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Yukon’s Dawson City ramps up recycling

Dec 17, 2023Dec 17, 2023

Dawson City's new recycling depot is seen in March 2023. (Submitted/Lily Banks-Sayers)

Still no curbside pickup

Dawson City's relatively new recycling depot is doing its part to divert waste back into a "living stream," according to the community's superintendent of public works.

"By that I mean to be able to use those already existing metals [and] plastics again and again," Jonathan Howe told the News by phone on May 25.

"Beyond the obvious […] the huge value for Dawson proper is that it allows us to maintain a much longer lifecycle at the landfill."

The depot is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday at 11 Rabbit Creek Rd., which is about two kilometres outside of the core, within the municipal boundary. Howe said it opened in February.

Howe said the centre takes "basically everything" that Raven Recycling Society accepts. He said that includes mixed plastic, tin cans, glass, paper, cardboard and more.

"We don't recycle. We are a diversion centre, right? So, we can only accept what others accept from us," Howe said.

He said the recycled material gets sent to Raven Recycling Society, which diverts most of it to Vancouver, B.C.

Crushing it

The new building features two balers that will "crush anything" and compact it, Howe said. A Yukon government release highlights a glass crusher that will turn glass products into sand and a conveyor system to help staff separate recycling streams.

Three staff are working to keep the facility in motion.

Howe said solar panels will largely power up the depot in the summer months, when the volume of recycling ramps up, and a heat pump will be developed to take energy from groundwater and return that heat to the building.

"It's quite a green building," he said.

Howe said the cost to build the depot was about $2.5 million, in addition to approximately $200,000 for operations.

Prior to the new depot, Conservation Klondike Society accepted recycling at a small facility in the city.

"It was passed on to us and so we developed this," Howe said, noting there was a period of about two weeks where there was no recycling option in the city.

"It's been fairly seamless transfer."

In the release, Dawson City Mayor Bill Kendrick said the new facility is the result of many years of effort.

"Dawson can now envision a future where we can minimize the amount of waste going into an expensive landfill and maximize the recycling of valuable resources," he said.

Howe credited the Conservation Klondike Society for being "instrumental" in developing the plan before teaming up with the City of Dawson and the Yukon government to bring the facility to life.

"Congratulations to the City of Dawson on their new recycling centre and for their leadership in the territory on their waste systems," Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said in the release.

"This new facility allows Dawson to continue its strong recycling program and explore future innovations."

Dropping it off

No curbside recycling pickup is currently available in Dawson, but that could change soon, according to Howe.

"We’re looking into that. It will take some time to deliver an accurate cost analysis to council, if that's a viable product that we wish to pursue," he said.

"Hopefully we can, and I think we can, but it will take a number of months to ensure that that is plausible."

The future of recycling in Whitehorse, which contains the bulk of the territory's population and also doesn't have public curbside pickup, remains up in the air. Raven Recycling Society announced that, as the territory's primary recycling processor, it will no longer be receiving plastics, paper cardboard and other materials through its 24/7 public drop-off bins after Dec. 31. All other services such as the bottle depot and metals, textiles and e-waste recycling will continue.

Residents can choose to use the services of Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling, which provides private curbside recycling throughout the city at a cost.

"Without a city-wide collection system, the ability of Whitehorse citizens to divert material from the landfill has stalled," reads the announcement.

"Raven Recycling Society is now stepping aside, thereby enabling government to take the lead on collection services."

READ MORE: Changes coming to Whitehorse recycling

According to its website, Raven Recycling Society is a non-profit social enterprise that was started by a group of volunteers in 1989. A volunteer board of directors governs the depot, which provides about 30 jobs. It does not receive core government funding.

On March 14, Mostyn told the Yukon Legislative Assembly that "waste is a municipal responsibility."

In the legislature, Mostyn said he met with Raven Recycling Society and the City of Whitehorse on this issue.

"I have expressed my concern with any gap in service that would set us backwards in our effort to divert waste and look forward to working together to find solutions," he said.

Mostyn said the Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada to have a volunteer-run institution handling recycling, which is normally carried out by municipalities.

"I am working with the City of Whitehorse to make sure that we understand what is involved in getting recycling in a municipal realm done, and we are working together with the City of Whitehorse and Raven Recycling to find solutions to take the city into the modern waste management facilities," Mostyn said.

Contact Dana Hatherly at [email protected]

Crushing it Dropping it off READ MORE: Changes coming to Whitehorse recycling