Waste Management in Canada: Northwest Territories

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Dump Tuesdays

Think of me, fellow recyclers, on Tuesdays. May your kind thoughts and heartfelt solidarity warm the Hot Paws in the inner linings of my gloves as I muster up the courage to venture yet again to the outdoor compost facility in -30 C weather.

Despite the blistering cold chafing at that spot of exposed skin between my eyebrows, I don’t necessarily dread “Dump Tuesdays” in Yellowknife. As I tend to the windrows of decomposing food scraps, I have actually come to be very fond of these moments of meditation out in the Yellowknife Compost Facility.

YellowknifeCompostWe’ve spent the past three years learning the ropes through a composting pilot project that focused on a few key businesses and multi-dwelling apartments. Where most Canadian municipalities implement organics collection pilots that prioritize single-family households, we courageously decided to first work with the big waste generators. In our particular case, this strategy has been successful and our work was recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as they awarded us with the Sustainable Communities Award for Waste in 2013.

Recently, the City of Yellowknife has approved the expansion of our Centralized Compost Program to include residential collection of organics. This means that Yellowknife is about to embark on a mission to divert the annual 9,000 tonnes of organic material from our waste stream. This commitment puts the city in the right direction towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also will provide quality compost to residents and municipal projects in a part of the country where topsoil is hard to come by. Also, we’re actively extending the life of our landfill; a feat that has economic, environmental and social benefits.

Guest blogger Chris Vaughn explains Yellowknife’s composting process. Photo by Lyndsay Herman, Northern News Service.

On Tuesdays, as I rush to the outdoor facility to investigate the new delivery of food scraps before everything freezes over, I often ask myself, “Why do I like doing this? Why am I smiling as I trudge through half-eaten food to remove plastic bags and the occasional pop-soda can?”

Here is one of the many reasons why am committed to organics recycling.

Composting, a stream of organics recycling, is location-specific, which physically ties the process to a limited circumference. This differs from other recycling processes, where materials are shipped away to be used or discarded. The enforced circumference of organics recycling has people at its centre and calls for greater stewardship and communal responsibility over the management of food waste. We don’t have the “luxury” of shipping spoiled food to the south or elsewhere for others to deal with it. This is our responsibility and we need to collectively deal with it here and now.

It’s this sense of accountability that makes me proud to work in the field of organics recycling and that makes me even more proud of the continual efforts that the Northerners, from small communities and hamlets to the capital, continually show as they divert organic waste from the landfill.

So here’s to Dump Tuesdays!

About this guest blogger:

Chris Vaughn, Guest Blogger

Chris Vaughn, Guest Blogger

Chris Vaughn (affectionately known as Vaughn) is Ecology North’s Waste Reduction Manager. He is to the go-to person on the team when it comes to the Yellowknife Centralized Compost Program and is ready and able to support the community with their food waste woes. Vaughn has several years under his belt working with non-profits around social issues. He has also supported urban agriculture projects in Mali and done research and planning for food sovereignty initiatives in Dakar, Senegal. Hailing from Montreal, he has a B. Eng in Bioresource Engineering from McGill University and is currently completing his graduate level studies in Community Economic Development through Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs. Vaughn spends his quiet time playing the blues violin and memorizing Sesame Street songs with his son, Thelo.

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