Whistler's done with big dumps 

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RMOW Policy and Program Development

It’s a funny thing about Whistler how journalists from around the globe who want to sound Whistler-wise revel in revealing the fact Whistler Village is built on this valley’s original garbage dump. Building a beautiful mountain village on a landfill is not something we should be ashamed of.

With all due respect to Joni Mitchell, Whistler did not “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” We “Covered the landfill and put up a paradise.” Still, the trash circle remains unbroken.

On B.C. Day 2007, Whistler dumped the word dump forever and opened a state of the art Waste Transfer and Recycling Station on municipal land near the entrance to the Callaghan Valley, 6.4 kilometres from Function Junction. Interestingly, the site of the old dump is now the site of the newest ‘village’. The 2010 Athletes’ Village will be Whistler’s newest neighbourhood and the greenest component of a history of brownfield (previously impacted industrial lands) development that Whistler should be proud of.

The most recent Whistler landfill has been capped and the methane produced by our ghosts of trash past are now collected and flared, currently reducing the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with methane percolation by over 20,000 tonnes CO2e annually. While the residential portions of the athletes’ village will be outside the old landfill footprint, the actual dump area will become recreational fields, complementing this new neighbourhood and continuing Whistler’s commitment to brownfield redevelopment and re-use.

These factors, combined with the shipping of our landfill waste to the large Rabanco Landfill in Roosevelt, Washington — where the methane is collected and used to generate electricity — are helping Whistler to innovate when it comes to solid waste management and GHG reductions. It has been well reported of late Whistler’s GHG emissions are on the rise, but actions such as flaring landfill methane and promoting the three R’s — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — at our new transfer site will lower overall GHG emissions and reduce the associated transportation emissions associated with shipping our waste down south. This was the logic in 2005 when Whistler decided to transport our landfill waste outside of the community. Truck and rail transport to Rabanco adds up to around 380 tonnes per year. Comparatively, 2005 estimates for expanding Whistler’s Landfill had a 25 year period of GHG emissions of 321,000 tonnes. When we’re talking trash, Whistler has made some important decisions.

Notwithstanding, the new Callaghan Waste Transfer Station is a greenfield development, the site was carefully considered with Whistler’s long term waste management plan options and Whistler2020 in mind. In total $4.75 million, including the decommissioning and reuse of material from the old landfill, will be invested in the project and will address two key components of the Whistler2020 Materials and Solid Waste Strategy Description of Success: “The resort community is ‘closing the loop’ by providing appropriate and convenient opportunities for reducing, reusing and recycling materials;” and, “Whistler is well on its way to achieving its ‘zero waste’ goal.” We’re not there yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

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