City of Iqaluit should keep recycling program


Editor’s note: This is a copy of a recent letter sent to Iqaluit city council.

As concerned members of this city, the Iqaluit Recycling Society wish to bring to your attention the critical need to deal with solid waste issues immediately.

Your staff are indicating that the current landfill may be full within one to two years. What will happen when the landfill is full and there are no other plans in place for dealing with our waste? How long will it take to get the required permits and licences to use the remaining cell at the current landfill?

The City will be in an impossible situation if the landfill is full and no other usable space is available. Will the City consider open burning again? This would be an unacceptable option!

To continue to deny that the solid waste situation in Iqaluit is getting out of hand is not responsible. We formed the Iqaluit Recycling Society to assist the City in implementing one small component of a solid waste management strategy. However, the solid waste management strategy after many years of fruitless discussions has still not materialized, and even the recycling program is now in jeopardy.

Under the circumstances we are transforming the Iqaluit Recycling Society into a new group to lobby for responsible solid waste management. From this point forward we are “Waste Matters Inc..” The following outlines the realities and actions we believe the City needs to act upon:

City Administration
There needs to be a senior person on staff who has the appropriate technical expertise, whose job it would be to get solid waste management under control. This recommendation was made by the solid waste management committee three years ago in the form of a resolution, and it was approved by City council. Unfortunately, the resolution was never fully implemented and instead of hiring a senior staff person, a recycling project officer was hired. This is not sufficient and has placed staff in a difficult situation of having “solid waste” as an add-on to their regular full-time jobs.

The City needs an expert who can finalize the solid waste management strategy, as well as someone with the expertise to fully implement a long-term solution to solid waste problems in Iqaluit. This investment today will save the City scarce funds in the future. Too many times the City has turned to consultants to deal with a small part of the solid waste problem. Using consultants has been extremely expensive over the past several years and the gains made by the City have been minimal. An emergency situation as a result of a full landfill will create a costly, difficult situation that proper planning can prevent. Solid waste management for the City should not be a mere add-on to someone’s full-time job.

In addition, the current gap between City council and its administration needs to be addressed. We appreciate the support of City council in having garbage and recycling issues addressed. On June 8, 2004, City Council held a meeting where the council decided against a motion to terminate the Iqaluit Recycling Program, as was the recommendation of the City’s staff.

Instead Council directed staff to find ways to make the program more efficient, less costly and viable. This has not happened. The City administration does not believe in the recycling program. Staff are not working towards ensuring the program succeeds and want it scrapped regardless of City council’s direction. As community members we are under the impression that City council provides the direction to staff on how the City should be run, not the other way around.

Recycling Program
Without quick action by City council the diversion/recycling program will not survive. This would be a great loss to the City and erode the confidence of community members in the City’s ability to maintain programs and uphold environmental commitments. The costs of recycling can be brought under control with some quick actions:

1. Scale back the program to its original focus and only collect household plastics and metals.
2. Bale the material as the City receives it with the City’s baler to reduce the volume of material collected instantly.
3. Reduce residential garbage collection to once a week, and recycling pick-up to once every two weeks.
4. Approach the sealift transportation company for a discounted rate for shipping recyclables south.
5. Budget adequately for recycling/diversion.

This is no time to terminate the recycling program. All efforts to divert any waste from the landfill are critical given the lack of a viable alternative to dealing with our waste when the current site is full. Recycling is part of the CORE business of the City of Iqaluit.

Iqalungmiut have shown a strong interest in responsible waste management through their active participation in the recycling-blue bag program. Do not get rid of the recycling program because some staff view it as a burden. There are ways to make recycling cost effective, particularly if diversion can assist the City in avoiding the need for a new unwanted landfill. We want the council to actively monitor progress being made with respect to all waste management activities with special attention to:

1. What substantive progress is being made for the long-term planning of solid waste management for the City?
2. What steps are being taken to improve the cost effectiveness and delivery performance of the recycling program?

We request that City council revisit the critical need to get in-house expertise that is required to manage solid waste management as a whole. The recycling program is not by itself a solution to the City’s solid waste problems. It may take years to get a long-term solution in place. It’s time to start planning now.

We look forward to a response to our questions and suggestions. We hope we can work together to resolve these important issues.

Board of Directors Waste Matters Inc.
Shirley Allder, Director
Guy D’Argencourt, Director
Nick Dennahower, Coordinator
Neida Gonzalez, Director
Carolina Palacios, Director
Lynn Peplinski, Director
Linda Tingley, Director

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