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'We have no more space': Recycling depot in Dawson City shutting down

The operator of the downtown recycling depot says it can't handle a backlog of material, after a second recycling depot in the town shut down because of COVID-19 staffing challenges.

Facility to close mid-December because it can't handle backlog of material

The downtown recycling depot in Dawson City, Yukon is managed by the Conservation Klondike Society. Its executive director, Katie English, says it's becoming too overwhelming to keep the doors open. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

A recycling depot that processes paper, plastic, glass and other materials in Dawson City, Yukon says it's shutting down because it can't handle a backlog of material from a similar facility that closed earlier this year. 

"We're running out of room," said Katie English, executive director of the Conservation Klondike Society (CKS) which runs the downtown recycling depot. She said it's scheduled to close on Dec. 15, because it's become too overwhelming to keep the doors open. 

English said the downtown depot has been forced to take in double the amount of recycling at the downtown location, after it was no longer able to staff a second recycling depot at the Quigley Landfill because of COVID-19-related challenges.

The town has taken over management of the recycling depot at the landfill site, but is now sending those materials to the downtown location. 

"Each week we were getting one shipment from there, and now we're getting two," said English. 

Delia Bastuck, left, Katie English, middle, and Diane Dagostin, right, of the Conservation Klondike Society. English wrote a letter to the city and the Yukon government in January, telling them they had a year to find a solution before the facility would close. (Conservation Klondike Society)

The downtown recycling depot has 5 employees, and is only open four days a week, four hours a day. English said they have the capacity to process 40 bags a week, and currently, are getting 20 more bags a week than they can handle. 

"We don't have the space to store it, so it's now taking up space in our parking lot," she said. 

Old historic building

Space isn't the only problem that English has been contending with. 

"We're working within 1700 square feet, in an old historic building," she said. "There's plywood floors. It's not properly insulated. We cannot run equipment in it. The floors are all rotting."

English says space isn't the only challenge Conservation Klondike Society is dealing with at the downtown recycling depot. It's also a historic building with plywood floors and poor insulation. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

English said the CKS has been talking with the City of Dawson and the Yukon government about coming up with a more sustainable solution amid growing demand since 2014.

She said a new facility was supposed to be built in 2016.

"Back then, we applied for some land and we got it in the city's name to build a new facility," she said. "We have nothing but a piece of land that's ready to build on with a fence and no facility."

In January, English decided she'd had enough. 

She wrote a letter to the city and the territorial government, saying they had a year to come up with a solution before the depot would have to close.

English says the downtown depot processes and ships out 40 large bags of recycling per week, and currently they're getting 20 more bags a week than they can handle or find space for. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

"Nobody is taking us seriously," English said. "We need something that is safe and that we can efficiently process all of this recycling."

A sustainable solution

Richard Mostyn, Yukon's minister of community services, said the town was "stick-handling" the process of setting up a new facility. 

"We're helping because recycling is important. Community services will help in any way we can but they're the ones pushing this project through."

Jonathon Howe, Dawson City's public works superintendent, told CBC News in an email the town would be meeting with the territorial government on Monday to talk about a new facility, and what will happen to recycling in the meantime.

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