Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PROGRAM PURSUIT CONTINUES – The creation of a recycling pickup program would spell direct ramifications for taxpayers, says Mayor Laura Cabott. As well, country residential properties would not be included.

Recycling program is a major undertaking: mayor

The city is doing its best to handle the thorny problem of setting up its own recycling system, Mayor Laura Cabott said Tuesday.

By T.S. Giilck on November 15, 2023

The city is doing its best to handle the thorny problem of setting up its own recycling system, Mayor Laura Cabott said Tuesday.

The city has been forced into action by the Raven Recycling Society, which announced early this year it will end some recycling services for residents.

Currently, Raven provides a depot where refundable items such as drink containers can be returned for the deposit.

It also provides facilities for residents to dispose of such recyclables such as cardboard, plastic, tin and paper products.

The society announced last winter its business model can no longer support providing those services, and said it will stop offering the depot for those products at the end of 2023.

The refundable depot will continue to operate, as will the scrap metal and e-waste facilities.

That has left the city scrambling to develop a way to offer those services to residents on its own.

“It caught us by surprise,” Cabott said during a short interview with the Star on Tuesday.

She said the city wasn’t officially notified of the changes by the society until March. That gave Whitehorse nine months to develop a plan, she said.

The “timeline has been just impossible,” she added.

The city established a committee to work on the issue, but it’s been slow going, and Cabott acknowledged the public may wonder why the process is taking so long.

“Just last week, Whitehorse announced it was putting out a request for information to companies interested in providing the service to the town. We’ve been hustling,” she said in defence of the city’s efforts.

It could take the city as long as two years to acquire the proper equipment, such as the specialized trucks, to begin collecting blue boxes, Cabott said.

Essentially, the city would have to set up a new division, staff it and purchase the equipment it would need.

One of the main items Whitehorse would have to acquire are 7,000 more blue boxes. It currently has about 1,000 on hand.

Staff research indicates a municipal recycling system could cost $2 million a year to operate – which would of course have an impact on the city’s operating and capital budgets.

Ultimately, it seems likely property taxes would have to be hiked, whether directly or through some kind of a user fee system, Cabott said.

She couldn’t predict how much that increase could be, though.

“It’s going to cost money.”

Cabott said she was encouraged to hear the Yukon government is saying it will provide funding to help with the project, even if nothing had been fleshed out yet.

Country residential property owners could be particularly hard-hit with no obvious means of dealing with their recycling, the mayor added, as they would not be covered by the proposed new program.

She did not know off-hand how many such properties would be affected by the Raven shutdown.

P & M Recycling on Ray Street advised the Star earlier this year it would close its drop-off bins if Raven did because the small downtown facility would not be able to handle the extra volume of materials.

Cabott said the city is talking with Raven officials about possibly extending their bin services until it makes more progress in setting up a system.

Raven officials told the Star last week that was a possibility, so long as they were satisfied Whitehorse was actually working on the issue and making progress, and whether the services extension would be financially feasible.

The subject also came up in the legislature on Tuesday.

Currie Dixon, the leader of the Yukon Party, questioned the government about what is happening.

“I think that it’s pretty clear that the Yukon government needs to be involved in some sort of solution,” he said.

The program’s $2-million annual cost estimate “is a significant chunk of money, especially for a municipality the size of Whitehorse,” Dixon added.

“And so I think it’s only likely that they would be going to be looking for funding support.

“What we were asking about today, it was what sort of level of support can they expect to receive, they’re going to need to make some decisions about what steps to take in the near future, and the minister wasn’t willing to provide any public information about that.”

In his response, Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn was at his combative best.

“It’s fishing season this afternoon here in the Yukon Legislative Assembly,” he said.

“I see the hooks being tossed out, but I’m not taking the bait. I am not conducting a negotiation about recycling here on the floor of the legislative assembly,” the minister added

“I know that the members opposite are now really engaged and interested in recycling because Yukoners, frankly, are engaged in recycling, and they want to know what’s happening. It’s a big issue.”

The government “is here to support the city as they start up a new municipal curbside recycling program, in whatever way it looks,” Mostyn told the legislature.

“There are many ways we can do that. Those talks are ongoing, and I know the members opposite want a spoiler. That’s not happening this afternoon.

“They will have to wait until we get a deal with the city, Raven ReCentre, and other recyclers on what that curbside recycling system looks like,” the minister said.

Comments (5)

Up 10 Down 0

Tater on Nov 20, 2023 at 10:14 pm

As I understand it, no recyclers down south want our material and it's going to end up in the dump. Instead, let's gather the worthless recyclables and the city can purchase a "clean" incinerator and recover the heat for buildings.

Up 9 Down 0

Max Mack on Nov 20, 2023 at 9:27 pm

Will Raven continue to receive millions in taxpayer dollars now?

The EPR scheme promises to raise prices of almost all packaged goods by taxing 'producers'.

Additionally, CoW is suggesting that utility charges will have to increase to pay for curb-side pickup.

Looks like the consumer is getting it every which way.

Remember when base utility charges paid for dump operations?

Up 14 Down 1

Pjt1959 on Nov 18, 2023 at 6:54 am

Maybe we should cut Raven tax dollars down. We the public have tax dollars going to them. That seems to be overlooked by them

Up 31 Down 4

nopes on Nov 16, 2023 at 9:05 am

Ugh more expenses on the way for the average homeowner. At least make it a voluntary/opt-in program.

Up 29 Down 3

Am I Naive? on Nov 15, 2023 at 7:31 pm

Can YG give the $ Raven received to COW? That might help.

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