City and territory scramble to aid of recyclers

A city-wide curbside program is still in the works, it's just taking a little longer than expected, says Shannon Clohosey, manager of environmental sustainability with the City of Whitehorse.

A city-wide curbside program is still in the works, it’s just taking a little longer than expected, says Shannon Clohosey, manager of environmental sustainability with the City of Whitehorse.

Three Yukon companies have formally expressed interest in operating the service, which the city estimates will cost households $15 a month for weekly collection.

The city is currently working on a request for proposals and a contract for the service, said Clohosey.

“It’s very detailed, and we’re just really making sure we do our due diligence, and get it right.”

After that’s done, the three companies will have an opportunity to bid on the contract. That process will take several months, and it could be several months after that before equipment is secured and the service is up and running, said Clohosey.

The outcome of that process is likely to shape recycling in the territory well into the future.

At the moment, the recycling industry is in a bit of disarray, and both the city and the Yukon government are scrambling to help it to its feet.

The industry took a major hit when commodities prices crashed in 2008.

The territory’s largest processor, Raven Recycling, shut its public drop-off service in October because it could no longer cover the costs of shipping materials out.

That has only P&M to deal with the territory’s plastic, paper, glass and metal.

“It’s been a bit of a gong show, I’m not going to lie,” said P&M owner Pat McInroy in an interview this week.

“I think we’ve finally got our head above water now.”

Now the city and territory have announced they have found new money that they hope will get Raven back on its feet.

“It’s a good news story,” said McInroy. “We’re going to get a few extra dollars to get rid of a bunch of problematic things, and it’ll lighten the burden on us a little bit.”

The Yukon government has also promised up to $573,000 to support the processors in 2015/2016, two and a half times what was provided in the past year.

And, for the first time, instead of a straight per-tonne diversion credit, the amount of the credit will vary depending on the material. That makes sense because different materials cost different amounts to process, and fetch different amounts on the recycling markets Outside.

The City of Whitehorse has also chipped in, providing an additional $57,300 in diversion credits to recyclers this year, beyond its regular $150,000 funding cap for that program.

In addition, it has advanced the $150,00 set aside for 2016 diversion credits.

Hopefully that won’t mean there’s nothing left in 2016, said Mayor Dan Curtis in an interview this week.

“We’re really hoping that by then we’re going to have a long-term solution. Right now this is more of a short term,” he said.

This short-term plan also involves helping Raven and P&M Recycling deal with stockpiled material.

The Yukon government has chipped in $68,000 to ship out 400 tonnes of mixed plastics, which is one of the least valuable recyclable products.

And the City of Whitehorse has agreed to take on stockpiled mixed paper, to use in its composting program.

Recycling paper is certainly preferable to composting it, said Clohosey, but “since this has been stockpiled for a little while, it’s not in great shape anymore.”

The compost created from the paper will be a lesser grade, she said. It will be used for industrial and landscaping projects, rather than farms and gardens.

Raven has yet to announce if these new funding injections will be enough for it to reopen its drop-off service.

“They haven’t said definitively either way,” said Currie Dixon, minister of community services. “But they have reiterated the fact that it’s a board decision. It’s not up to one person, it’s the board that has to decide.

“For the Yukon government’s part, we’ve provided everything that has been asked of us by them. So from a financial point of view, we think that we’ve addressed their concerns, so we’re hopeful that that would mean that they would reopen their public drop-off.”

The territory also has new regulations in the works that will allow recyclers to collect more fees for processing beverage containers, tires and electronics.

That should help ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry, said Dixon.

While diversion credits were always intended as a stop-gap measure, the Yukon government might consider continuing them for some of the less valuable materials into the future, though those decisions have not been made yet, he said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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