Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.
Zero Waste Starts Now
Raven Recycling is the premier recycling centre in the Yukon. We are a non-profit social enterprise and all the money we make goes back into education and recycling activities.
Before 1989, there was no organized recycling in the Yukon, so a group of volunteers got together as a recycling committee and three years later, the Raven Recycling Society was formed and things really got going. Over the years we’ve taken on more staff and expanded our operations. Raven is not just a recycle center; we also educate people about recycling as well, through tours, presentations and a monthly newsletter.
One of the most common questions we are asked about is the transport issue. Being so far north, we have to ship all our recycling down south. They ask, “Isn’t it more wasteful of energy to ship everything for recycling, than to just make new product?” The simple answer is “no it isn’t.” Even with the long distances we have to contend with, it’s still up to 94% more energy efficient to recycle than to make it from scratch.
We do work with the municipal and territorial governments regarding waste management, but unlike other parts of the country, the collection and processing of recycling is currently not taxpayer funded.
There is no city-wide Blue Box program in the capital of Whitehorse. We rely on people to bring their recycling to a depot; however businesses in Whitehorse pay to have paper and cardboard picked up for recycling. Beverage containers have refunds payable at the depot, like other provinces, so there is an incentive for people to come here and drop off all their recycling at the same time. Recent upgrades to our collection system have enabled us to make it even easier for people to recycle as we ask for less sorting. Making recycling easier is one of the ways we try to increase the recycling rate.
The past year has been an exciting one for us. After celebrating our 20th anniversary and the 2012 arrival of our small MRF (material recovery facility) or “Smurf” as we call it, we have now added another string to our bow by accepting Styrofoam for recycling for the first time.
2013 also saw us partner with government departments, the City of Whitehorse and various organizations to form Zero Waste Yukon. Our aim is to have zero waste in the Yukon by 2040. Whitehorse is aiming to have 50% waste diversion by 2015. One of the ways to reach those targets is the City’s new controlled waste classification on cardboard which will mean higher fees to put it in the landfill. We’re doing our part by helping to increasing our cardboard collection throughout the city.
Zero Waste is a challenge, but by working together with our partners, we are certain we can achieve it by 2040. A Zero Waste Yukon will not only be better for us, but will be something for the rest of Canada to aim for once they see it can be done.
About this guest blogger:
Danny Lewis, Raven’s Education Coordinator, has been working with Raven Recycling for 7 years. Prior to this position he worked as an owner/operator of another recycling company in Whitehorse for 11 years. He has a background in Early Childhood Education and has been working with foster children and special needs adults since a child. He has traveled the globe and, after experiencing the waste creation and disposal methods of many cultures around the world, he decided to try and help educate people on the importance of reducing their waste footprint and learning not only to recycle what they have, but produce less in the first place. He admits that he is not a shining example of recycling behaviour and knows he has a long way to go on being a Zero Waste citizen of this planet. Still, he strives towards improving his lifestyle and surroundings through recycling, while showing others that it is possible, and how it can be done.