has also resulted in increased populations of mosquitoes and other pests. This is especially troublesome due to the crisis involving the recent Zika virus outbreak. Water contamination and marine pollution are also major ongoing environmental issues in St. Lucia.

Barbados, 4.75 kilograms per capita per day

Lying in the eastern portion of the Caribbean Ocean, Barbados covers an area of approximately 166 square miles. This small island nation is home to an estimated 277,000 citizens that speak two official languages: English and Bajan Creole (Barbadian). Ocean pollution and the welfare of the marine environment are among the most pressing public health concerns facing this vulnerable nation. Not only are the islands themselves at risk due to dangerous trash build up, but officials are also mindful of maintaining the biodiverse coral reefs which surround the nation. In recent years, government officials have created the controversial Greenland Landfill, as well as investigating ways in which to convert Barbadian trash into energy.

Sri Lanka, 5.10 kilograms per capita per day

Sri Lanka is an island nation located south of India. Previously known as Ceylon, this nation includes a population of over 20 million people, according to 2013 statistics from the World Bank. In terms of domestic environmental policy, this small country has a total of 20 plastic recycling plants, with another three being devoted to processing paper products, one for glass products, and two for coconut shells. Sri Lanka has been significantly affected by pollution as a result of sewage contamination, as well as a large amount of waste material from industrial sources. Because of the poor state of the nation’s sanitation infrastructure, local residents are at risk for being infected by a number of serious disease, including yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, malaria, typhoid, and meningitis.

Guyana, 5.33 kilograms per capita per day

Located in the northern portion of South America, Guyana borders the countries of Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela. With English as its official language, almost half of its residents are of West Indies’ decent, followed by Africans and American indigenous peoples. Guyana boasts of having a biologically diverse environment, which includes cloud forests, swamps, dry evergreen forests, and coastal areas. Among its most popular man-made attractions are the Demerara Harbor, Berbice, and Takutu River Bridges. Guyana suffers from various problems relating to water contamination, and unsightly trash build up due to its poor waste collection services is easily visible. In urban areas such as Georgetown, a lack of effective national trash management systems has resulted in unhealthy living conditions, as well as problems with polluted rainwater drainage.

St. Kitts and Nevis, 5.45 kilograms per capita per day

St. Kitts and Nevis are two islands in the Caribbean Ocean which are presently part of the British Commonwealth. St. Kitts also has the distinction of being the site of the oldest English and French colonies in the local geographical area. Because of this long history, St. Kitts, the larger of the two islands, has been termed “The Mother Colony of the West Indies”. With a population of almost 55,000, these islands depend on an economy based on tourism, agriculture (particularly exporting sugar), and a small manufacturing sector. As with many poor island countries, St. Kitts and Nevis struggles with environmental problems relating to waste management and trash build up.

Antigua, 5.50 kilograms per capita per day

Located in the West Indies, Antigua is Spanish for “ancient”, but is known by native locals as Waladii or Wadadili. Interestingly, Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1493 as he sailed in service to the Spanish Crown, thus earning him the distinction of being the first European to travel to this tropical isle. Because of its natural beauty and favorable weather conditions, many well-known celebrities own property on the island. Among its famous part time residents include Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, and Eric Clapton (who opened the Crossroads Rehab Center on the island). Major environmental concerns plaguing the nation include water shortages and a lack of access to fresh water even when water is on hand, as well as the problems associated with untreated sewage being allowed to flow into the ocean.

Kuwait, 5.72 kilograms per capita per day

Kuwait is an Arab country which is bordered by Saudi Arabia and Iraq. With an estimated population of over four million, this Islamic state has long had difficulties providing its citizens with an adequate supply of fresh, drinkable water. The nation places a great deal of emphasis on desalination, which is essential to removing harmful minerals from saline water. Kuwait’s first such desalination plant traces its beginnings back to 1951. The country’s trash problems stem from a lack of proper landfills, which in turn has led to issues such as groundwater contamination, the release of toxic gases, and unregulated fires. Due in part to urban sprawl, many residents live in close proximity to poorly maintained landfills, and thus are exposed to an array of health risks.

Trinidad and Tobago, 14.4 kilograms per capita per day

The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are situated just north of South America, and encompass a total area of 1,980 square miles. The country is composed of nine regions and one ward, with over a million people calling the nation their home. The landscape of Trinidad and Tobago is made up of forests, coastal regions, savannas, and freshwater rivers, as well as numerous man-made attractions. A lack of recycling facilities has contributed to the country’s dire waste management issues. One of the most pressing environmental concerns on the islands is the pervasiveness of littering, which has caused rises in mosquito reproduction, as well as problems with rain water drainage. These in turn have contributed to conditions which have allowed for widespread flooding. Discarded plastic, which is especially harmful to a variety of sea life, including gulls, turtles, and fish, is also a major problem in the waters surrounding Trinidad and Tobago.

Shenzhen and Macau flight paths could clash if Hong Kong gets third runway, study finds

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Ernest Kao

Environmental group Green Sense also says split management of airspace would breach principle of ‘one country, two systems’

Nearly 43 per cent of flights landing at Shenzhen airport and over 90 per cent of departures from Macau could be affected by regional air space issues caused by Hong Kong’s planned third runway system, a study has found.

Using data from FlightAware and Flightradar24, environmental group Green Sense and the Airport Development Concern Network looked at more than 16,000 flight movements out of a total of 24,000 arriving and departing from Shenzhen’s Bao An Airport in January.

They also looked at 1,628 departures from Macau, which comprised about half of its total flight movements.

At least 5,200 arrivals and 304 departures to and from Shenzhen were at risk of crossing paths with three Hong Kong flight paths.

These included a northwest departure route from the airport’s current north runway and two paths that will be used by flights engaging in “missed approaches”, aborted landings that require circling into mainland airspace and re-entering Hong Kong.

In the case of Macau, nearly all of the analysed flights departing from its airport would potentially clash with departures from Hong Kong’s north runway.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong, believed unresolved problems would lead to Hong Kong having to give up some airspace to the mainland, leading to a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle and a repeat of the co-location controversy over the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.

Questions of constitutionality were raised when it was revealed mainland immigration officers would be allowed to operate at the link’s West Kowloon terminus.

In a Town Planning Board meeting this year, the Civil Aviation Department suggested the airspace could divided into two, with Hong Kong managing the lower portion into the mainland and the mainland managing the upper part. But Tam said this would breach Article 130 of the Basic Law.

“If we still believe in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, then Hong Kong must manage its own airspace,” he said, demanding the project be shelved.

Article 130 stipulates that the territory should be responsible on its own for matters of routine business and technical management of civil aviation.

Michael Mo, of the concern network, said the difference in mainland and Hong Kong aviation standards and measurements could also pose many issues of flight safety.

A Civil Aviation Department spokesman said an air traffic management plan would be implemented in the region with “unified” planning and standards as the ultimate goal. The plan would comply with the Basic Law and international civil aviation rules, he added.

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Scarborough condo leading way toward ‘zero waste’

One wildly successful Scarborough condo building may be a model for the city in keeping more of our garbage out of the dump.

Toronto’s path to diverting all waste from a rapidly filling landfill might start at a Scarborough condominium.

The 1,000 or so residents of Mayfair on the Green responded to skyrocketing waste fees with a multi-pronged diversion campaign. They turned the garbage chute into an organics collector, tapped city educational tools including multilingual signs and cut trash output to one dumpster every two months from one dumpster every week.

“If you really talk to the people and they really understand, they will help,” says Princely Soundranayagam, the building’s superintendent who has spearheaded the transformation since 2004.

“Also, put a dollar mark (of savings) in front of them. In the beginning it is hard to get people to change but once you explain the benefits, they will co-operate to save money and for the environment.”

The condo used to spend $7,000 to $10,000 a year to get drains cleared. The problem stopped when Soundranayagam gave residents empty containers to bring down used cooking oil. Now they sell the used oil.

Toronto Environmental Alliance is calling Mayfair on the Green an example for the kind of thinking Torontonians — and city staff — urgently need to embrace.

“They are blowing everyone out of the water” by diverting more than 85 per cent, compared with the 26-per-cent highrise average, says Emily Alfred, a senior campaigner at the environmental advocacy group.

“The city should study that building, find out what they did and use it as a model . . . get people thinking differently. The city should invest in people and education to get them excited about reducing consumption and diverting more of their waste.”

Toronto used to be a diversion leader. In 2007, when the residential diversion rate was 42 per cent, the city said it would get to 70 per cent by 2010. More than five years after that target, the rate is stalled at 53 per cent.

As the city consults Torontonians on its solid waste strategy, Toronto Environmental Alliance has released a road map to “zero waste.”

The 27-page report says the city is failing to ask why two-thirds of material in the average Toronto garbage could be diverted to existing waste programs but isn’t.

The report cites models for change and suggests Toronto invest in successful programs such as Second Harvest, which distributes surplus food from restaurants and stores to community agencies.

“If they had twice as many trucks, they could go to twice as many restaurants,” Alfred said. “There is a tool library (for reusing items) that struggles to find space, that has to rent space. The city could easily boost its diversion rate with some smart investments.”

The clock is ticking and big money is at stake. Green Lane landfill, near London, Ont., bought by Toronto a decade ago for $220 million, is expected to be full by 2029.

Alfred warned that it takes years to get environmental approvals for a new landfill. It’s expensive to bury waste, and so are technological answers like incineration. Diversion is the quickest, cheapest and best solution, she said.

The path to zero waste


41%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted
54%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

Green bins are finally starting to be offered to highrise dwellers, but with a city policy change they could be everywhere from offices to restaurants and malls, Toronto Environmental Alliance says. Community groups such as Second Harvest could be expanded and encouraged. Civic examples to follow include San Francisco, where all buildings must collect organic waste for compost.


20%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted
24%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

While Torontonians are pretty good at using blue bins, they send up to 84,000 tonnes of recyclables to landfill every year. Consistent rules ensuring people have the same access to blue bins at home and work would boost the diversion rate. Companies need to reduce packaging. In Vancouver, businesses are forced to collect the same recyclables as homes and schools.

Hazardous waste, electronic waste, durable goods

4%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted
4%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

These items are a small part of the waste stream but pose environmental and health hazards. In Toronto it is inconvenient for businesses, schools and others to dispose of hazardous and electronic materials properly. Mobile, highly visible depots would help. Community partners that could be expanded include the REBOOT second-hand computer service.


6%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted
4%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

Clothing, toys and furniture that could have a second life are dumped in landfill every day. Reusing those items is even better than recycling because it conserves the energy that went into producing them. The Toronto Tool Library, Repair Café Toronto and Kind Exchange are showing the way. Regulations could force companies to make products with longer life spans.

Metro Vancouver`s Decision to Cancel Incinerator Procurement Gives True Zero Waste a Chance!

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