The Yukon Blue Bin Recycling Society is serious about waste management. Which is ironic, since it started with a joke.
“Me and my cousin Hector were at a wedding down in Ontario and laughing about how I don’t have any food in my pantry, I just have recycling,” said Graham Lang, one of the founders of the recycling society.
Although Lang considered himself an accomplished “recycling hoarder,” he couldn’t hold a candle to Hector who, with four kids, had so much recycling in his garage, he referred to it as “the college fund.”
It’s not that either of them has a pathological compulsion for squirreling away recycling, but without a car, getting it to a depot can be a daunting task.
“I mean to recycle, I just never do it,” said Lang. “Part of it for me is, I work downtown, I live downtown and I don’t have a car.
“It’s a lifestyle choice. I’m trying to lead this Yukon small-footprint life and I’m trying to recycle too, but I can’t do it without getting a car involved.”
They figured that they couldn’t be the only ones that would appreciate a curb-side recycling service, so back in July Graham, his brother Fraser, their cousin Hector and their friend Kevin Hannam started the Yukon Blue Bin Recycling Society.
It costs $20 a month to sign up. For that, customers get a blue bin, some biodegradable bags and bimonthly curb-side pickup of all recyclables. Best of all, there’s no need to sort any of it.
“The whole thing is about convenience,” said Lang.
So far it’s been well received, he said.
The society has only been up and running for a week, but they already have 60 subscribers.
People can sign up through the website, www.yukonbluebins.com, but most of the customers have been wooed the old fashioned way. The quartet has been out banging on doors every night for the past week.
When they started talking about the plans for the society in July, walking around soliciting customers seemed like “a way better idea,” said Lang.
The plan was to have it going much earlier, but getting everything in place, including city permits, took longer than any of them anticipated.
“At the time, it didn’t seem like much of a delay, but now that it’s -20 out …,” Lang sighed. “The good thing about it is when you’re knocking on doors at 8 o’clock at -20, people know you’re serious about it; they believe that you’ll be there to pick up their recycling.”
Right now the society only offers curb-side pickup in Riverdale.
The idea is to work out any kinks with the service there before expanding to other parts of the city. If everything goes smoothly, Lang said the plan is to move into another neighbourhood by mid-January.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “You just need a vehicle big enough and some guys willing to pick it up.”
They have the guys and got a break on the cube van, thanks to Terry Horseman of Horseman Mechanical.
“He’s letting us pay it off over time because he believes in the project,” said Lang.
The society also struck a deal with P&M Recycling, which takes all the recyclables it collects. Any refundables the society drops off are split 50/50 with P&M. But, instead of keeping that money, the society plans on donating its half to other Whitehorse non-profits.
It’s been a lot of work to get it started, but in the end it’s worth it, said Lang.
“I believe in leaving a small footprint and living in a sustainable way and this is a way to sort of put your money where your mouth is and build something that the community can use.”
The hope is to create a self-sustaining model for the society and eventually hire someone to take the reins so the four
don’t have to spend all their free time picking up blue bins and soliciting customers.
Right now the city, with both composting and recycling, diverts less than 20 per cent of its municipal waste from the landfill. Because Whitehorse residents produce so little waste – less than 10 per cent of the total – the main focus for the city is on the commercial sector, but it has been very supportive of the society’s efforts, said Lang.
“Having us deal with the residential waste, which you’d think was more but isn’t, sort of dovetails with their plans, and it allows them to divert resources to bigger fish,” he said.
Once the society gets 200 customers signed up, it will start breaking even. At the rate it has been going, with eight to 10 customers a day, Lang doesn’t expect it to take that long.
“I think it’s going to benefit Whitehorse,” he said. “I think it’s a service that people want.
“Sometimes we get into that mindset where we’re waiting for other people to do things, and this is a good example where, as a community, if we get together, we can do it. We don’t need expertise, all we really need is a cube van.”
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org