North

Rural dump sites getting overwhelmed by Whitehorse trash

'I think more and more people started to realize that you could not just bring their 'free store' stuff out, but you can also dump stuff for free,' said Mike Bailie, at the Mount Lorne dump.

City residents avoid tipping fees by driving their junk out of town, says Mount Lorne facility manager

There are tipping fees at the Whitehorse landfill site, but not at the smaller waste management facilities just outside the city. Some city residents don't seem to mind the drive. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Mike Bailie says things got noticeably busier at the Mount Lorne dump last year, and it hasn't really let up since.

"Our staff time is being severely stretched, and it's affecting our ability to provide the kind of services that we have in the past," said Bailie, who manages the volunteer-run facility that's about a half-hour drive south of Whitehorse.

He says the pressure started building when the re-use store at the Whitehorse landfill was shut down in late 2016, soon followed by the Whitehorse Salvation Army thrift store. People from the city started driving their unwanted goods to the popular re-use store at the Mount Lorne dump.

Soon enough they weren't just bringing re-useable goods, Bailie said. They starting bringing trash, too — broken appliances, e-waste, construction material — stuff they'd have to pay to dump at the Whitehorse city landfill site.

"I think more and more people started to realize that you could not just bring their 'free store' stuff out, but you can also dump stuff for free," Bailie said.

"Tipping fees in Whitehorse are driving people to peripheral dumps, where they don't have to pay tipping fees."

Bailie said the volunteers at the Mount Lorne dump did a survey of people bringing stuff there, and found that almost half of them were coming from Whitehorse.

He thinks it makes sense to introduce tipping fees outside of Whitehorse — but that's up to the territorial government.

Minister on 'dump tour'

The Yukon government operates 27 waste management facilities across the territory, and Community Services Minister John Streicker — MLA for Mount Lorne — is responsible for all but a few.

He says he's been on a "Southern Lakes dump tour" in recent weeks, to see first-hand what's happening at rural dumpsites near Whitehorse. 

He says the Mount Lorne site is not alone.

"Whether it's recyclabes, or whether it's the new e-waste, or whether it's the construction and demolition waste — all of it is up, at our nearby facilities," he said.

'People will bring things ... to the landfills that are outside of Whitehorse, and then we as a government have to bring them back,' said Yukon's Community Services Minister John Streicker. (CBC)

It's a problem because those smaller facilities can't always deal with the volume of waste they receive. Often, garbage and recyclables just get packed up and shipped to Whitehorse for processing.

"One of the really crazy aspects of that is sometimes people will bring things out, like drive them out from Whitehorse, bring them to the landfills that are outside of Whitehorse, and then we as a government have to bring them back," Striecker said.

"So really, that's not how you want your system to work."

'We need it to be fair'

Last spring a "ministerial committee on solid waste" issued a report with recommendations to better manage waste in the territory. One recommendation is to launch a pilot project of user fees at dumps in rural areas near Whitehorse. 

It's an idea that's being looked at, Striecker said.

"I think the overall goal is that we need to move to more user-pay, and we need it to be fair across the whole of the territory. So that's the notion," Streicker said, of the committee's recommendation.

"I've heard from other communities that they want to be part of that conversation, because they may want to introduce those tipping fees in their communities. So I think there's still a conversation to be had."

In the meantime, he says changes to the territory's recycling system, introduced this week, might help. Whitehorse residents can now dump e-waste at Raven Recycling, and tires at the city landfill, for free. Recycling surcharges are now added to those goods when they're bought. 

Streicker also says it's also up to Yukoners to keep working to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

"I think Yukoners are getting it ... that they know this is the right thing to do, and want to do the right thing." 

With files from Leonard Linklater

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said old tires could be taken to Raven Recycling in Whitehorse. In fact, tires are accepted at the city landfill.
    Oct 05, 2018 12:57 PM CT

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