Dawson’s recycling depot crushed

Dawson City’s recycling program is wasting away. “The more we recycle, the more money we lose,” said Conservation Klondike Society…

Dawson City’s recycling program is wasting away.

“The more we recycle, the more money we lose,” said Conservation Klondike Society president Jim Taggart.

“We’re getting penalized for recycling.”

The recycling depot will probably close, he added.

Two years ago, the society was revitalized.

“We had a new board, we did an awful lot of work and everyone was very enthusiastic,” said Taggart, mentioning the society’s composting program and outreach work.

“At that time, we advised the Yukon government of the problems recycling was facing in the community — it fell on deaf ears.

“They haven’t taken their coat off to anything we’ve suggested or come up with any initiatives — there’s no indication they’ll look at this seriously.

“It doesn’t seem to be a priority.”

Recycling is not as well funded in the Yukon as other Canadian jurisdictions, said Taggart.

“It’s a little behind.”

Every province and territory sets refunds on returnables, like pop cans.

For 15 years, the Yukon’s rates haven’t changed.

The handling fees haven’t gone up either.

But it costs a lot more to handle recycling than it did a couple decades ago, said Taggart.

The Conservation Klondike Society already receives the maximum government funding for recycling programs it is eligible for.

But it’s not enough.

Funding depends on how many recyclables come through a depot.

Dawson sees twice as much recycling as the highest tier of funding covers.

“So we get double the volume, but the same operating allowance,” said Taggart.

“We’ve asked the territorial government to revisit this and base it on actual volume.”

For the past two years, the Conservation Klondike Society has lobbied the territorial government.

Environment set up a review committee in November 2006. The society was an associate member.

The idea was to look at changing the refund rates and increase the operating grants, said Taggart.

“But, basically, the whole thing stalled,” he said.

“We had no response from anyone.”

After about a year, the society wrote to Environment.

“They said it was taking longer than anticipated, but they didn’t say anything concrete,” he said.

Two months ago, the society received another update — Environment was still continuing to address the problem.

But nothing’s happened, said Taggart.

The Dawson depot has slashed its hours and cut staff.

But it’s still losing money.

Dawson is actually paying for the depot’s co-ordinator.

But this should be the territorial government’s responsibility, said Taggart.

Dawson’s landfill only has about six years of life left, he added.

“And given the landfill is the Yukon government’s responsibility, you’d think they would adequately fund recycling programs that would help divert material away from the landfill and therefore save them a lot of money in the long term, but it doesn’t seem to be that way.”

Currently, every time someone buys a can of pop, they pay five cents towards the Yukon’s beverage container regulations fund.

If that can of pop is recycled, the consumer gets their five cents back, and the recycling depot gets 2.5 cents to handle the item.

“We certainly need to increase the handling fee for the depots,” said Taggart.

“And if we increase the refund fee for the customers, then of course the customer is a lot more likely to recycle and bring the items in for refunds.

“This would help because we’d process more materials, and people would donate more and that would bring more money in.”

The depot also handles a lot of recyclable materials that aren’t refundable, including milk jugs, glass, metal and Tetra Paks.

It doesn’t get any handling fees for these items.

The territorial government covers shipping refundables to Raven Recycling from the Dawson depot.

Getting the non refundables there rests solely on the goodwill of the haulers, who take the milk jugs, paper, glass, metal and Tetra Paks for free.

“We’re thankful they do it,” said Taggart.

“But we shouldn’t have to rely on the good will of the haulers.”

The Dawson depot is asking residents to donate recycling to help with costs.

But it’s still losing money.

Over the last few years, the depot has lost roughly $10,000, said Taggart.

And it expects to lose a couple more thousand this year. “We shouldn’t really be running as a business,” he said.

“It’s a community service we’re running here.”