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Recycling program hits major benchmark

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 21, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - The NWT's recycling program hit a major benchmark before the holiday season, marking more than 50 million containers collected.

"The mood is pretty high right now," said Emery Paquin, director of the environmental protection division with Environment and Natural Resources.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Researcher Mary Jane O'Donnell shows off a huge bag of recyclable cans and bottles she pulled out of the dump during the Waste Composition Study this summer. With 50 million containers recycled in the NWT, GNWT representatives are hoping to see less of this in the future. - NNSL file photo

Recycled since 2005:

  • 387 tonnes of aluminum
  • 239 tonnes of plastic
  • 35 tonnes of juice boxes
  • 7.2 million beer bottles
  • "We're pretty amazed by how successful the program has been in its first two years."

    Since the Beverage Container Program began territory-wide in 2005, it has reached an 82 per cent return rate - comparable with other jurisdictions with much older programs.

    "It's about average," he said.

    Since that time, depots have expanded to operate in 24 communities across the territory, compared to an eight initially. This serves 95 per cent of the NWT population.

    Through the program, materials are collected throughout the territory and shipped south for recycling, a program that Paquin said doesn't cost the GNWT a penny.

    "The GNWT is not paying for this program," he said. "The consumers are paying for this program directly (through deposits and surcharges)."

    However, there is a significant portion of material that can't be sent along.

    "About one-third of the glass that we collect cannot be reused," he said.

    While most domestic beer bottles can be sent back to their manufacturer to be reused, Paquin said import beer, wine bottles and liquor bottles cannot - and instead have to be crushed. And it makes the most sense, environmentally, to take care of that in town.

    "It doesn't make sense to send non-recyclable glass down south to recyclers," he said. "It's best to use it locally if we can."

    The fate of Yellowknife's un-recyclable bottles was a source of controversy earlier this year, after 30 tonnes of "crushed glass" were dumped at the Folk on the Rocks site as fill for a then-planned RV park.

    Festival organizers worried the glass would pose a serious hazard to the sandal-friendly outdoor music festival, and opposed the RV plan.

    During a heated public meeting on the park, Folk supporters were incensed, calling the glass "garbage." It was eventually removed.

    Paquin said there's more awaiting the recycling program next year, as a discussion paper and public input will determine what steps the program takes next.

    "Stay tuned in the new year," Paquin said.