Following a recent municipal report on Whistler’s waste management strategy, the RMOW invited local media on a tour of its Callaghan transfer station to get a firsthand look at operations, and outline some of the changes to the system expected over the next year. The municipality made significant changes to its solid waste systems in the years leading up to the 2010 Olympics, resulting in the closing of the town’s landfill and the construction of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood. Since then, municipal staff has looked intently on how to improve operations and ultimately reduce costs, resulting in last month’s waste management strategy recommendations to council. One of the biggest changes behind the scenes for Whistler’s waste operations in 2014 will come as a result of Mutli-Material BC, a new program that will be launched in May whereby the province will purchase all the recycling from municipalities for the first time. “The recycling picture in British Columbia is going to completely change next May,” said the RMOW’s manager of environmental projects James Hallisey. “They’re going to become sort of a clearing house for any recycling product, they’re going to buy all of it, and then find their own markets to sell it. The good thing for the municipality is they said they’re going to actually pay us per ton for all this recycling.” Currently, municipalities across the province bear the costs of removing recyclable materials, like plastics, from their communities. Mutli-Material BC, will also provide financial incentives to residential stratas to increase their recycling efforts, taking some of the financial burden off municipalities. As a result of the new program, some additional costs will be incurred because a staff person is required to be on-hand at the Nester’s and Function Junction depots during operation hours to ensure the quality of what’s being recycled is maintained. “We’re not going to stay open 24 hours a day like (the transfer stations) have been for the last 20 years, so that’s going to be a big change,” Hallisey said. “That’s going to be a challenge for locals for sure.” An added benefit of the recycling program, however, is that residents will be able to drop off Styrofoam products at the depot sites beginning in the spring. The municipality doesn’t accept Styrofoam currently because of the high risk of contamination, Hallisey noted. Municipal staff is also looking at accepting mattresses at the Whistler Transfer Station in the near future to send to a Vancouver company for recycling. This would reduce costs to ship the mattresses to the Rabanco Landfill in Washington, which has been under contract to accept Whistler’s solid waste since 2005. “We get (mattresses) in here in bulk in the spring and fall,” said Carney’s compost operations manager Patrick Mulholland. “A hotel will go in and maybe change out a hundred mattresses and we’ll get them all at once, so it takes up whole container loads of space going down (to Rabanco).” One of the major cost-saving measures proposed by municipal staff to council in their recent report was to construct a dry woodchip storage facility at the Callaghan station. Woodchips are used in processing compost at the site, although current capacity is limited due to high moisture levels, especially in the winter months, which add to disposal costs. Hallisey has indicated that a new storage facility would result in a 25 per cent payback of costs within four years. The municipality sources much of its woodchips from local industry and development. “We have to store everything, so (the woodchips) I put down at the end of October, I have to live with until March until people get working again and bringing in wood. I have to try to keep it dry, which around here isn’t easy. We have to do everything with tarps. (The Whistler Transfer Station) gets about 30 feet of snowfall every year,” Mulholland said. Hallisey said the preliminary design of the storage facility will happen shortly, with the project likely to be included in next year’s municipal budget process. Staff has begun to assess the potential benefits of producing biofuels at the Callaghan site as well, which would likely be sold on the commercial markets to Vancouver cement companies looking for a way to offset their carbon tax fees. While there would be significant costs associated with installing the necessary equipment to produce biofuel at the station, Hallisey said there’s huge potential for added revenue to the municipality compared to the production and sale of compost soil. “Essentially this facility could potentially change so we don’t make any compost soil. Maybe we can do half and half, there’s a possibility to go that route as well,” he said. “It’s going to come back as a community decision. Right now we’re producing (compost) that’s coming back and being used by the community. If we’re going towards biofuel, there’s no benefit back to Whistler, but maybe there’s a big financial benefit. It’s going to have to be a bit of a balancing act.” Hallisey said he expects a proposal to council regarding the production of biofuel to come before council in the fall. The municipality could also reduce further shipping costs by diverting a portion of the community’s food waste to the organic recycling facility, Sea to Sky Soils, in the Rutherford area. This would also enable more biosolids to be processed at the Whistler Waste Facility. During peak periods in the resort, Whistler’s compost facility is unable to handle its entire volume of biosolids, with excess waste sent to Rabanco. “We haven’t had that option until just this year when (Sea to Sky Soils) started full production in the last few months, so we’re going to look at that this winter,” said Hallisey.