Why Whitehorse's 'recycled' glass goes to the landfill

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis surprised some city residents this week when he told them not to bother recycling glass jars and bottles, since most of them go to the landfill anyway.

Think glass is a 'greener' choice? Think again

Glass is too heavy to ship south for processing, said Raven Recycling's Danny Lewis. 'We'd be shipping trucks out daily, and we wouldn’t even be able to get it all out, because there’s that much.' (Mead Gruver/AP file photo)

As the city of Whitehorse considers a future blue bin recycling program, it has some residents thinking more about waste.

It turns out, making "green" choices in the North isn't always what you might expect.

Earlier this week, mayor Dan Curtis surprised some residents by telling them not to bother recycling glass jars, and instead to throw them in the garbage.

"Glass goes to the landfill anyway. It came from sand and that's where it's going to go," Curtis said. 

In southern Canada, glass is often considered the greener choice for consumers, because it's easy to recycle. Not so in the Yukon, where glass is collected by private recycling companies, but is too heavy to ship out for processing.

'Unfortunately, we're not sending [glass] south, as most people would hope,' said Danny Lewis, Raven Recycling's education coordinator. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

A lot of the glass deposited in recycling bins ends up crushed and spread at the dump, like sand.

"We're using it at the landfill to weigh down garbage, sort of as a clean fill. They also spread it on the roads in the winter to help keep things from slipping around," says Raven Recycling's education coordinator, Danny Lewis.

"Unfortunately, we're not sending it south as most people would hope."

Lewis said if Yukon were to ship its waste glass south, it would require trucks going every day, something that's "a little too hard in the North."

Aluminum, plastic, then glass

Lewis said being in the North means making different recycling choices.

"One of the best things you can do is be a little bit more informed when you actually go shopping. Here in the Yukon, for example, glass isn't your first choice," he said.

The first choice, he said, should be aluminum, "one of the easiest things and the best things that we can recycle. It's very light, so it's easy to ship out."

After that, he recommends plastic (contrary to what many believe), and said glass is down the list in Yukon.

And if consumers want to be really green, he said, they should be smart shoppers and choose products with the least packaging.


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