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Solid waste reviews now underway

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SLRD looking at future of area landfills

The regional district is getting a two-year head start on reviewing the future of solid waste in the area.

"There are a number of issues in the south that have come up over the last year or two," said Dave Allen, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District manager of utilities and community services.

"We’re not required to start this review process until 2004 (but) we’re going to start looking at trying to do it earlier than that."

Two resolutions were passed at the SLRD board meeting on Monday.

The first would see the creation of a Southern Regional Technical Advisory Committee (SRTAC), which would immediately begin the review process to allow Squamish to extend the life of its sanitary landfill.

The second resolution would allow the SRTAC to begin a cursory examination of budgets and scope for the required review of the SLRD Solid Waste Management Plan.

The Solid Waste Management Plan was first approved in November 1999. It must be reviewed every five years.

Recent developments have spurred on this early review process.

The Compost Feasibility Study completed earlier this year gave the green light for centralized composting in the south. The study reported that at the very least 17 per cent of organic waste could be diverted from area landfills.

And there is the potential for quite a bit more said Allen, as residents slowly get used to composting and become more educated.

He estimates that up to 30 per cent can be diverted.

The study put certain limitations on composting in the south. For example, it would not be reasonable to expect curbside collection of organic food waste in Whistler, which would attract bears and other wildlife.

But it would be feasible to have a depot in town where residents could go to compost.

On the other hand there would probably be commercial pickup of vast amounts of organic waste from the hotels, restaurants and bars.

"Whatever way we collect it, ultimately it would end up going to a centralized composting facility," said Allen.

Another study on construction and demolition materials, which is soon to get underway, may also affect solid waste management in the SLRD.

In 1999 24 per cent of the waste by weight that went to the Whistler landfill was construction and demolition waste. (This translates to 45 per cent of the waste by volume, meaning how much space it took up in the landfill.)

Allen said 1999 was a busy but fairly representative year of building in Whistler.

The construction and demolition waste numbers were slightly higher the following year with about 32 per cent of the waste by weight going to the Whistler landfill.

A Pemberton case study may serve as an example of how waste can be diverted from the landfills.

When the Signal Hill elementary school is knocked down at the end of the year, the demolition waste may not go into a rapidly filling area landfill.

"We’re currently in discussion with the contractor to look at the potential for diverting a lot of that material from going to the landfill," said Allen. "It’ll be a study that includes a living demonstration of how this might work."

The study will look at moving construction and demolition waste to facilities where it can be crushed and used for things like roadbeds. Or, the waste could be separated and the wood waste could be advertised and sold or even offered for free.

Ultimately, the goal is to lower the sheer amount of construction and demolition waste going into the landfills.

There is also the wood to energy project proposed for SLRD by SNC-Lavalin, which may also affect the future of solid waste management in the area.

The incinerator could burn up to 68,000 tonnes of wood waste each year, which could generate approximately three and a half megawatts of power for B.C. Hydro.

SNC Lavalin wants to build the incinerator in the southern part of the regional district, mainly because of the easy access to millions of tonnes of wood waste there. There is also some opposition to the incinerator.

But a centralized composting facility also needs wood waste.

Allen said composting is a little like a recipe. A certain amount of carbon is needed and that comes from the wood waste. And a certain amount of nitrogen is needed and that comes from the organic waste.

"If we need wood waste for a composting facility as part of the process, we don’t want to be competing with a another waste energy facility for that material," said Allen.

"These things all have to mesh and they all have to work together. You can’t have the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing."

The two resolutions passed by the SLRD board have started the ball rolling before 2004. The reviews will take into account the Composting Feasibility Study, the Construction and Demolition Study and the wood to energy plan.

Allen said the reviews take a lot of time and it’s a good idea to get a head start.

At the moment the Whistler landfill is just going into the early stages of engineering that would extend its life to 2008, the year it is scheduled to close.

Construction for this expansion will begin in the spring.

The SLRD, like all the regions in the province, has a commitment to reduce solid waste by 50 per cent per capita.

The province set this goal in 1989 in reaction to the increasing solid waste generation in the province.

Last year residents in the southern region of the SLRD (Pemberton south to Squamish) reduced their waste by 50 per cent through the 4 Rs initiatives – reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.

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