There’s a cost to the stench

That pile of Styrofoam, moldy carpet, construction glue and plastic containers smouldering at the local dump may smell really bad, but it's not dangerous. Not yet.

That pile of Styrofoam, moldy carpet, construction glue and plastic containers smouldering at the local dump may smell really bad, but it’s not dangerous.

Not yet.

That little bit of wisdom cost $50,000, which is what the Yukon government paid Richmond, BC-based environmental engineer Chris Marson.

Marson collected data on topography, weather and the estimated amount of waste burned in Yukon landfills. After crunching the numbers, he analyzed 33 potential toxins, and isolated the five worst nasties.

The good news is that, even under the worst conditions, people living in the vicinity have nothing to worry about.

Just because you can smell the stench doesn’t mean it is going to kill you. You’ve got a better chance of catching swine flu. Or dying in a Friday night car wreck.

So the trash can be burned, and residents of Carcross, Tagish and other communities where it happens can sleep without fear.

But, of course, that’s not really the point.

Once again, the Yukon government is using the environment as a dumping ground to cut costs.

In this case, Yukon residents don’t know the true cost of its garbage. Instead, we burn it, which seems free. (It isn’t, of course, but the costs are cumulative and extremely hard to track.)

All people see is a toxic plume rising into the atmosphere, and sometimes you don’t even see that. And because of our low population and large landmass, this isn’t a big deal, as Marson notes in his report.

It’s cosmetic—smells bad, but doesn’t hurt us. No big deal.

Yet.

But as jurisdictions across the continent are learning, there is a cumulative cost to such behaviour. It catches up with you. Often faster than people realize.

And, of course, there’s the bigger picture—just because burning a small amount of trash in a northern village doesn’t hurt people immediately doesn’t mean society should be doing it.

Again, even small amounts are cumulative over time.

At best, Marson’s expensive report may be used to identify the worst dumps before a promised territory wide cleanup in three years. That is, by the way, a ridiculously long delay.

At worst, its information will be used to soothe public fears about the dump-burning issue allowing the government to shelve its promised reforms.

Fact is, there is a cost to disposing of garbage in the territory. Burning it is cheap, but irresponsible.

Society knows better—converting it to atmosphere-polluting toxins isn’t the right solution. We shouldn’t be doing it.

It’s time Yukoners started reducing the amount of garbage we produce.

Paying the true cost of disposing of it encourages people to cut the amount they produce.

If we don’t, we’ll pay much more in the future. (Richard Mostyn)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read