Squamish's landfill is bursting at the seams and will have to expand.
Brian Barnett, the district's engineer, told Squamish council members at a Committee of the Whole meeting this week that the landfill is at capacity and it will have to expand horizontally, gobbling up nearby parcels of land in small cells for the next five years. The proposed expansion area is in Crown land and the district is in talks with the province to obtain permission.
The expansion, set to begin this summer, will provide another six years of capacity to the landfill. The district is hoping that it won't have to expand the landfill beyond five years, as more waste disposal options, such as a waste-to-energy facility being tried out in Metro Vancouver, emerge as options for dumping waste on the landfill.
The landfill expansion is one aspect of several other plans the district wants to implement as part of its Comprehensive Solid Waste Strategy.
Expanding the landfill in perpetuity is not a long-term sustainable solution, said Ana Santos, the coordinator of the Squamish Climate Action Network (CAN). More people need to recycle and reuse goods, she said. The community, she added, also needs to engage in a dialogue about buying excessive goods that eventually go to landfill.
Local environmentalist John Buchanan said wasteful accumulation is at the very root of the problem.
"We North Americans, including myself, have been raised to throw away," he said. "It is now our nature."
Buchanan said the district should consider experimenting with incinerators, an idea that was rejected by the Squamish community in 2001, for fear that it would be noisy and emit toxic metals like cadmium and nickel into the environment.
The proponents of the $12 million incinerator tried but failed at that time to convince the community that its fears were unfounded.
But, Buchanan said, incinerators are being used all over in European cities and they might be one solution to the problem of expanding landfill.
Santos, however, said incinerators should not compensate for the "key" issue; raising awareness about reducing waste.
"We can throw it all in the incinerator so what does it matter if we throw things out? ...I'd hate to see such an attitude develop," she said.
The Comprehensive Solid Waste Strategy was adopted last year to examine the waste reduction programs and to find ways to implement those programs.
It had three goals: To engage the community in reducing waste, to decrease the current 900 kilograms per person waste generation to 800 kilograms by 2015 and to 600 kilograms by 2020, and to upgrade the landfill before 2011.
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said the staff should have more ambitious targets on waste reduction.
The district claimed some success on these three fronts, noting that it had launched a strong community partnership with Squamish CAN, with the aim of educating the community about recycling so that fewer goods end up on the landfill.
It also proposed increasing the tipping fees from $80 per tonne to $97 per tonne on garbage. This new levy would be in line with what other municipalities charge. Hope, for instance, charges $110 per tonne, while Mission charges $85 per tonne.