Municipality could close landfill within the year 

Options, costs weighed for shipping waste out of town, contributions to Environmental Legacy Fund would cease

Although sustainability advocates would like to keep our garbage in Whistler, a new landfill review by the municipality suggests that it will be more environmentally friendly in the long run to send our solid waste out of the community.

"In my opinion… if we want to do something for the environment, we’ll export our garbage," said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and planning for the RMOW.

Among other things he said Whistler does not have a suitable climate for a landfill, and that the landfill site is too small for technologies to make it more environmentally friendly.

Barnett presented the draft landfill review and discussed Whistler’s solid waste options at local environmental group AWARE’s monthly meeting on Aug. 5. He will present the completed review to Whistler council in September.

Council recently voted in favour of building future staff housing and the Olympic athletes village in the Lower Cheakamus area, which means that the future of the landfill is no longer in question – it will close, possibly even within the next year, Barnett says.

Although some have criticized the plan to transport garbage out of the community because it doesn’t fit in with municipal plans to become more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, Barnett says there is a strong, sustainable case for closing the landfill.

"There were always two options on the table and both options had pros and cons. In discussions it always came down to two different philosophies, the first being that we’re responsible for handling our garbage, it’s not fair to send it out of the community. The second was that we live in a sensitive alpine environment… and like hiking or camping, when you pack something it, you pack it out again," Barnett explained.

"What I’m trying to do is try to look at the issue factually. To do that you have to talk about the impact of the landfill as it exists now."

According to Barnett, Whistler disposes of 18,000 tonnes of garbage each year. That garbage will in turn produce about 17,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, as it breaks down in the landfill.

In addition, the study estimates that every 18,000 tonnes of garbage will result in about 64,000 cubic metres of toxic leachate and water runoff that has to be collected and cleaned at the wastewater treatment plant.

In comparison, by trucking our garbage to the landfill site at Cache Creek – one of the options for Whistler’s solid waste – the same 18,000 tonnes of solid waste will only produce 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. That figure includes the greenhouse gases that will be produced by trucks transporting waste to that site.

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