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The Yellowknife dump, or YKEA as it’s popularly known, resumed salvaging Tuesday after a Covid-prompted hiatus.

New salvaging policies, along with updated machinery, are a few of the ways the solid waste facility is working to meet its upcoming diversion goals.  

Diversion refers to recycling and reusing items brought to the landfill in order to limit what ends up buried at the site. 

By 2030, the goal is for the city-run facility is a diversion rate of 50 per cent. In 2018, that number was 13 per cent. 

Salvaging resumed Tuesday at the dump’s public drop-off area.
Natalie Pressman/NNSL Photo

“It’s ambitious, but I think we can do it,” says Chris Vaughn the landfill’s manager of sustainability and solid waste. 

He says they are looking to change the culture of throwing things away, and want people to understand that every time someone discards a piece of trash, people have to work to manage its disposal.

He explains that salvaging and proper sorting is key to reaching the diversion goal. The new salvaging site is within the public drop-off area so that old vacuum cleaners remain separate from disposed couches, for example. That way, the public can better find what they’re looking for and less ends up in the landfill as “great treasures were being mixed with regular trash,” Vaughn says. 

Sorting recyclables

While the dump continues to cope with a “volatile recycling market,” Vaughn says they still don’t have the capacity to recycle mixed plastics. Still, the facility is urging residents to continue sorting recyclables as the landfill continues to bale and ship cardboard and boxboard materials down south. 

Chris Greencorn, director of public works, says sustained sorting practices also encourage good habits that “support recovery options if ever the market opens up.” 

New gadgets

In May, the landfill acquired a compactor, which Vaughn calls “a game changer.”  He says the site’s staff were starting to worry about space at the facility.

With the compactor, Vaughn says the landfill has six to seven years of use, if not more. Without it, the site’s lifespan would be cut in half. 

Prior to the compactor, the dump was using a baler that pushed waste into a machine and produced a compact “bale.” The compactor saves space by repeatedly running over the waste until it’s flat.

Chris Vaughn, the solid waste facility’s manager of sustainability and solid waste.
Natalie Pressman/NNSL photo

“Space is a valuable commodity because it is not always readily available and so the city always looks to use space in the most efficient way possible,” says city of Yellowknife spokesperson Alison Harrower. “The building, managing and closing of a landfill is an expensive investment, and the city looks to maximize its use and lifespan.”

Also relatively new to the landfill is the woodchipper purchased earlier this year. The new machine creates wood chips of waste wood, which reduces the facility’s risk of fire, increases site space, and allows the site to make use of the wood chips in composting. 

“The SWF (solid waste facility) is a dynamic construction site that requires waste handling, space management and strategic long-term planning to ensure that resources are used effectively and that the environment is minimally affected,” Vaughn says. “We hope to do Yellowknife proud.”

Natalie Pressman

Natalie is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. She has since held contracts working with an NGO in Vietnam and with Journalists for Human Rights in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent...

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