Whistler’s council will consider some options for new waste disposal measures in the community, a local hot-button issue that previous councils have tried to tackle in years past.
The results of two separate studies are scheduled to hit council’s plate in the new year, after which the municipality will consider alternative disposal opportunities.
The community’s solid waste contract expired last month, although the holder, Carney’s Waste Services, agreed to continue operating on a monthly basis until a new contract is tendered.
“I understand that there’s going to be tendering in the new year,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “Once the studies are (considered by council) then there will be a tender for solid waste services, and that tender would be issued sometime in the spring.”
The Squamish-based waste management company operates the Function and Nesters compactor sites and the Whistler Compost Facility in the Callaghan Valley, before hauling garbage to Surrey, where it is readied for shipment to a landfill in Washington State.
Carney’s charges the RMOW for its services based on a per month and per ton basis. The average monthly cost for these services is $180,000, according to a municipal spokesperson.
One of the studies that council will pore over in early 2013 will review strategies for garbage reduction and waste handling in the hopes of Whistler eventually becoming a zero waste society, a goal laid out in the Whistler2020 document, the resort town’s longterm vision for a sustainable future.
The other study, which is still being drafted by consulting firm Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, is a compost cost benefit analysis, which will look at potential operational changes and upgrades at Whistler’s compost facility in the Callaghan. A municipal spokesperson said the range of potential facility upgrades currently under review could cost up to $2.6 million.
“Operational changes or capital upgrades (at the compost facility), which could save money for Whistler taxpayers, will be brought to council for their consideration,” read an email from a municipal spokesperson, who could not be named in accordance with the RMOW’s communications policy.
Representatives from local agribusiness Sea to Sky Soils made a presentation to muni officials last month on alternative disposal methods for the community’s food waste. Currently, Whistler’s Callaghan Valley facility produces compost by mixing food waste with biosolids, the product that results from processing raw sewage. Organic farmers in the region cannot use this type of compost for their soil.
Company officials proposed shipping Whistler’s food waste to its facility south of Pemberton, which they said could cut municipal costs since biosolids that cannot be processed is currently being shipped to a landfill in Washington when the municipal facility is over capacity. Roughly eight per cent of the biosolids generated from Whistler were sent to the landfill last year while 30 per cent of the region’s total biosolids were shipped to the landfill.
Exploring alternative waste disposal methods is nothing new for RMOW officials. Other solutions have been proposed, like a project brought up in 2008 that would see a bear-proof garbage and recycling bin rotate between three Whistler neighbourhoods at an estimated annual cost of $83,000. The initiative would have required a slight increase in property taxes and never saw the light of day.
A garbage bus for residents to transport their waste to the necessary facilities has also been discussed, although it has been deemed an unhygienic option.
The RMOW continues to urge residents to use public transportation in favour of personal vehicles and to reduce waste while maintaining the safety of the local bear population. It’s an ongoing issue and a solution to the community’s longstanding waste disposal problem has yet to be achieved — especially for those without access to a vehicle. It’s an issue that council has not ignored, according to the mayor.
“We’re acutely aware of that problem and it’s something that we’ve talked to Whistler Transit about and I’m sure that issue will be revisited when we discuss the results of these two studies in the new year,” she said.