Commercial composting site nearing completion 

Carney’s compost site to open in February

The construction of the Squamish site that will house the Sea to Sky corridor’s only commercial composter is nearing completion, and staff at Carney’s Waste Systems expect to start accepting organic and food waste from commercial sources by the end of January.

That waste is currently being diverted to a site in Vancouver as part of a pilot project. That project needed to take in a certain quantity of compostable waste to be profitable, and fell short. Still, Carney’s is confident that enough hotels and restaurants will sign on to its composting program. If not, some other sources are lined up.

Carney’s held an open house Breakfast of Champions to discuss commercial composting on Dec. 18, kicking off a drive to sign up as many customers as possible.

"We’ve had nothing as yet, but we’re sort of sitting back on that to get through Christmas right now. On Jan. 5 we’re going to start talking to our customers to see if we can get them to switch systems over to our commercial composting program," explained Pat Taylor, a controller with Carney’s.

"There was a bit of an education process. Now a lot of customers are interested in doing it, but we’ve encouraged them to hold off until our facility is up and running. Shipping (waste) to Vancouver was not ideal for them or us."

Carney’s expects to open the Squamish site on Feb. 1, and will begin diverting waste to the site in the last week of January. The goal is to ramp up slowly, operating at about 50 per cent of capacity in the initial stages, and then continue to expand as more customers sign up and the process becomes more routine.

According to Taylor, Carney’s is looking for about 4,000 tonnes of waste a year from Whistler to break even. They currently are getting about 600 tonnes from about 13 different customers. Half of that comes from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s composting program.

Although Carney’s is confident that more hotels and restaurants will sign up, they can make up much of the difference through grocery stores and waste from Squamish’s wastewater treatment plant.

Although some fresh snow kept the number of participants in Carney’s Breakfast of Champions down, Taylor says it provided a good opportunity for businesses that are considering the composting program to talk to businesses that have already been participating.

"It was really a chance to sit down and talk to other restaurants, and see how staff are dealing with it. Once they understand the benefits, it’s not a hard sell for us," said Taylor.

Municipal governments in the Sea to Sky corridor are still very supportive of the project, she said, and businesses like grocery stores are also supportive.

The cost of commercial composting is $45 a tonne, compared to $76 a tonne to dump at the Whistler landfill. For convenience, Carney’s is also offering compost waste pick-up six days a week, to make things easier for customers with limited waste storage facilities.

The composting system being built in Squamish is a Wright In-Vessel system that can turn a mix of food and wood waste into a soil conditioner in just 14 days. The composter works continuously, with waste loaded on pallets and pushed through the composting system, where it is treated in different phases. As a result it is a continuous, in-line process that accepts more waste and produces more compost on a daily basis. Large in-line units can accept up to 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of waste each day.

The food waste has to be mixed with wood waste, which Carney’s is starting to stockpile at its Squamish site.

In November Carney’s introduced a construction and demolition waste program for Whistler, accepting wood, steel and cardboard. The organic wood waste – not including laminated or treated wood – will be diverted to the composting facility. The benefit for construction companies is lower tipping fees – $65 a tonne compared to $121.

The site itself is still under construction, with one of three buildings completed, and work ongoing on the other two. In addition, the entire site has to be paved to bring it into compliance with provincial regulations.

Still, Taylor said she doesn’t expect any problems. They are already planning a grand opening for the site in early February.

Composting could reduce the amount of material going into the Whistler landfill by 17 per cent or more, according to studies.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District recently adopted a zero waste plan, encouraging reduce, reuse and recycling strategies.

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