I used to be a bit of a pyromaniac.
It was a crisp autumn afternoon on the Prairie in my first teen year when my mother rounded the back corner of our yard... I'll never forget the look on her face when she saw me holding the hand pump yard sprayer filled with gas, erratically blowing flames onto a pile of leaves I'd raked into the alley.
"This is soooo smart," I thought as the smoke burned my eyes, throat and lungs. The homemade flamethrower was so loud I could barely hear my mother screaming.
We've come a long way from burning leaves. My lesson that fair Saskatchewan fall day was flames are to be respected and the leaves are better compost than they are fire fodder. In Whistler, we can have the best of all worlds - tidy yards, a robust regional compost system and clear air for all to breathe.
Last year, the Resort Municipality of Whistler stopped issuing yard waste burning permits in an effort to improve air quality in the Sea to Sky Corridor. No one in the RMOW can legally burn yard waste, in response to the Sea to Sky Air Quality Management Plan, which Whistler was been a part of since the fall of 2006, and in support of our shared community Whistler2020 priority, Protecting the Natural Environment.
Open burning of yard wood waste has many disadvantages due to its high pollutant emissions and to its increased fire and safety risks around homes. Several research studies show the dangers that these pollutants cause to human health, especially to young children whose growing lungs breathe in twice as much air as adults. In addition to the substantial pollution caused by this outdated practice, open burning of yard waste also deprives the Whistler Composting System of valuable organic material that can be converted into a healthy soil amendment that contributes to making our lawns and gardens vibrant and nutrient rich.
This process has been all about learning. Last spring, the RMOW offered residents a pretty sweet alternative to having to drive and pay to drop off their yard waste at the Whistler Waste Transfer Station located on Callaghan Valley Road 15 km south of Whistler Village. This alternative provided residents with the opportunity to drop off their yard trimmings and wood debris at no cost at the Nesters Road depot. This pilot program was well received by the public and residents eagerly dropped off their yard waste that would eventually feed the composter. The 2009 spring pilot program would have diverted tons of wood debris and yard trimmings, valuable organic material, from entering a landfill or from stock piling in yards, a potential fuel source for a future fire. Unfortunately, some residents took advantage of the free drop off program and contaminated the bins with non-compostable garbage bags, household waste, and even a queen size mattress.
In the end, not a single bin of collected yard waste could be used at the composter. Wasted waste.
The pilot program was not a total failure and through the lessons learned, the 2009 fall yard waste program was a huge success, as we learned that extra LARGE signs indicating NO PLASTIC and YARD WASTE ONLY were needed in addition to having Carney's staff at the site during drop-off hours. Once again, please respect the drop off policies and look to a Carney's staff member for assistance. Program details are as follows:
Yard Waste Drop-off Program
(Organic Yard Waste ONLY - no household waste please)
May 1-2 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Nesters Depot. 8001 Nesters Road
Again, this program will be offered free of charge for the two days only. After that, please drop off all yard waste at the Callaghan Valley Waste Transfer Station; tipping fees will apply. Yard waste includes the following materials:
• Grass clippings, leaves, small twigs, and hedge trimmings
• Clean wood waste; branches over 2" diameter; clean logs free of rocks and gravel
• Wood without nails, screws, glue, stain, or chemical treatment, and
• Chipped tree trimmings, clean sawdust, shavings, wood chips, or hog fuel
• And absolutely no plastic bags or household waste!
If you intend to bag your yard waste, make sure that each bag is 25 kg (55 pounds) or less and consider using the compostable paper yard waste bags available at most garden centres and hardware stores. If you have any questions regarding the Yard Waste Drop-off Program, please don't hesitate to contact Environmental Coordinator, Nicolette Richer at firstname.lastname@example.org .
To learn more about how our community is working together to implement Whistler2020, check out Whistler2020.ca