Owen Carney said it was "just the right thing to do."
The man, whose name has become synonymous with recycling in the Sea to Sky corridor, recently invested $8 million into his Squamish garbage facility to bring a new form of recycling to the corridor – commercial composting.
Now organic waste from food can be mixed with wood waste to produce a high-grade topsoil.
It was the final step in a recycling operation that already deals with paper, aluminum, glass and plastic.
"To pull this off it was a huge, huge project for our little community," said Carney to a gathering of employees, community members and local politicians on Friday, May 21 at the grand opening of the facility.
"This isn’t the easy path but we know it’s the right path... for a sustainable future."
MLA Ted Nebbeling cut a pink ribbon early Friday afternoon, officially declaring the composting facility open.
For the former Whistler mayor it was a significant moment.
Nebbeling recalled when he was mayor of Whistler more than a decade ago, he also looked at the possibility of composting in the corridor as a way of dealing with the copious organic waste from the resort’s restaurants and hotels.
But the technology in those days couldn’t guarantee an operation wouldn’t leak odours into the community.
"It would have been a very smelly operation most likely," said Nebbeling.
Technology has come a long way since then.
Though the Squamish facility has had odour problems over the past three months, Carney is confident the problems have been fixed with the addition of a negative air system during the curing process.
"It’ll be onward and upward from here, I promise," he said.
Six years ago Carney began thinking about the possibility of composting in the corridor. The past years have been spent researching for the best technology possible that would suit a facility in an industrial area.
Ultimately he chose a Canadian technology designed by Jim Wright. The Wright technology is used in countries throughout the world.
"This is our latest and best machine," said Wright, standing in the bay where all the raw organic material is first loaded into the machine.
Wright explained that the whole process is just like baking a cake by balancing the right mixture of carbon and nitrogen from sewage, food waste and wood.
Once together the mixture is treated with heat which kills off any bugs.
The product then sits in a tunnel for 14 days where it is constantly fluffed and turned.
At the end of the process the mixture goes into large curing bays where it sits for another 30 days as topsoil.
Picking up a handful of the soil, Wright breathed in deeply.
"It smells like the forest floor," he said, tossing the soil back onto the heap.
"It’ll go back to grow crops again, which I think is the only answer for the future anyway."
Carney’s will ultimately sell the soil but they are still in the process of perfecting the finished product.
The Squamish facility takes 50 tons of raw materials every day and turns that waste into 25 tons of soil. That’s 50 tons a day which is diverted from the landfill.
"It keeps a valuable resource from being wasted," said David Allen, manager of utilities and community services for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, who also attended the grand opening.
"It’s about closing the loop."
There are currently a number of Whistler hotels and restaurants participating in the program, among them the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Pan Pacific and the Westin Resort and Spa.
The waste is picked up by Carney’s and transported down to the Squamish facility.
And now Whistler residents can take part in the program too. The attendant at the transfer station in the Whistler landfill is accepting organic waste from the public for free.
Fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products, bread and baked goods, coffee and tea grounds and some paper and wood products will be accepted at the Whistler landfill.
Squamish residents can drop off their organic waste at the Carney’s Organic Recycling facility at 38950 Queen’s Way.
For more information contact the Zero Waste Co-ordinator, Marc Zurbuchen, at 604-938-2881.