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Recyclables in Yellowknife, Northern Canada have been dumped in landfill for over a year

Jul. 11, 2019

While Yellowknife, Northwest Territories residents have been carefully sorting their recyclables and dropping them off in the city’s large blue containers, for more than a year, the city has been tossing most types of recyclables in the trash.

For about two years, tin and glass have been dumped at a landfill in town, confirmed city spokesperson Richard McIntosh. The dumping ground is separate from the regular garbage, but once the tin and glass get ditched there, that’s it — the materials can’t be retrieved for recycling at a later date.

McIntosh said the city used to stockpile tin and sell it as scrap metal, but now the scrap metal market is “no longer available.”

Plastics, too, have been getting baled and then dumped in the landfill.

Revelations that Yellowknife’s recycling program isn’t what it appears to be came last week, after the Yellowknifer newspaper published a photo appearing to show municipal containers — with separate compartments for plastics, glass, tin, paper and cardboard — being emptied into a garbage heap at the city’s landfill.

McIntosh said a staff shortage at the baling facility was to blame. Between June 24 and July 7, the workers weren’t there to run the baler that compresses recyclables. Baling operations started up again on Monday, he said.

It turns out, however, that tossing recyclables into the trash has been common practice at the city for years.

Slump in plastics market

McIntosh said international market changes in 2018 hampered the city’s efforts to sell off its used plastics.

Yellowknife isn’t the only city seeking buyers for the stuff.

Municipalities across Canada have struggled to find a market for used plastics after China, which used to be a primary importer of the world’s recyclables, banned 24 types of recyclable material at the start of 2018.

McIntosh said Yellowknife produces two to three bales of plastics per month.

“The city has made efforts in the past year to find recyclers that would accept our plastics and continue to keep abreast to trends and global policy developments,” he said in an email on Wednesday.

Indeed, right now, other than beverage containers, only Yellowknife’s cardboard and some paper products are actually being recycled.

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