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Composting facility opening soon

Residents can drop off food waste at Function Junction, Nesters

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By the end of the month, residents will be able to truck vegetable peelings, tea bags and dead flowers to Whistler’s two compactor sites, instead of throwing the organic waste straight into the trash.

Construction of Whistler’s $13.7 million composting facility is done, and the plant is ready to transform solid sewage and organic waste into fertilizer.

“This is pretty exciting and it has taken a lot of commitment and determination to get us here,” said Mayor Ken Melamed, standing inside the still-clean cement building on Thursday, Oct. 30.

“I do not know how many communities in B.C. are doing this, but there are not many. Whistler is taking a leadership role.”

The facility, located in the Callaghan, next to the waste transfer station, will be able to treat about 10,000 tonnes of organic waste a year through a system of tunnels and bacteria. Whistler currently produces 6,000 tonnes a year.

After the organic waste is treated in the Callaghan, it will be trucked to Squamish and cured prior to sale. The facility can make up to 20,000 cubic yards of compost soil, as well as a useable biofuel.

Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental services for the municipality, said the composter will help the municipality move towards its goal of “zero waste.”

Whistler’s waste is currently carted to a landfill in Washington state run by Rabanco. Carney’s also moves composting material from 60 per cent of Whistler’s businesses to a facility in Delta, B.C.

“The money that would be sent down to Washington state will stay here instead,” said Barnett.

“It creates more jobs, and it reduces costs. It did cost a lot of capital, but there is a long-term benefit associated with that capital. The value gained is immeasurable.”

Capital costs have climbed almost $5 million since construction began in 2006.

Engineers are also hopefully the new plant will not be too smelly. The compost facility in Squamish closed in 2006 primarily because of strong odours.

“We do not anticipate there will be significant odours coming from it,” said the municipality’s capital projects manager John Nelson, adding that the facility has back up machinery if needed.

“The operations have been designed for odour control.”

Even though the facility is opening soon, Owen Carney — charged with its operations until 2012 – stressed that it will take a few months before the composter operates at full capacity. The winter will be more of a trial period, he said.

For a complete list of waste that can be brought to the compost collection bins in Function Junction and Nesters, visit the municipality’s website at www.whistler.ca .

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