Recycling program saved from the trash can

Iqaluit council aims to trim fat from $500,000 service



Iqaluit council pulled the city’s recycling program off the chopping block this week, citing a need to keep up the “momentum” of the fledgling, but costly service.

Council unanimously decided at their June 8 meeting they wouldn’t consider administration’s plea to axe recycling, which has cost $500,000 since staff started the blue box program more than two years ago.

Mark Hall, director of public works, reminded council at the meeting that at the rate of current spending, the recycling program will put Iqaluit about $268,000 in the red this year. His estimates included indirect costs such as management of the landfill, where staff store recyclable plastics, glass and paper.

For reasons still unexplained by administration, the mayor or council, this year’s budget earmarked only $5,000 for recycling.

Hall warned council that without major changes to the program, such as building or leasing a recycling centre to store and process the recyclables, the city would still face the dilemma of how to pay for service.

Calling the overspending “an emergency” situation, Deputy Mayor Chris Wilson said council needed to find ways of reducing costs as soon as possible.

Wilson said Iqaluit should stop paying to ship recyclables down South, which staff described as the program’s largest expense. Proponents of the program note that two years ago, staff added a major cost to recycling by shipping out 14 sealift containers that were mostly empty, instead sending only a handful that were full.

“We can’t spend half a million dollars to throw [recyclables] on a boat,” Wilson said. “That’s insane.”

To counter the mounting cost, councillors will consider imposing a tax on producers of plastic bottles and other recyclables, in order to raise extra funds to pay for the program.

Wilson also suggested reducing how often the recyclables are collected, or creating a depot system, where residents drop off their recyclables in one spot, where staff would pick them up as little as once a month.

Coun. Nancy Gillis, who chairs Iqaluit’s waste management committee, admitted that the council “erred” in budgeting only a nominal amount of money for the program, when staff knew how high costs were in the past. She added that this council had fewer veterans to municipal politics than previous years, which might have contributed to the oversight.

However, Gillis said she was confident they could get recycling costs under control, in part from rumours that some companies may be willing to pay to take away Iqaluit’s recyclable plastic.

Airlines currently take compressed bales of cardboard from Iqaluit at no charge because they sometimes need the extra weight to meet cargo regulations.

During the meeting, councillors said they wanted Iqaluit to keep recycling in order to prolong the life of the city’s landfill, which could reach its maximum capacity in the coming years.

Coun. Simanuk Kilabuk said Iqaluit faces a growing garbage problem because it has failed to create an overall strategy about how to deal with its waste, especially with a booming population.

“We just keep revisiting these same issues,” Kilabuk said. “We just debate them to death and don’t deal with the real issues.

“We need to deal with the garbage issue, hopefully once and for all.”

The solid waste management committee, which handles garbage issues in Iqaluit, will meet on June 17 at 6 p.m.

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