By Alison Taylor
Whistler’s garbage has joined the fight against climate change.
For the past two months, a gas flaring system has been
collecting harmful methane gas seeping out of the old landfill and converting
it into carbon dioxide.
The change will save roughly 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions from entering the atmosphere this year alone — or the
equivalent of what 4,200 average Canadians produce annually.
“This is a good news story,” said Mayor Ken Melamed at the May
7 council meeting when the report was presented.
The flaring system is part of a $6 million project to close the
landfill. That project includes covering the landfill with a plastic liner,
which traps the landfill gas, and installing vertical wells and pipes to
collect the gas.
The municipality’s manager of environmental projects, James
Hallisey, told council that to date the system has not collected as much gas as
expected. Staff will continue to monitor that because if the numbers improve
the gas could be used to provide heat to the district energy system at the
future athletes’ village or to fuel the boilers at the nearby sewage treatment
Alternatively, the methane will continue to be collected and
One tonne of methane has the same GHG effect as 21 tonnes of
carbon dioxide emissions. That’s why the landfill is the biggest point source
of GHG emissions in the resort, accounting for 15 per cent of emissions
Over a projected lifespan of 25 years, the flaring system could
reduce approximately 450,000 tonnes of GHG emissions — or the equivalent
of what 90,000 Canadians produce annually.
“It’s a pretty significant amount that’s coming off all the
time,” said Hallisey.
The Whistler landfill is below the size required by provincial
legislation for gas collection but the flaring system was seen by the
municipality as a prudent move because of the close proximity to the athletes’
village and because it is consistent with the municipality’s commitment to
Whistler could soon be recognized as one of top municipalities
in Canada committed to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
It is part of a network of more than 140 Canadian municipal governments committed to reducing GHG emissions and acting on climate change through the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program. Only Edmonton and Calgary are ahead of Whistler in achieving the highest level of commitment to GHG reduction to date.