A Pemberton-based composting facility that recently began operations has asked the Resort Municipality of Whistler to consider sending its food waste North instead of to its own composting facility.
Representatives from Sea to Sky Soils were in front of council earlier this month during a committee of the whole meeting to make their pitch and respond to concerns the RMOW has expressed to the Squamish Lillooet Regional District about the new facility.
Director Mateo Ocejo told council the company’s goal for producing soil for organic food production is very much in line with the resort’s values and specifically those contained in the Whistler2020 sustainability plan.
He said the Whistler Composting Facility, located in the Callaghan Valley, produces compost by mixing food waste with biosolids, which is the final product of processing raw sewage.
“Mixing food waste and biosolids is not typically done in the industry,” Ocejo said, adding that local organic farmers cannot use Whistler’s compost because of that fact. “We want to support local organic farming and separate food waste from biosolids.
“The main reason we are coming to you today is we would like to get your support to stop comingling of food waste and biosolids.”
The proposed solution, said Ocejo, would be for Whistler’s food waste to go to the Sea to Sky Soils facility instead, and Whistler’s composting facility to continue to process biosolids.
The abundance of biosolids has been an ongoing issue for the Whistler facility. It accepts Pemberton and Squamish’s biosolids as part of its operations as well as the diverted food waste in the resort. However, during the peak season from December to April the Whistler facility is over capacity.
The result is the regional biosolids that cannot be processed are then shipped to the Rabanco Landfill in Washington approximately 600 kilometres from the resort for the one-way trip. Last year 30 per cent of the total biosolids generated in the Sea to Sky corridor were shipped to the landfill, including eight per cent from Whislter specifically.
Ocejo submitted that by not shipping those biosolids to Washington the RMOW would see a cost savings that would offset the revenue of accepting and processing local food waste.
The issue of financial impacts of Sea to Sky Soils on RMOW operations was the subject of a letter from general manager of infrastructure services Joe Paul to the SLRD.
“It is the view of the Resort Municipality of Whistler that this application to the SLRD to include the Sea to Sky Soils facility within the Solid Waste Management Plan is of unknown impact to our existing solid waste facilities,” wrote Paul in the letter dated Sept. 10. “Further detailed information is required in order to understand the impact of the movement of solid wastes within the region and throughout the Lower Mainland.”
While the RMOW did not support approval of the Sea to Sky Soils operations, it has received zoning approvals from the Village of Pemberton and permits from the Ministry of Environment. It is currently accepting agriculture waste and expects to receive food waste from local restaurants in December.
Ocejo said while local restaurants and businesses in Whistler are supportive of the idea of contributing food waste back to the farms that supply them through the soil compost project, they are looking to locally elected officials to lead the way in supporting it.
Sea to Sky Soils operator and organic farmer Jaye-Jay Berggren said to council both operations can exist in the corridor and compliment each other operations without a negative financial impact while at the same time supporting the local economy.
He said farmers in the Pemberton area need fertilizer that will meet the requirement of the Certified Organic Association of British Columbia. Whistler’s compost product does not because of biosolids, but Berggren said with Sea to Sky Soils operating in the region it will reduce the need to truck organic feedstock into the area.
“We want to make a boutique soil that is nutrient rich and tailored specifically to grow food,” he said. “We would like to directly support farmers in this area.”
The RMOW letter also expressed concern about the need for wood fibre to compost at both facilities, noting its operations have had difficulty in obtaining necessary amounts.
“With the creation of another compost facility, the RMOW foresees increased competition for this necessary product in the region, potentially resulting in increased pricing or supply interruptions,” wrote Paul.
Ocejo and Berggren explained to council and staff at the meeting that by using a Gore Cover System Technology it allows their composting to occur at high temperatures from 40 to 60 days, whereas Whistler’s facility’s process lasts 10 to 14 days.
They said as a result Sea to Sky Soils can process cedar woodwaste, which is regionally available, at a mix of 40 per cent wood fibre and 60 per cent food waste.
“It is important to recycle regional cedar woodwaste as it is one of the most common coniferous trees found throughout our local forests and yards,” wrote Ocejo in a letter to the RMOW. “Sea to Sky Soils has already secured a substantial amount of woodwaste that is not being captured by the WCF and therefore will not negatively impact the current supplies of woodwaste used in the WCF process.”
He added the longer processing time also helps breakdown items found in food waste like compostable plastics, which don’t fully decompose Whistler’s product.
Aministration is expected to report back to council at one of its regular meetings on the issue in the near future.