When business owners and strata managers arrived to a Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) organics diversion open house on May 10, they were treated to all the typical refreshments: carafes of hot coffee and tea, plates of cookies and fruit, and ashtrays full of complimentary cigarettes.
The smokes were a big hit, drawing comments from almost everyone who happened upon them.
The out-of-place offerings were explained once the presentations began.
"Some of you might have noticed the ashtrays with the cigarettes in the back, and how many here noticed them and were a little bit surprised?" asked RMOW councillor Sue Maxwell.
"How many of you remember being in restaurants where every table had an ashtray? But now it would be quite a surprise if somebody asked to smoke in your restaurant — It's not something that's commonly done.
"What we're aiming to do is change the norm (around waste diversion) in the same way."
And with an updated Solid Waste Bylaw — which requires waste to be separated into three streams (garbage to landfill, food scraps and recyclable) — set to come to council on June 6, Whistler organizations had best get used to the new norm.
The RMOW has improved its diversion habits over time — from a low of just 17-per-cent diversion in 1999 to a high of 56 per cent in 2011 — but the numbers have levelled off since then.
"We've made a huge improvement, (but) the last five years we've kind of flattened out," said general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey at the open house.
"And in order to take another step... we need to do something a little different."
Homeowners have done a good job of implementing new habits, Hallisey noted — residential garbage makes up just 12 per cent of the RMOW's total landfilled waste.
The big focus in reducing Whistler's waste moving forward will be in the commercial and strata sectors, which make up 64 per cent of landfilled waste.
"All of you have done a good job of managing that as well, because the growth in the number of people visiting this place far outstrips the growth in the amount of waste," Hallisey said.
"But it's still growing and we think we can make some changes there and drive it the other direction."
But mandating resort-wide, three-stream waste collection will come with some headaches.
The bylaw was originally meant to move forward in the summer of 2016, but a pilot project by the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment found implementing it would be a hassle for businesses and stratas that simply don't have the space.
As such, some companion bylaw amendments to RMOW zoning regulations are being proposed to make the process easier: increasing gross floor area exemptions for garbage rooms; allowing for reductions in required parking stalls; and exemption from the $20,000 fee that is normally attached to a parking variance in the CC1 zone.
"We would advance these changes in conjunction with the solid waste bylaw so that they are in place at the same time as that bylaw," said RMOW planner Melissa Laidlaw.
"I think the message here is that these processes do take time, so plan for that time."
Once the bylaw is passed, there will be a one-year grace period before enforcement begins.
Employers will be responsible for monitoring their own bins for contamination, and the RMOW will work with waste haulers to determine who is not complying before fines are levied.
Once in effect, the RMOW expects that between 3,200 and 6,400 tonnes of garbage will be diverted to either food scraps or recycling every year.
The changes will lead to a reduction in both revenues and costs, with net savings to the municipal solid-waste budget estimated between $46,000 and $92,000 per year.
More information and resources can be found at www.whistler.ca/wastereduction.