Iqaluit launching new recycling plan

New drop-off system by March 1


The City of Iqaluit has pulled the plug on the eastern Arctic’s only door-to-door recycling program, and replaced it with a new voluntary system, a move aimed at saving the city many tens of thousands of dollars a year.

A notice dated Dec. 31 says the city council decided to stop household recycling pick-ups as well as the collection of paper and cardboard from businesses and offices.

The last household pick-up took place on Dec. 31, while final collections from businesses and offices was scheduled for Dec. 30, before the recycling program’s termination notice was sent out.

Under the new system, which should be set up by March 1, the city says it will create drop-off depots in sealift containers set up around Iqaluit so residents can drop off recyclable materials themselves.

Until then, the notice says residents may store their recyclables themselves, or simply set them out in garbage boxes where, presumably, they’ll head off to the dump with the rest of the trash.

The cut to recyclable pick-ups came after more than three years of effort to get the system working, which appeared to produce little compared with its cost.

Only a fraction of the city’s total annual garbage collection, about 60 of an annual total of 6,000 tonnes, ended up in the blue bags and plastic boxes used to separate recyclable materials, such as paper or plastics, or green boxes used to collect newsprint, white office paper and cardboard.

The recyclables cost the city $7,784 a tonne to get rid of, more than 35 times higher than the normal cost of $200 a tonne to dispose of trash at the dump.

A series of early errors didn’t help the recycling program’s cost efficiency. These caused recyclables to be separated at great cost in the South or shipped out in sealift containers, which returned back North empty.

There was also confusion among members of the public about which materials could be recycled, which couldn’t, and who was responsible for what. Messages about what could end up in the blue bags and boxes were occasionally contradictory or complicated. Coffee grounds and used condoms were among the non-recyclable items ending up in bags destined for the city’s recycling program.

The city left the responsibility for promoting recycling and providing information on the municipal program to the volunteer Iqaluit Recycling Society.

Last year, this group rebranded itself as Waste Matters Inc. This new group tried to convince city council that recycling in Iqaluit is feasible, if someone were hired to manage the program, from the planning of cost-efficient truck routes to striking deals with airlines and shipping companies to take recyclables as ballast on southern hauls.

Now, a new group called the “Bill Mackenzie Humanitarian Society,” named after the late Apex resident who was known for his thrifty recycling habits, wants to recruit Iqaluit residents interested in a low-cost, local approach to recycling.

This society, spearheaded by Jim Little, wants to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in Iqaluit’s landfill by rescuing and re-using items and by separating materials, such as household garbage and wood, before they are dumped.

Little said he doesn’t see the sense in spending 35 cents to buy the special blue plastic bag necessary for recycling and spend more on hot water to rinse the stuff to be recycled.

“It struck me as an astronomical cost – for what? We’re saying we’re going to be environmentally responsible while we’re continuing the pollution by running around with a pick-up truck to pick them up.”

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