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Whitehorse approves waste management plan

Trash talk has taken on a new meaning in Whitehorse. On Monday night, city council unanimously voted to approve a new Solid Waste Action Plan.

Trash talk has taken on a new meaning in Whitehorse.

On Monday night, city council unanimously voted to approve a new Solid Waste Action Plan. The plan outlines ways the city hopes to meet its goal of halving the amount of waste sent to the local landfill by 2015. The city has an ultimate goal of zero waste production by 2040.

“It’s a big concern,” acting city manager Brian Crist said Tuesday morning from the landfill. “This is a collection of waste material that’s locked here forever.”

But the landfill has a short life, and this could mean big costs for the city.

Nearly 80 per cent of waste produced in Whitehorse gets sent to the local landfill. If this continues, the site can only be used for another 40 years, down from the original 77 years it was estimated to last. It would cost $13.5 million to close the facility, and another $13.7 million to build a new one.

“This is not an option for us anymore,” deputy mayor Betty Irwin said on Tuesday. Developing this plan is one of this council’s top five priorities, and it will be a good legacy to leave to other councils, she said.

On Monday, council approved spending $50,000 from the city’s reserves on putting parts of the plan into action this year. This will be used to educate the public about waste and create focus groups with different partners across the city, environmental co-ordinator Bryna Cable said Tuesday.

Most of what’s sent to the landfill can be composted or recycled, said Cable. The plan focuses on making sure organics, cardboard and wood waste don’t end up at the landfill. These materials take up a lot of space.

A pilot project will begin this fall to have the city pick up compostable materials from some apartments and condo buildings. The specific buildings haven’t been chosen yet. Eventually, the city wants to have a private company pick up all compostable waste in the city, said Cable. The city also plans to add cardboard to the list of items not allowed at the landfill. This change could be made this fall.

There will also be public education campaigns about how to re-use waste products.

“The goal is to value all of our waste as a resource. It’s only waste if it’s wasted. If you can re-use it, if you can re-process it, then it’s useful,” said Irwin. People need to realize the landfill belongs to the community, and that the community is responsible for what goes into it.

“They have to take responsibility of all those bubble packs that they bring home from Wal-Mart,” said Irwin.

The city will also be purchasing new compost equipment and expanding the facility, Irwin said. Money for this equipment will come from the federal gas tax, not the city’s reserves, said Shannon Clohosey, the city’s manager of environmental sustainability.

Beginning this fall, the city will also be offering tours of the compost facility to members of the public.

Councillors Mike Gladish and Jocelyn Curteanu were absent from Monday’s council meeting.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at