Whistler compost hits the market 

So far high prices aren’t stopping consumers from buying the local fertilizer

Some gardeners may get queasy about biosolids in their compost, but it seems the "number two" ingredient is not holding many people back from enhancing their soil. The first batch of Whistler compost is a hit.

Almost everything produced so far from Whistler's new compost station in the Callaghan has sold, announced Jessica Reid from Carney's Waste System this week, and word is getting out that the fertilizer made from solid sewage and compost works well.

"The biosolid input is the pink elephant in the room, but it makes for fantastic stock from a composting point of view and it is a fantastic source of nitrogen," said Reid.

Reid said the customer base in Squamish is strong, since their compost station only closed in 2006. And sales have been growing exponentially by the week as people discover the gardening value of the product.

But such strong sales go against the dogma of supply and demand, since Whistler compost is more expensive than similar soil sold in Vancouver. The first screened batch from the Sea to Sky corridor sells for $35 per yard, whereas the City of Vancouver sells their screened compost for about $13 a yard.

One of the main reasons Whistler's product costs more is because it is shipped down to Squamish to be cured and then brought back up to the Callaghan for sale. Reid said at some point it might make sense to clear some forest near the Compost Station to cure the fertilizer on site, but that would more money.

The soil also costs more because Carney's imported soil from Vancouver to mix with the first batch and meet the demand.

"In the future, we hope to get the costs down," said Reid.

"The emphasis we are trying to place here is it is a more sustainable option from an environmental perspective and in terms of Whistler 2020 goals. The inputs are Sea to Sky corridor inputs. The process is happening locally. We are providing locals with jobs. It is really a full-circle initiative."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler opened the $13.7 million compost station this December as part of their goal to make Whistler a "zero waste" community.

Composting is done through a natural microbial process. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water are mixed together with bacteria to turn decaying waste into nutrient-rich soil.

It takes 14 days from the time waste enters the tunnel to when it is ready for curing, and the tunnels must be fed daily to keep the biological process in-line.

Reid added that so far Whistler residents have been good with only leaving organic material at the drop off bins at Function Junction and Nesters. Contamination has not been an issue. Carney's also has a person watching the conveyor belt at the compost station for anything that doesn't belong in the system.

But the high cost of the compost product is not sitting well with some councillors. On Tuesday evening, the lawmakers asked Carney's to show them an updated business plan sometime in the near future.

"This has been in operation for a while, and it is a municipal asset," said councillor Eckhard Zeidler.

"You have got quite a flow of information now that we didn't have when we looked at the preliminary business plan." 

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