Whistler Blackcomb (WB) is in the process of setting a new record this year for the number of visitors. And it is also hoping to set new records for the amount of trash it keeps out of landfills through the three R's of reducing, reusing and recycling.
Arthur De Jong, the mountain planning and environmental resource manager, said the current proportion of overall waste — most of it coming from the food and beverage department — being diverted from the dump is around 70 per cent. He'd like to see it closer to 100 per cent.
"In 2000, we sent 1,250 tonnes to the landfill and now we are in the 320-to-370 tonne range," said De Jong. "After bringing in several consultants, we worked to optimize everything and should be at about a 90 per cent diversion, and what that means in actual volume is that should put our waste at 120 or 130 tonnes going to the landfill. It's a stretch goal but it should be possible."
WB's overall waste has dropped dramatically since 2006, which not coincidentally is the same year the local landfill stopped operating. Since then garbage is hauled more than 700 kilometres to a new facility in Washington state. While saving money on transportation is part of the motivation, De Jong said a bigger one is simply reducing the operation's overall footprint.
"We do save money, but it's not like energy conservation where we save significant dollars with measures like hydroelectric energy use," he said of WB's partnership with the Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project, a run-of-river hydro plant that returns the same amount of energy the mountain's consumes a year to the grid. "Waste is tougher but there are savings. It's probably a tenth of the (return on investment) that we get on our energy conservation. That being said, there are still savings there and ultimately it's part of our overriding sustainability goal."
De Jong, who has worked for the resort for more than three decades and is a former ski patrol manager and mountain operations manager for Blackcomb, said part of the problem is some people still treat recycling bins as trash cans.
"It doesn't take much to contaminate a recycling bin," said De Jong. "What we did in our large food facilities like the Roundhouse, Glacier Creek and Rendezvous is we take the trays from our guests and we do the food sorting and were able to make significant improvements in our waste reduction, mostly through composting. But if you go into some of our smaller facilities like Crystal Hut or Horstman Hut where we are not doing the sorting, we are not getting the outcomes we need but we're working on that. I see us doing two things: One is taking more steps to educate both our staff and our guests on being more sensitive and effective on their sorting, but I also think we are going to be taking control in our smaller facilities in doing the sorting."
He added that a waste reduction specialist, Taniell Hamilton, was recently hired to handle the reigns.
"She just did an audit on all our waste flows and we're hoping to, over the next month, get a lot more precise on where we can make improvements."