July 03, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

Organic Matters 

The municipality takes a giant step forward in achieving the goals of Whistler 2020

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Story by Mike Crane    

www.mikecranephotography.com

Just south of town, up the Callaghan Valley, lies ground zero of yet another monumental Whistler success story and a legacy that all Whistlerites can be proud of having as part of their community for generations to come.

This site has already drawn visitors from across Canada and beyond, most recently as a field trip for Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference-goers, leaving them envious of the modern amenities that such a small municipality can boast. Words of praise describing the site as inspirational and state-of-the-art have not been uncommon.

If the legacy of the Whistler Olympic Park, which will host the Nordic events for next February's Winter Games comes to mind, then you have gone too far down the road. 

Last December, despite a variety of other projects that comprise the biggest capital budget the Resort Municipality of Whistler has ever seen, Whistler Composting was launched in a leap of faith as a new business unit for the municipality after a time- sensitive opportunity presented itself.

Under pressure to relocate from the original site in Squamish and unable to make the system profitable, Carney's Waste Systems negotiated a contract with the municipality to sell the core of their composting infrastructure, a pair of in-vessel composting systems.

Now owned by the municipality and operated by Carney's Waste Systems and Evergreen Projects under contract, the Callaghan facility came in on budget, despite the time constraints and scale of the project. In early June the first batch of highly fertile, nutrient-rich, top-grade compost became available for sale, and all of the material was immediately purchased through bulk sales to landscapers for venues such as the athletes village.

As the environmental impacts of everything we do intrude on our modern day thoughts this new facility is a major step for Whistler as the community continues to strive to become more sustainable, working towards the goals outlined in Whistler 2020. 

"For a municipality of this size to do this is a monumental step," says compost plant manager Patrick Mulholland, who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the operation. "Communities 10 times the size of Whistler don't do this yet."

Traditionally, as the remnants of everything we consumed were discarded into the landfill, the organic matter (mostly food waste) was denied the chance to break down naturally, lacking the right mix of oxygen, moisture, carbon and nitrogen. The byproduct in a landfill was the steady production of toxic methane gas being belched into the sky, essentially contributing to global warming by absorbing and concentrating solar energy.

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