Whitehorse’s mayor says he’s confident the city will meet its waste diversion goals

Whitehorse’s mayor says he’s confident the city will meet its waste diversion goals even after the Salvation Army Thrift Store shuts its doors.

Whitehorse’s mayor says he’s confident the city will meet its waste diversion goals even after the Salvation Army Thrift Store shuts its doors.

Dan Curtis said the city will continue focusing on keeping cardboard, wood and organic waste out of the dump as a way of keeping the amount of overall trash down.

“We’re enjoying some tremendous success in reaching our goals,” he said. “We’re trying to do it without a heavy hand, by working with the business community, other levels of government, and our community, of course.”

Re-used items make up very little of what is kept away from the dump, the mayor said. Only about 10 per cent of what ended up at the city’s now-defunct free store ended up finding a new home. The rest was trashed.

The city wants to start by diverting 50 per cent of waste away from the dump and plans to hit 100 per cent diversion by 2040.

Originally the target was to hit the halfway mark by 2015. That didn’t happen. Whitehorse currently sits at about 31 per cent diversion, said Bryna Cable, the city’s environmental coordinator.

When the city’s solid waste action plan was introduced in 2013 Whitehorse had spent 10 years sitting at about an 18 or 20 per cent diversion rate, she said.

“We actually saw a very dramatic increase in diversion over a very short time.”

The 2015 deadline was always seen as ambitious, she said. When city council made the decision, it only had about 18 months to get there.

No new deadline to hit the 50 per cent mark has been set.

The focus of the solid waste action plan is to get the big and toxic things out of the dump first, Cable said.

Cardboard and clean wood were banned from the dump in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

“What we’re really trying to do is get the large-scale producers,” she said.

“We’re not going after the single cardboard box. We’re not trying to be punitive here.”

The mayor said 3,000 tonnes of cardboard are being diverted each year.

The most toxic thing at the dump is organics, Cable said.

When organics break down in an area where there is no air they create an acidic liquid.

“That liquid then meets all the other things that are sitting in the landfill that could potentially be inert — metals, plastics — and it draws out the chemicals from those materials,” Cable said.

The residential organics pick-up program started in 2009. A commercial version began in 2014.

About 100 businesses have their organics picked up.

”This is really out front for communities in Canada,” Cable said. She estimates “43 per cent of the residential waste is not going into the landfill. Instead it’s going into our compost facility and becoming a valuable local fertilizer for our people.”

The Salvation Army has said its thrift store was not financially viable and that too many people were dropping off trash that cannot be reused.

Staff with Raven Recycling’s free store — the only free store left in Whitehorse — are trying to come up with a business model that might work.

Curtis said he was sad the Salvation Army store was closing but seemed unwilling to commit funds to a future hypothetical project.

The thrift store is slated to close April 12.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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