Yellowknife Dump / credit: Dawn Tremblay

Fees for businesses to dispose of waste in Yellowknife are designed to divert waste. / Photo by Dawn Tremblay

CANADIANS DIVERT approximately nine million tonnes of organic and recyclable waste from our landfills. From coast to coast to coast, municipalities are struggling to adapt to changing consumer behaviours and to properly collect, sort, clean and repurpose waste.

A key component to building a circular economy is that producers responsibly manage the waste created by their products. “Watching Our Waste-Line” is a policy paper from Dawn Tremblay, a recent alumna of the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship program. In her paper, Tremblay looks at how her Territory manages electronics, tires, and how her hometown of Yellowknife manages organic waste.

Dawn Tremblay at the Jane Glassco Northern Fellows  2017 gathering in Yellowknife, NWT. / Photo by Pat Kane

Electronic Waste

When the Northwest Territories (NWT) introduced electronic waste disposal fees in 2016, the government’s website estimated that “transporting electronics from a typical NWT community and processing them costs about $5000 to $8000 per load.”

These costs are a significant challenge for a small territory. However, the Territorial government was able to look at other Canadian jurisdictions for successful examples of government programs that divert electronic waste from landfills.

The NWT modelled their electronics recycling program on programs in Alberta and Ontario. Like Ontario, they added environmental handling fees to consumer electronics at the point of purchase, both in store and online. For instance, a 45-inch television would have a $40 fee added at the point of sale in Ontario, the comparable fee would be $39.50.

A fee – typically ranging from $3 to $7 for passenger vehicle or light truck tires … is a similar strategy to the NWT’s successful approach to divert beer and wine bottles from landfills."   

Tire Waste

Tremblay believes that the NWT can replicate successful tire-recycling programs found across Canada. The NWT and Nunavut are the only Canadian jurisdictions without tire stewardship programs.

“Sometimes [tires] go directly into the landfill and sometimes they are piled in a separate area,” Tremblay writes. “Tires are flammable and piles of tires are a breeding ground for mosquitoes when water pools in them. If they burn the resulting toxins reduce air quality and can cause health and safety problems.”

Her recommendation is to implement a tire stewardship program similar to those across Canada. A fee – typically ranging from $3 to $7 for passenger vehicle or light truck tires – could be charged at the point of purchase with revenues being used to finance recycling. It is a similar strategy to the NWT’s successful approach to divert beer and wine bottles from landfills.

Organic Waste

“Putting organic material in a landfill takes up valuable and costly space,” Tremblay writes. The City of Yellowknife estimates that expanding their existing landfill by building just one new disposal cell costs $3.5 million – not including operational costs. In Yellowknife, 40 percent of household waste are compostable organics.

The fees for businesses to dispose of waste in Yellowknife are designed to divert waste. For instance, a commercial tipping fee for mixed waste is $121 per tonne, whereas organic waste is just $34 per tonne. Although a green cart program exists for all single-family dwellings, participation is minimal in the business sector including multifamily dwellings.

Tremblay thinks there would be environmental and employment benefits for Yellowknife if the city were to implement a mandatory organic waste diversion program like those found in cities such as Halifax. She thinks that the program should be phased in and clearly publicized before making it mandatory. Public education is key to better recycling and composting habits.

Read Dawn Tremblay’s policy paper – including detailed analysis of Yellowknife, NWT’s waste management programs, as well as other policy work from the Jane Glassco Northern Fellows, at

Part of the NORTHERN PERSPECTIVES series, a special editorial collaboration between the Gordon Foundation and Alternatives Journal.

The Gordon Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to protecting Canada’s water and empowering Canada’s North. The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship is a crucial part of our mission to promote innovate public polices for the North and amplify Northern voices.

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