We, the Concerned Citizens of Haines Junction, would like to congratulate our mayor and council for cancelling the plan to purchase an incinerator.
It’s time we move beyond short-term solutions for our landfill problems. Haines Junction urgently needs an innovative solid-waste management plan, one that is fiscally responsible, environmentally sound, and above all, designed to meet the specific needs of our community.
Although Haines Junction is thought to have the highest recycling rate of any Yukon community outside of Whitehorse, our diversion rate (the amount we reuse, recycle, and compost) is estimated to be only 15 per cent.
We think it is achievable to have a diversion rate of closer to 85 per cent, as the majority of items going into our landfill are recyclable. Most residents already agree that recycling is a good thing. It should also be the goal of our village council to maximize diversion, similar to the Government of Yukon’s goal to reach 50 per cent diversion by 2015, and zero waste by 2040.
The trick is, we have to take recycling seriously. As individuals, we need to go beyond only putting pop and beer cans in the recycling bin, and start looking at everything we throw away as potential recyclables.
As a village, we need to take responsibility for recycling, not offload responsibility to a volunteer organization, as it currently does. Solid-waste management is a municipal responsibility, and our next mayor and council need to step up to the plate on this one.
Perhaps most importantly, the village must take an active role in making sure that businesses and institutional users start diverting their waste. Construction waste, for example, is a big part of the garbage in our dump. Most of this waste can be reused and recycled, yet Haines Junction simply doesn’t have the facilities for this. It’s unrealistic to expect an overworked volunteer group to undertake this – the village has to take the lead.
Creating a long-term solid-waste management plan with diversion as our key goal would be an excellent start. Such a plan needs to include concrete targets and methods to achieve those targets. It needs to include commercial and institutional users, user fees to encourage recycling, the banning of easily recyclable and toxic materials from our dump, and a substantial educational component so businesses and individuals can learn how and what to recycle and compost more effectively.
Right now, we are faced with an amazing opportunity. The Yukon government has $3 million from the Build Canada Fund earmarked for solid-waste management infrastructure in Yukon communities. In fact, Build Canada explicitly states that diversion is a preferred use of this money!
We, the Concerned Citizens of Haines Junction, feel that it is time to challenge ourselves to change the way we live our lives – to make the community a better place for ourselves, and future generations. Lip service to recycling is no longer an option.
It is time to take action to change our future.
John Farynowski, Thomas Eckervogt, Dave Weir, Colin Graham
On behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Haines Junction.