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Pique: Can you touch a bit on the composting facilities' role in Whistler 2020?
Brian: It is closely linked with Whistler 2020 as the plan has a solid waste component in it which is all about reducing waste, eventually working towards zero waste.
Pique: What have been the main challenges with the facility so far?
Brian: This was a very large project for the municipality that had to be accelerated for a few reasons. This compost system was being operated down in Squamish and was shut down due to odour problems at the time (which is no longer an issue at the current site due to the newly installed bio filter) so we were faced with a bit of a time pressure as they had to move the facility off that site. And also on the other side we had to accelerate the closure of the Whistler landfill for construction of the athletes village, all while accommodating the very significant capital project of upgrading our wastewater treatment plant, and our water system was going through some major changes.
Pique: What have been the biggest successes of Whistler Composting?
Brian: The project came in on budget while operating better than expected, with the market currently buying all the product we are producing. It is great for the community in terms of supporting Whistler 2020 in significantly reducing our waste while at the same time reducing our costs of trucking garbage all the way down to Washington State and paying a higher tipping fee. If I can use the phrase, "We can save money while saving the environment."
Pique: So there is a cost recovery looking at the cost of the facility versus the cost of transferring the waste down to Washington State?
Brian: Yes, it's more expensive for the municipality to send its waste to the landfill in Washington State than it is to process at our compost facility here. So even though we are operating at a cost-neutral basis, we are saving a large portion of our disposal fees.
The finished product is actually a separate business model on top of that, with the revenue going into reserves in our solid waste utility for doing further recycling initiatives.
With a total of 900 to 1,000 tonnes a month consisting of biosolids, organic waste and wood waste being processed in the Callaghan, that's up to 45 five-tonne trucks per month being diverted from the landfill in Washington State, while also saving space in the landfill, producing a much needed product, and reducing the green house gas emissions associated with transporting the waste by truck and train across the border.