2 Cree communities expanding recycling programs

Two Quebec communities are working to be greener this year, by expanding or starting recycling programs.

'We want to increase the lifespan of our landfills,' says communications officer Donovan Simard

The community of Chisasibi, Que. is offering 70 homes access to residential recycling. The plan is to double that number next year and build an eco-centre for the community. (Submitted by Rupert Steven)

Two Quebec communities are working to be greener this year, by expanding or starting recycling programs. 

Before the Christmas holiday, Chisasibi —  the largest of the Cree communities in Quebec with a population of 5,000 — started offering residential recycling for the very first time. And in November, Oujé-Bougoumou launched a 3-month-long, community-wide recycling pilot project. 

Residents in Chisasibi were showing interest in getting a recycling program. "People were asking when they came back from studying in the South, 'Why doesn't Chisasibi have recycling?'" said Matthew Chiskamish, land and environment administrator for the community.

He said they are focusing on hazardous household materials such as aerosols, batteries and old paint, as well as old electronics, such as televisions, cell phones, keyboards and computers. The only kind of batteries not accepted at the moment, according to Chiskamish, are car batteries. 

Reducing hazardous waste 

The new recycling program in Chisasibi is focused on hazardous household products and electronics. (Submitted by Rupert Steven)

Chisasibi has been running a pilot project for the last five or six years that recycles items from commercial buildings in the community. Chiskamish said he's happy to see it expand. Now the service is available to 70 homes, with a plan to double that number next year. 

"It's very important because of the hazardous waste that's being buried out on the land," said Chiskamish. 

The 70 homes are spread throughout the community; each household has been given a 50 gallon blue bin and a supply of blue bags. Chiskamish said the biggest challenge will be educating people who don't have experience recycling. 

"Some people have never done recycling, so we want to see what's inside those blue bags," said Chiskamish, adding the band office has also distributed educational pamphlets, which show people what is recyclable and what isn't.  

Chiskamish said plans are also underway to build an eco-centre in Chisasibi, which will allow the residential recycling program to be expanded to more homes and to include a wider variety of items such as paper and aluminum. 

The community of Oujé-Bougoumou launched a 3-month pilot project in November 2018 focused on paper, plastics, aluminium and glass. (Submitted by Donovan Simard)

People are 'excited'

Chisasibi isn't the only Cree community trying to reduce its environmental footprint. The Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou, located more than a thousand kilometres south of Chisasibi, launched a community-wide pilot project in November of last year to recycle items such as paper, metal, glass and plastics. 

It's part of a 3-month pilot project that has been very well received, according to Donovan Simard, communications officer for the recycling program. 

"People [are] really excited about it," said Simard, adding the natural resources department for the band has installed eight large bins around the community. 

It's very important because of the hazardous waste that's being buried out on the land Matthew Chiskamish, land and environment administrator

"We've been getting a lot of participation and the filling rate is really awesome too. Lots and lots of recycles."

Simard said some Oujé-Bougoumou residents were driving their recyclables to nearby non-Cree communities to avoid putting them in the trash. "[Now] they don't need to go to Chibougamau or Chapais — they can just go to one of the bins," said Simard, adding it feels really good to bring this to the community. 

Simard said there are also plans in his community to build an eco-center in the coming years. 

"We want to increase the lifespan of our landfills," said Simard. 

Chisasibi and Oujé-Bougoumou are not the first Cree communities to recycle. Wemindji started recycling in 2006.

The Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou has placed 8 large recycling bins throughout the community of 1,000. (Submitted by Donovan Simard)

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