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Composting facility up and running

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More customers needed to cover costs of central Squamish facility

Carney’s Waste Systems’ new centralized composting facility in Squamish is officially up and running, and accepting waste from almost 20 different Whistler restaurants, grocery stores and hotels. An average of two more customers are signing on each week.

Carney’s needs about 4,190 tonnes of organic food and yard waste each year to break even, and they believe they are already a quarter of the way there with an estimated 1,000 tonnes.

The facility will also be open to the public shortly, and Carney’s is looking at ways to collect household waste from Sea to Sky communities.

"We’re targetting local businesses right now, like restaurants and grocery stores with a commercial education program, as well as construction sites," said Melahnie Moodie, the environmental educator for Carney’s Waste Systems. Moodie gave a presentation on the facility to AWARE at their annual monthly meeting on April 1.

"It’s a voluntary sign-up right now. We’re going into businesses to give them our brochure and information about it, and if they want in we arrange to come by and make pickups once, twice a week, depending on how much (organic) waste they’re producing," said Moodie.

Education is key to the process she adds, and staff have to be trained to separate garbage and keep metal and plastic out of the compost process.

One of the main benefits for companies is the low tipping fees. Carney charges just $45 a tonne to remove compost, compared to $76 a tonne for the landfill.

Construction companies are already diverting their untreated wood and cardboard waste from the rest of their waste stream, which is needed to fuel the compost system. By doing so they lower their tipping fees for those items to $65 a tonne compared to $121.

Carney’s has not released the exact cost of building the composting centre, but it is estimated to be in the $5 million range for the facility, which includes a pair of Wright In-Vessel systems that can turn a mixture of food and wood waste into compost in just 14 days, plus three weeks to cure the mixture. Each of the units can accept more than 136 kilograms of waste each day.

In 2001 Whistler achieved a 50 per cent reduction in waste going to the landfill with the introduction of recycling programs. If household waste is added to the compost program, the amount of waste heading to Whistler’s landfill could be reduced by up to another 30 per cent said Moodie.

Once the compost is cured, Carney’s is hoping to get top marks for the quality of the material, in order to recover more costs through the sale of the compost.

"They test all the different levels in the compost, and make sure that it’s not phyto-toxic, it’s not going to kill the plants," Moodie said. "After all that you want to be able to use it.

"The end product sale is needed to make this viable."

The cost of the end product will be comparable to similar material in the Lower Mainland at $20 a yard.

Compost, says Moodie, is the key to the future.

"It’s an education process, getting minds wrapped around the idea of how important these nutrients are in the food that we’re taking out of the land, and how important it is to take that and put it back into the ground," she said.

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