Recycling baling resumes after blue bins dumped

As City resolves staff shortage, chill on international waste imports persists

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After Yellowknifer revealed last week that at least some of the city’s collected tin cans, cardboard and plastics were being sent straight to the landfill, Mayor Rebecca Alty now says the municipal baler is back at work – but Yellowknife’s recycling program is still facing challenges.

As of Monday, Yellowknife’s recycling was being baled and stored after staffing shortages had put it out of action, she said.

The city’s solid waste facility continues to offer recycling services, and “hazardous materials and certain types of e-waste continue to be processed, stored and pelletized for proper handling,” city communications officer Richard McIntosh told Yellowknifer in an email. Glass and plastic beverage containers can also still go to the Bottle Shop.

Plastics are meanwhile dumped at landfill. Following the publication of this article, McIntosh also confirmed that tin and glass had not been recycled in two years.

The city is working with Ecology North and Kavanaugh Waste Management Services, “to determine the best options for recycling moving forward, given the current global economy in regard to recycling.”

In response to international market conditions, Coun. Niels Konge suggested investing in a shredder pelletizer, which would feed cardboard waste into the city’s boilers.

“We’ve really got to start thinking outside the box on some of this stuff,” he said, pointing to his time in Aarhus, Denmark, where municipal waste went through a burner that fueled electricity and waste heat.

Instead of purchasing pellets, he said excess wood bound for the dump could be chipped and the boilers reconfigured to take the new fuel.

“The city stockpiles cardboard, which is the largest volume of materials which can be recycled,” McIntosh told Yellowknifer.

The city bales roughly 32 bundles of cardboard per month from blue bins and another 46 from businesses. Each one is about two cubic meters.

“We really need to start thinking about not just recyclables (and) how to make (cardboard) a value-added product,” said Konge. “If we made it a value-added product and invested a little bit more heavily in district heating, I think we could help with the cost of living.”

He also suggested the city’s waste management system should be privatized.

Coun. Shauna Morgan, meanwhile, said staffing issues needed to be addressed before buying new equipment.

“Before we run out and purchase any future equipment, we need to look at the feasibility of our biomass boilers that we’ve got in place,” she said.

There was always a potential for the boilers to take other sources of wood beyond industrial pellets, including wood chips or other biomass like cardboard or waste paper, she added.

Staffing, however, should still be a priority.

“As long as I’ve been on council, it’s always been a challenge to get additional staff positions passed at budget time because there’s a general perception out there that staff just means bloated bureaucracy and people wasting money and wasting time,” said Morgan.

There tends to be more will behind equipment and infrastructure, but this also requires staff, she said.

While the blue bins dumped at the landfill may discourage residents from recycling, Morgan said residents should continue to recycle and that the baler’s issues were a “temporary blip” due to “a very temporary staff shortage.”

“People may feel that their trust in the city has been shaken,” she said. “When they follow the rules and do what they’re supposed to do, can they trust that the system is working as they expect it work?”

“We are doing our very best to operate as people expect and meet the standards that people. This isn’t us trying to pull the wool over people and trick them,” she said, explaining residents can still trust the city.