Raven Recycling to shutter drop off bins

As of Oct. 16, Raven Recycling will no longer offer its free public recycling drop-off service. That means the depot will no longer accept cardboard, paper, plastics, styrofoam, milk cartons, tetrapaks and tin.

As of Oct. 16, Raven Recycling will no longer offer its free public recycling drop-off service.

That means the depot will no longer accept cardboard, paper, plastics, styrofoam, milk cartons, tetrapaks and tin. It will continue to accept refundable beverage containers.

“I actually have a pretty heavy heart today, and it’s been very difficult to come to this decision, given how hard we’ve tried to keep this viable,” said executive director Joy Snyder at the news conference on Monday.

The society has been lobbying the government for a sustainable funding arrangement since 2008, when prices for recyclable materials crashed, according to a news release.

“The issue has been building for a number of years, and we have cut expenses as much as possible, including laying off staff,” said Snyder.

Last year the society lost one full-time and one half-time employee, and with this announcement two more full-time jobs and one more half-time position will be cut, she said. Some remaining staff are working reduced hours.

It costs the society $330 on average to process and ship a tonne of recyclable materials, said Snyder.

For that work, the society receives a $75 diversion credit from the City of Whitehorse and a $75 diversion credit from the Yukon government.

The Yukon government’s portion of the credit was intended as an interim measure while the parties worked out a longer term solution, and is set to expire in December, according to Raven’s release.

Raven will still offer its beverage container return service, free store, education services and other programs while the drop-off is closed.

Residents can still recycle by taking items to P&M Recycling or to the recycling bins at the dump, or by signing up with the Yukon Blue Bin Recycling Society where service is available.

In other Canadian cities, recycling services are typically either managed by the municipal government or contracted out.

Whitehorse, where independent businesses and non-profits shoulder the responsibility, is the exception, said Snyder.

The short-term solution would be for governments to double diversion credits to allow Raven to cover its costs, said Snyder.

Long term, the society would like to see more materials saddled with an up-front fee to cover recycling costs at the end of its life, as most beverage containers currently are in the territory.

The Yukon government is currently consulting on doing exactly that, adding a fee at the point of sale for milk containers, more tire sizes and some electronics and appliances.

That will allow the government to collect more money to pay processors for the handling of those items, and possibly subsidize the costs for recycling materials not covered under the program.

But those changes are not expected to come into effect for another year, and “we cannot hang on that long,” said Snyder in the news release.

Raven’s announcement wasn’t a complete surprise, said Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis on Tuesday.

The city has known for a long time that Raven has had concerns with its funding, he said.

“It’s a big issue. This is something that goes beyond Whitehorse’s borders,” said Curtis.

The city and the Yukon government have both committed to a goal of diverting 50 per cent of waste from the landfill.

The loss of Raven’s drop off service could be a significant set back to achieving that.

In 2013 the city was diverting only about 20 per cent waste, said Shannon Clohosey, environmental sustainability manager with the city.

The city implemented its solid waste action plan in August of 2013, including an expanded composting program and new rules for recycling cardboard.

Progress since then is hard to gauge because numbers for 2014 are not yet available, said Clohosey.

“The plan is going to be first and foremost to acknowledge that Raven Recycling has done a fantastic job … and we’re very proud of the work that they have done, and it does leave a big void, but it’s something that we’re going to have to address as a community,” said Curtis.

But he would not say if supporting Raven to re-open the drop-off centre was a priority for the city.

“This is bigger than one entity or one government or one individual or one business, so we’re really looking for suggestions and advice from everyone affected,” he said.

Curtis encouraged residents to participate in the city’s upcoming budget consultations to speak up about what matters to them.

Community Services Minister Brad Cathers also would not say if supporting Raven is on Yukon’s priority list.

“We are not focused on which processor or processors provide those services,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

He said that while the Yukon government has set a goal of 50 per cent diversion by 2015, ultimately it’s up to residents to make that choice.

“It requires primarily people making personal choices to recycle, to compost and to avoid people putting things in the garbage that can be reused, recycled or composted.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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