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Organic Matters

The municipality takes a giant step forward in achieving the goals of Whistler 2020

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South of the border, a group called COOL 2012 - standing for "Compostable Organics Out of Landfills by 2012 - is currently leading a movement to change waste management strategies across the U.S., targeting one of the leading sources of human produced methane gas. Food waste and organics comprise roughly a third of all household waste, not including sewage waste that can be captured at a treatment plant.

There is no Canadian equivalent, although several cities across Canada - starting with Halifax - have started to add food waste collection services. There is a cost involved, but the ability to sell the composted material to landscapers, gardeners, local governments and farmers help cover those costs.

While composting has always made sense from an environmental stance, organic waste is now big business. Small municipalities and large cities alike are looking to cash in on the cost-benefit savings over traditional tipping fees at landfills. As well, large waste management companies can also generate alternative revenue streams through organic management fees or tipping fees, creating jobs while they're in the process of producing an increasingly rare product, nutrient rich soil. Quoting BioCycle magazine: "Environmental benefit calculators prove that composting is the best management option from both economic and environmental perspectives."

Getting down to the business of our composter facility, three streams of waste are utilized including biosolids from our wastewater treatment facility that are rich in nitrogen, organic matter from commercial and residential sources such as food and yard waste, and untreated wood waste from construction projects and the waste transfer station that puts essential carbon into the mix.

At the facility all of the wood is ground into tiny pieces through the on-site industrial wood chipper, then mixed by the master composter with the organic waste and biosolids into batches containing roughly one third of each component - depending on the time of year and humidity in the air. From there the mix is fed on a conveyor belt into the tunnels, where over the course of 14 days the mix is broken down in a oxygen-, moisture- and temperature-controlled environment that exceeds all criteria and standards set for composting facilities in Canada, the United States, the U.K. and Europe.  

Next, the mix is fed into a hopper for curing. Currently that means trucking the waste to Squamish, due to space constraints at the Waste Transfer Station for the final steps of the process.

In Squamish the mix is then cured in a shed and screened in a process that takes roughly four months before it can be prepared into the final Composted Soil Amendment, Garden Blend and Turf Blend being offered for sale closing the recycling loop.