Corridor reaches waste reduction targets 

Only half of the total solid waste generated in the Sea to Sky Corridor went into area landfills in 2001; the rest was reduced, reused and recycled.

Now the next goal will be to continue to implement the three Rs while adding composting into the mix to bring waste levels down even further.

"We managed to reduce to 50 per cent through recycling and that's without composting. So the next big frontier really is composting," said Paul Kindree, the operations manager with Carney's Waste Systems.

The waste reduction challenge began in the corridor in 1990, when the provincial government mandated regional districts to create Solid Waste Management Plans, in a response to a potential landfill crisis and the sheer amount of waste generated by British Columbians.

At that time each person was producing 1.2 tonnes of waste every year. The province and region asked for a 50 per cent reduction per capita, and charged regional districts with responsibility for making it happen.

The latest figures show residents in the corridor hitting the provincial and regional target within 10 years, by producing 0.6 tonnes of waste each in 2001.

"We were jumping around (when we heard). We were so excited here. Because Owen (Carney) adopted that 50 per cent reduction goal in the company in 1990 as our own company vision and it's pretty exciting to actually meet that goal," said Pat Johnstone, the administration and sales manager at Carney's, which handles waste removal for the whole corridor.

Johnstone said that people are a lot more conscious of recycling and reducing their waste than they were 10 years ago.

And she also said the tipping fee at the Whistler landfill is a significant factor in commercial waste reduction.

"A lot also goes to the fact that garbage costs money and the businesses, most particularly in Whistler, have been very aggressive in cutting their costs and reducing their garbage," she said.

The 0.6 tonnes per person figure is about average in B.C., according to Johnstone. And it would be even lower except high construction in Whistler creates a lot of commercial waste, driving the per capita number upwards.

"We could have made the goal last year if we didn't have the disproportionate construction waste in Whistler," she said, pointing to the new buildings in Creekside specifically.

But once Whistler reaches buildout, Johnstone is confident that the waste numbers will flatten out a little more.

The numbers will also continue to go down if people continue their three R regimen.

Despite all the education about the importance of recycling, people continue to ignore the recycling igloos.

"Our drivers are really dismayed by watching recyclables go in the garbage, They're always coming in and reporting people," she said.

"It's just laziness... so at what point do their principles take over their laziness? And I think people's principles are increasing daily. Everybody is getting more and more aware of it, especially with the Natural Step coming through... It's like putting the seatbelts on in the car. It's habit."

Johnstone believes that the corridor can get down to 0.5 tonnes per capita just with recycling and reducing.

But those recycling habits will have to change a little when composting becomes part of the waste reduction plan.

It is estimated that about 17 per cent of the waste in the landfills can be composted.

During the past couple of years, there has been a lot of research into the feasibility of composting in the corridor.

The result, according to Kindree, will probably be a central composting facility within the region that will probably include commercial pick up in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton.

"We did try a garbage collection and residential pickup (in Whistler) years ago. The problem is that people aren't there on a continuos basis... And there is a lot of bear traffic in that area," said Kindree.

Regardless of the complexities surrounding composting in the corridor, there is a feeling at Carney's that it will be the next step in waste reduction.

"I would say within the next year (we will be composting)," said Johnstone.

Getting waste down to even lower levels will be a major concern soon as Squamish and Whistler are scheduled to reach landfill capacity in 2008.

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