Construction, businesses targeted by Zero Waste Co-ordinator 

Lots of work still needs to be done

It will be several weeks before waste audits are complete at the Whistler landfill and the transfer station at Nesters, but Marc Zurbuchen – the Zero Waste Co-ordinator hired for Whistler by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District – already knows what he’ll find: room for improvement.

A student at Simon Fraser University, Zurbuchen has spent his summer working with businesses and contractors to tackle the issue of solid waste, educating them about the possibilities, and the opportunity to save money. Although many have embraced solid waste reduction strategies, others continue to throw all of their materials in one bin.

"Some businesses think it’s easier to continue to do things the old way, but we’re trying to change their minds about that," said Zurbuchen.

"The reality is that we have to start thinking more about it, what kinds of garbage we’re producing, where it goes, what it does to the environment. I know Whistler is looking at closing its landfill and shipping everything to another community, but by doing so we’re not solving any problems, we’re just putting it in someone else’s backyard."

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) adopted a Zero Waste strategy earlier this year, committing local governments to reduce waste as much as possible through recycling, reduction and reuse strategies.

Whistler, which already has one of the most aggressive recycling programs in B.C., recently created a construction and demolition waste centre. Carney’s Waste Systems also opened a new composting facility in Squamish, turning organic waste and wood waste into high-grade soil.

Whistler is also looking into the possibility of creating a kind of Re-Use-It Centre for contractors, where they can drop off their unused or still usable raw materials.

The pieces are in place to achieve a significant reduction in waste on top of what we’ve achieved through recycling programs, says Zurbuchen – people just need to start making the most of them.

"This is definitely the place to start. In Whistler people are generally more aware of the issues, and they’re into the outdoors, and they believe in keeping it clean.

"If we do end up trucking our waste to another town, then I think people will want to know that we’re sending as few trucks down the road as possible."

On the construction front, Zurbuchen estimates that at least 80 per cent of waste can be reused or recycled, but most companies and contractors don’t bother to separate their waste. He has dropped by sites around Whistler to talk with foremen and managers, offering his service to set up waste reduction programs.

"The response is generally positive, but it’s a challenge for them to set up recycling programs. There are time restraints, it’s difficult to educate workers, some areas have space issues – they don’t have room for recycling bins on site," said Zurbuchen.

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