Just a bunch of garbage Social attitudes about trash will change when cost goes up It's going to become more expensive to get rid of garbage, but folks in Whistler just don't seem to care. With the implications of the provincial Solid Waste Management Act looming on the horizon, the cost of creating, operating and maintaining landfills in this province is going to increase up to 150 per cent, according to local officials involved with solid waste management. On Dec. 6, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional district held a meeting at Whistler council chambers to get public input into legislation that will cut back solid waste in B.C. by 50 per cent by the year 2000 - no one showed up, says Mark Rowlands, the SLRD's solid waste management co-ordinator. Rowlands says maybe the garbage problem, and the future costs associated with it, are not being recognized by the public and that could create some waves in the future when the SLRD has to move to implement a user-pay system for landfill usage. For generations, North Americans have been unaware of garbage - where it goes, how it is managed, how much it costs to manage - out of sight out of mind. The process involves three stages. The first, a complete study of existing landfills in the SLRD, was completed last year. The second, a detailed cost analysis of feasible options, is currently underway. The third step, the implementation of the favoured options will not be undertaken by the SLRD board of directors until all public input has been gathered. Rowlands says the new guidelines have us on the verge of legislation that will create a user-pay system for trash - the more you throw out, the more you pay. "We are on the edge looking into the way things will be done," Rowlands says. "People are definitely going to have to pay more to get rid of their garbage, but people are also going to get feedback on the costs of the garbage they produce. If you put out one bag a week, you should benefit from your reduction efforts more than your neighbour who puts out 12 bags a week." In Whistler, Rowlands says there are two options: create a new landfill in the lower end of the Callaghan Valley, or expand the existing landfill near the Cheakamus River. And to top it off the Whistler Landfill is almost full. Rhona Hunter, an environmental engineer with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, says the RMOW recently had a private study done on the landfill to assess its life-span. Operating under current rates, Whistler has "four to seven years of landfill on the existing footprint." The existing footprint of the landfill covers 45-50 hectares and the municipality's lease in the area is made up of a "significant" amount of land, not all of it suitable for landfill, Hunter says. According to Hunter, the Solid Waste Management Act is going to change the three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle into five, adding Recovery and Residual Management to the list. One of the most costly things associated with solid waste is the maintenance of landfill sites and the deactivation of old sites. Hunter says if a new landfill is going to be looked at by the municipality, that, plus the cost of looking after the old one, could increase substantially. "I think there is no doubt about it, every community in the province is going to have some financial effect from the cost of solid waste," Hunter says. "It would be foolhardy not to expect some cost increases. There is a price to being environmentally conscious." The bottom line, people are going to have to educate themselves and others about the costs, both social and financial, when it comes to garbage disposal - the out of sight, out of mind adage is not going to do the trick any more. "People just haven't had to think about waste before," Hunter says. "A lot of the ongoing costs as a society in B.C., and in the rest of the world, are just beginning to be experienced."