Raven Recycling is planning to close its outdoor recycling drop-off on Dec. 31. (Yukon News file)

Raven Recycling is planning to close its outdoor recycling drop-off on Dec. 31. (Yukon News file)

Changes coming to Whitehorse recycling

Drop-off bins will shut as of Dec. 31

Raven Recycling has announced that after Dec. 31, it will no longer operate its 24-hour drop-off bins for recyclable materials.

The change was announced in a press release Feb. 27 with Raven officials pointing to new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations coming into effect.

The change is to help ensure a more comprehensive collection service in Whitehorse, according to the statement from Raven.

“It is a big shift in the recycling system and we are very hopeful that it moves us toward an EPR system that gets as much material as possible into the circular economy,” said Heather Ashthorn, Raven’s executive director.

The EPR regulations, which are expected to be in place by the end of 2025, shares a goal with the nonprofit to “achieve zero waste at a cost that justifies the financial, social and environmental impact,” Ashthorn said.

“EPR is a difficult system to break down for the public, but it can be said that recycling will be more important and more effective than ever once the regulation is in effect,” she said. “This is absolutely the time to ensure that all people have access to participating in recycling.”

Raven is a nonprofit created in 1989 and operated by volunteers who promote recycling in the territory.

The statement adds that “without a city-wide collection system, the ability of Whitehorse citizens to divert material from the landfill has stalled.”

While there is not a city-wide collection system, residents can choose to use the services of Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling, which provides private curbside recycling throughout the city.

Raven president Jacqueline Bedard said: “The success of Raven’s public drop-off system has delayed the development of a more effective, government-run city-wide collection program, accessible to all Whitehorse residents.”

Raven currently receives material for processing through a number of collection systems including the private curbside collection company, the commercial sector through various waste haulers, the city’s landfill, all Yukon community depots and through the 24/7 public drop-off in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse is one of the last Canadian cities without a city-run blue box program, Raven said.

“Raven will continue to process all material that comes to the facility from communities and from curbside collection, to the best of its abilities, until a more effective, purpose-built processing facility is available,” officials said.

The company added this is dependent on governments continuing to pay the appropriate diversion credit rate, past the expiration of the current contract which ends June 30.

“We are hopeful that there will not be a gap in collection in the Whitehorse area, as we continue to work with the City of Whitehorse and Yukon government to ensure the best possible transition to EPR”, Ashthorn said.

“Raven will also continue to advocate for zero waste and develop plans that allow it to build on the anticipated success of EPR and increased waste diversion” the statement added.

Ashthorn said Raven is only one player in the recycling game in Whitehorse, and it’s not clear how its decision will affect recycling in the city.

“There will have to be continued discussions throughout this year with governments to ensure that all parties are bringing our best resources forward. We are dedicated to being part of that process,” she said. “Our aim is to support a more accessible and more effective system. We have been inviting governments into conversation about this decision since October and we will be engaging in discussions with both governments about the future of recycling starting this week.”

Ashthorn said for many years, Raven has been advocating for curbside collection for many years including helping the city develop a curbside program.

“As always, it is hard to get meaningful citizen engagement, but we do know from over 30 years as Yukon’s primary recycling processor, that many Yukoners are dedicated recyclers,” she said. “We believe that bringing collection services to all homes, including multi-family residential, as well as providing services to businesses, is the most practical way to illicit better participation and improve our diversion rate.”

Almost every other city in Canada takes this approach, she said. The new EPR system has been implemented in most Canadian provinces while the Yukon will be the first territory to enact environmental legislation.

“Our current system is excluding people who don’t drive, don’t have space to store recycling and don’t have time to come to us, amongst others,” she said. “It is also enabling businesses to recycle large volumes of material for free, although recycling is far from free.”

Ashthorn said they are hopeful that the governments come together to develop a good collection service that ensures as little material as possible ends up in landfills, adding Raven will work closely with the Yukon government to bring stability to the recycling system.

“We are happy to be part of the development of a new system and happy to continue to support our processing services,” she said.

Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling said the drop-off closure will not affect their day-to-day operations.

“In fact it will probably lead to increased membership for our services as the free drop-off has competed with our services in the past,” said general manager Fraser Lang.

“As a organization, we are happy to see the free drop-off closure announcement from Raven Recycling. We have been part of the recycling industry in Whitehorse for over 10 years now, and we know that recycling costs money,” he said. “We admire Raven for keeping the drop-off open for so long to promote recycling, but feel that it sends the wrong message to the public that recycling is free.”

Lang noted they charge a membership fee for their services, which includes picking up the material and processing it.

“We are proud to be a client pay system that helps pay for some of the associated costs of transporting and processing the material,” he said. “Through our program, our clients are aware that recycling has a cost and we all have to do our part to contribute to it. As a private business we do all we can to keep costs as low as possible to ensure that as many households and businesses can afford to recycle in a cost-effective manner.”

Contact Patrick Egwu at patrick.egwu@yukon-news.com