Whistler wants to clean up dirty garbage 

Bylaw under development to ban organics and recycling from waste stream

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Black Gold Whistler turns its organic recycling into soil. The proposed bylaw is designed to get more organics out of the waste stream.
  • File Photo
  • Black Gold Whistler turns its organic recycling into soil. The proposed bylaw is designed to get more organics out of the waste stream.

Whistler is looking to follow Vancouver's footsteps with a bylaw to ban organic materials and recycling from the garbage.

The bylaw, set to be in effect by next summer, will tackle commercial and residential strata organizations, which make up 64 per cent of Whistler's garbage.

According to an audit done in August 2012 on commercial and strata garbage, 54 per cent of the garbage was compostables. A further 13 per cent was recyclables and construction waste was 11 per cent. That leaves just 22 per cent as residual garbage.

"This is absolutely the right thing to do," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "I think this is actually overdue."

The bylaw is one initiative in a slate of ongoing work outlined by municipal staff all designed with an eye to reducing Whistler's solid waste costs through better waste reduction.

"We do need a bylaw to ensure that we get compliance on this," said James Hallisey, manager of environmental projects.

Ultimately, when the waste is dumped on the floor at the transfer station, the garbage hauler will be fined if that waste contains organics and recycling. The details of the fee schedule have not yet been worked out, but in some jurisdictions the fines have been as much as double the tipping fee.

Council, however, expressed concerns that those fines could be passed down to customers — commercial and residential strata owners — even those owners who are not breaking the bylaw. Councillor Sue Maxwell wondered if there could be cameras on the trucks, or whether the drivers could inspect loads when they pick up in order to target the appropriate customers.

Councillor John Grills also worried about how the bylaw could impact businesses.

"I think there will be cost increases to the business in the community," he said.

Ultimately, however, the bylaw is intended to reduce costs. It is expected that between 3,200 and 6,400 tonnes of garbage will be diverted from the landfill each year, either to compost or recycling.

It is estimated that change could save the municipality up to $92,000 a year.

Cost savings should be passed on to residents and business owners, too, as composting and recycling generate lower tipping fees than garbage. The business and strata sectors will need to renegotiate their waste hauling contracts to ensure they get the benefits of those savings. Hallisey estimates those savings in the range of $200,000 to $400,000 annually.

To help businesses and stratas navigate the new bylaw, the municipality is proposing a transition period as the bylaw goes into development. The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) has been contracted to help people prepare.

The report to council states: "Many Whistler businesses and stratas are already on board with separating the various materials, and many of them have done this for financial reasons, so dialoging with those early adopters and passing on some of the lesson learns will be part of AWARE's mandate."

The actions to help include:

• creating a "solutions guide;"

• attending meetings with the local associations;

• coordinating communications around the bylaw changes and how to be prepared.

There will be a six-month active transition program to help businesses and stratas prepare.

The bylaw is expected to be adopted in July 2016, followed by a six-month enforcement through education.

Enforcement through fines will kick in from January 2017 onwards.

In the meantime Whistler's waste diversion rate — those materials diverted from landfill — was at 53 per cent for 2014.

That's down from a peak of 56 per cent in 2012 but steadily on the rise since 2000.

In 2014, Whistler sent an average of 516 kilograms per person to landfill.


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