By Alison Taylor
Whistler’s waste is powering homes in the Pacific Northwest.
After traveling 900 kilometres from local kitchens to a landfill in south-eastern Washington, the waste is harnessed for its power potential rather than just rotting away in the earth.
“This is a great example of regional sustainability and regional solid waste management,” said Joe Casalini of Rabanco, which operates the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington state.
Casalini was at Monday’s council meeting providing a brief overview of what happens to Whistler’s waste once it leaves the resort.
Ever since Whistler’s landfill was decommissioned in November 2005 to make way for the 2010 Olympic athletes’ village, Whistler has been sending out its waste via trucks. Once it reaches Surrey it moves onto rail cars and eventually ends up in Washington state, in a state-of-the-art landfill facility.
The key to creating power is collecting the methane gas that leaks from the garbage.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, producing 20 times more GHG emissions than carbon dioxide.
Rather than allowing the methane to filter into the air, Rabanco captures the gas, sending it into an adjacent power plant.
There it is transformed into electricity and put onto the grid.
It creates enough electricity to power 7,000 homes in the Pacific Northwest.
Casalini said by 2030 they hope to power 26,000 homes.
Whistler is also looking at collecting the methane gas from its old landfill. Staff estimates there is about 15 years of production, which could be used to generate both heat and electricity for the athletes’ village.
The Rabanco landfill was chosen in part because of its high environmental standards. It is located in an arid area that only receives six to nine inches of precipitation annually.
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler called it a “great news story” and was gratified to hear that the garbage at the end of its cycle is moving Whistler toward a more sustainable future.