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Absent blue bins mean recycling piles up, but it’s gradual

A space once occupied by blue recycling bins outside the Yellowknife Co-op
A space once occupied by blue recycling bins outside the Yellowknife Co-op. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Supplying coffee, lunch and treats at Yellowknife’s Barren Ground Coffee involves a lot of cardboard, recyclables and organic waste.

For businesses like Barren Ground, Yellowknife’s blue-bin recycling stations are a staple. Launched by Ecology North in 1990 and taken over by the city in 1994, they accept the likes of cardboard, paper, glass, tin cans and some plastics.

There are normally six sets of the seacan-sized blue bins across the city, accessible any time and day of the week. But a municipal strike and lockout that began a week ago has changed that: the bins are gone.

The City of Yellowknife, in a statement, said the bins were “unavailable until further notice.” Green compost bins used by residents and businesses, meanwhile, are not being collected.

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Garbage collection, which is managed by a separate contractor, is now taking place weekly instead of every two weeks – the suggestion being that residents might generate more garbage if recycling and composting aren’t readily available. Kavanaugh Bros, which runs garbage collection, referred Cabin Radio to the city for comment. City Hall said nobody was available for interview.

“The recyclables, the cardboard, that’s obviously got to hold, so we’ll have to kind-of pile up for the time being,” Barren Ground Coffee owner Eric Binion said on Tuesday – but he added he isn’t too concerned.

Barren Ground Coffee uses the Odd Job Squad, an initiative launched by Inclusion NWT that matches under-employed workers with work like cleaning, yard work or painting.

Every two weeks, an Odd Job Squad worker collects Barren Ground’s recyclables, including cardboard. Which means that the problem of absent blue bins really lands at the feet of Inclusion NWT, not the coffee shop.

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Lynn Foley, the charity’s executive director, said recyclables from businesses served by the Odd Job Squad are being stored on the property until something changes.

“To say how long we can do it for? I don’t know,” Foley told Cabin Radio.

“It depends on how much stuff we collect. Some businesses are also telling us not to pick up, because they know it’s tricky to try to figure out where to put everything.”

Organics in green bins aren't being collected during the municipal strike and lockout
Organics in green bins aren’t being collected during the municipal strike and lockout. Brooklyn Connolly/Cabin Radio

Foley said that while she and the Odd Job Squad are getting creative to continue doing what they’re doing, they aren’t crossing the picket line. That means waiting.

“We do provide some services to the City of Yellowknife, and we don’t cross picket lines. So we’re not providing services there. We’re honouring that,” said Foley.

“I’m sure there are some people out there that might be having some issues, or their business is,” Binion said of the blue bins and compost collection. “But not us, I guess. Yet.”


Correction: February 15, 2023 – 7:27 MT. This article initially stated Binion’s compost at Barren Ground is ordinarily collected by the city. It isn’t, it’s a private contract with Kavanaugh.