Nunavik rolls out recycling depots in three communities
“We’d like to be able to expand the life of our dump and our scrapyard”
Since the beginning of October, three Nunavik communities have officially launched recycling programs under the region’s new water management plan.
Although many communities have already experimented with small-scale recycling programs, this was the first coordinated effort to collect and ship recyclable or hazardous material to southern facilities.
This portion of the program targets larger household items such as electronics, batteries, used paint and aerosol cans.
At the beginning of October, for example, Kuujjuaraapik, opened a drop-off depot at the municipal garage where residents could offload their materials, said Pierre Roussel, secretary treasurer at the Northern Village.
The municipality hosted a couple of collection days in time to prepare a shipment of material south to recycling facilities in the Montreal area.
In the Hudson coast community of 650, the municipality’s new recycling depot collected enough used electronics to fill half a shipping container, plus a barrel of paint and a number of light bulbs and batteries.
And residents of the adjoining Cree community of Whapmagoostui dropped off 16 barrels of used oil.
“It was basically an introduction to help create awareness,” Roussel said. “But we’d like to do it year-round.”
The municipality had run basic recycling programs before, said Roussel, but funding through the Kativik Regional Government has made it possible to support wider efforts.
The KRG passed the Nunavik Residual Materials Management Plan earlier this year, a region-wide plan aimed at implementing recycling and composting programs.
The plan offers guidelines on a number of projects aimed at overseeing the disposal of plastic, hazardous waste, construction materials, vehicles, metal and tires — all designed to increase the lifespan of Nunavik’s landfills.
And according to Quebec law, companies which produce electronics must ensure those products are being recycled.
Under Quebec’s Extended Producers Responsibility program, residents pay a fee on certain items that contain hazardous materials — such as paint, mercury bulbs and electronics — to help pay for their safe disposal.
As part of an agreement reached with the KRG this past summer, five different Quebec-based recycling programs are tasked with helping Nunavik communities transport those items south, starting with Kuujjuaraapik, along with Salluit and Kuujjuaq.
Kuujjuaq’s response to the new program was fairly strong where municipal staff gathered two full shipping containers’ worth of electronic equipment plus a dozen barrels of oil, although some of those materials had been sitting in storage for years.
In Salliut, only a handful of residents dropped off recyclable materials under the newly launched program.
The idea of collecting recyclable materials is still new for Nunavimmiut and will take time to become the norm, said Véronique Gilbert, an environment technician with the KRG who is working with Nunavik communities to get their programs up and running.
“Up until now, everything went to the dump so people will have to change their habits and it won’t happen in a week,” she said.
“But I believe that the pilot project has been positively received in all the communities and is already attracting interest from other municipalities.”
The goal of the KRG is to bring three new Nunavik communities on board each year, she added.
While communities can and do manage their own local programs, the coordinated support now offered through Nunavik’s waste management plan has made a real difference in Kuujjuaraapik.
“It’s very important support,” Roussel said. “We’d like to be able to expand the life of our dump and our scrapyard. And this is a start.”
Next, the community hopes to develop a composting program to help divert food and animal carcasses away from the landfill, Roussel said. Its aim — to encourage soil to regenerate the natural terrain, dug up during building construction.