A Nunavut-wide waste management strategy?


As a recent visitor to Nunavut and Iqaluit I wanted to write to indicate how much I enjoyed my visit. But I also want to indicate a significant problem I came across in Iqaluit and Nunavut.

I went for a walk around the bay in Iqaluit and came across an open fire at the town dump. Garbage was being burned and the smoke was drifting across the road and then on over the bay.

Open burning of mixed refuse. including plastics is one sure way to produce toxic contaminants such as dioxins and furans. Right now Canada is asking all the nations of the world to sign a global treaty to ban the use of persistent toxic contaminants such as PCBs, DDT and Lindane, and so on.

These contaminants are moving on the winds around the world and are accumulating to unacceptable levels in marine mammals and people who consume these marine mammals. This is why Canada and the other circumpolar countries are asking all countries to ban the use of these toxic contaminants. We are asking these countries to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to use less persistent chemicals and less toxic methods for insect control so that the foods of northern Canadian people are not contaminated by these toxic contaminants.

If these countries thought that the peoples of Canada’s North were releasing more pollutants per person than they are, I’m not so sure that they would be so likely to spend the money to decrease the use of contaminants that end up in Arctic wildlife and the people who eat this wildlife. We must set a good example.

I also visited Repulse Bay and Igoolik and saw pristine country and friendly people, but was disconcerted to find that lots of disposable plastic and other mixed refuse were used and burned in the local dump. Without spending huge amounts of money on incinerators with fly-ash precipitators, refuse can’t be safely burned.

Communities in Nunavut need a waste management strategy that doesn’t let southern Canada send you packaging (plastic bottles, Styrofoam, etc.) that will either fill your dumps forever or produce toxic contaminants when burned.

Your waste management strategy must emphasize the first two Rs, Reduce and Reuse, even before Recycling is considered. With the great distances in the North, recycling would only make sense for a few high value materials like aluminium. If we want to see smaller amounts of contaminants arriving in the North, northerners must set the example.

I hope to come back to enjoy your beautiful territory. I also hope to see leadership shown by northeners in eliminating open burning of garbage/refuse and developing a waste reduction strategy and plan that works for the north.

Jay Van Oostdam

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