Operators of Pemberton compost facility Sea to Sky Soils presented to council once again Tuesday (Sept. 4) to continue the push to get the municipality onboard with a ban on organic food waste from Whistler’s waste stream, and to clarify some past concerns held by staff surrounding the proposed program.
Sea to Sky Soils director Mateo Ocejo has requested the RMOW implement a waste management program that would separate organic food waste from Whistler’s biosolids, which would result in a nutrient-rich compost that could be used by local certified organic farms. Compost produced with biosolids is a prohibited compost feedstock in organic agriculture.
“What we’re coming with you today is a request to support a regional ban on organics from the waste stream. You might ask what does that ban mean? It’s no different than banning bottles and cans from the waste stream. It’s something that gets the public talking about food waste, the biggest chunk of our waste we haven’t recycled yet,” Ocejo said.
Municipal staff has expressed its reluctance to include the Sea to Sky Soils facility within the resort’s Solid Waste Management Plan in the past, saying diverting food waste would result in according to a 2012 letter from the RMOW’s general manager of infrastructure services Joe Paul. Carney’s Waste Systems is currently contracted to operate Whistler’s waste facilities, including the Whistler Compost Facility in the Callaghan.
Following recent meetings between Sea to Sky Soils and the municipality, RMOW staff determined that diverting the resort’s organic waste to the facility would result in an estimated $50,000 in annual savings, although Ocejo thinks the number could be much higher than that. The diversion would allow for more biosolids to be processed at the Whsitler Compost Facility, which experiences overflow in peak periods in the resort and ships excess waste to a landfill in Washington State as a result.
“The staff (is) very carefully looking at how we can reduce our waste and reduce our costs, so some of these suggestions by Sea to Sky Soils may well fall, and in fact some of them do fall within some of the thinking that staff has right now,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The goal of the presentation to council was to clarify some of the concerns staff has had with a potential food waste diversion program, particularly around the potential costs to the municipality.
“One of the big questions obviously is always cost, and a couple of the issues that staff raised, was that ‘We can’t impose this on the community, it’s going to be too much of a cost.’ And what we’ve always said is ‘You’re not producing any more garbage, you’re not producing any more waste. All you’re doing is taking it from one container and putting it in another.’” Ocejo said.
The processing cost at Sea to Sky Soils’ Rutherford facility is $75 a tonne, the same as the current rate at the Whistler Compost Facility, Ocejo said.
Whistler’s waste management strategy is unique, as there is no curbside pick-up for residents as in most communities, which could make organic diversion more difficult for the average Whistlerite, although Ocejo said the real focus on the program would be on local restaurants, hotels and grocery stores.
“Whistler, as far as the residents go, it’s more complicated because not everyone’s here full-time, but it’s really for the businesses,” he said. “It’s difficult to enforce … but you’re going to try and encourage restaurants and grocery stores to recycle that waste, and by having that information in the press, it’s not something that is a matter of if it’s going to happen here, it’s a matter of when.”
Other B.C. communities, such as Victoria, and Metro Vancouver, have banned organics from their waste stream, according to Ocejo.
The RMOW is currently reviewing ways to reduce costs within its waste management strategy, and is considering diverting food waste seasonally to the Sea to Sky Soils facilty, although Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey said he’s unsure if the program would be in place this winter.