The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has been sharing knowledge on a global scale.
Ben Van Nostrand, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District's (CSRD) Team Leader of Environmental Health, recently visited Vietnam to help find options for some of that country's waste management issues.
During his stay, Van Nostrand helped to determine ways a closed landfill site in the city of Hoi An could be rehabilitated, improve landfill operations in the city of Bac Giang and assist in diverting organic waste from landfills in both cities.
Van Nostrand was selected to participate in this international initiative to support two medium-size cities in Vietnam as they work to implement innovative solid waste management solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada and implemented jointly by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and their Vietnamese partners ACVN (the Association of Cities in Vietnam), the focus was on reducing short-lived climate pollutants. The knowledge gained from the project is intended to eventually be replicated in other municipalities across Vietnam.
The Hoi An landfill rehabilitation project is a unique situation in that the closed landfill site is located as a walled-off area within a cemetery. Using the work undertaken at the Salmon Arm landfill as an example, Van Nostrand says the Vietnamese government officials were impressed with the concept of closing, shaping the site and planting trees to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Van Nostrand notes there is an effort in Vietnam to separate waste and recyclables, although the system is not as organized or well defined as the CSRD's system. Diverting organic waste from the landfills and composting is another area of interest for the Vietnamese.
“In both cities, Hoi An and Bac Giang, the waste composition was much different from here in Salmon Arm, with way more organic content and far less packaging. However, plastic bags are an integral part of transporting food and other goods, which is creating contamination issues," he says.
Unlike the CSRD, which has 51,400 people living in 29,000 square kilometres, Vietnam is very populous. Hanoi, for example, has 7.8 million people in 3,300 square kilometres. This comes with additional challenges when trying to manage garbage and recycling.
"The lack of overall space, narrow lanes and side streets make standardized waste collection very difficult," says Van Nostrand.
"Hopefully the information we shared, the recommendations for program development and the selection of local Vietnamese expertise will result in improvements. I’m looking forward to building on the relations we were able to establish with counterparts in local governments of Hoi An and Bac Giang."
In addition to meetings and site visits, Van Nostrand was able to visit some temples and historic sites. He was warmly welcomed by his hosts and those he met along the way.
"I would recommend visiting Vietnam to anyone, the people are kind, the food is great and the cost of living, once there, is very reasonable.”
In addition to this project funded by ECCC, Global Affairs Canada funds a number of international projects run by FCM. These projects offer Canada's local elected officials and municipal staff opportunities to foster lasting economic development, empower local governments and encourage environmental sustainability in the Ukraine, Haiti, and in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These programs also help Canada contribute to the United Nation's sustainable development goals.
Photo at top: Ben Van Nostrand, CSRD Team Leader of Environmental Health, speaks to a group of Vietnamese officials interested in new techniques to improve their waste management systems. (Photo contributed)
Photo above: Push carts are a common way waste is collected in Vietnam. (Ben Van Nostrand/CSRD photo)
Photo below: A view of the closed landfill in Hoi An, Vietnam, with the view of the cemetery in the background. (Ben Van Nostrand/CSRD photo)