Yellowknife’s dump devotees salvage their hobby online

Steve and Jennifer Payne
Jennifer and Steve Payne started a salvaging page on Facebook. The group has grown to more than 2,600 members in just five days.

If you’ve been in Yellowknife long enough, you know the dump has another moniker: Ykea. Before the pandemic, people spent weekends checking out goodies been left by other residents.

After the closure of the city’s solid waste facility last month, one couple decided to introduce a new way of helping Yellowknifers reuse and recycle.

Steve Payne and wife Jennifer started Facebook group Salvagers Unite, dedicated to giving away and trading unused items. Created this past Saturday, the group has already grown to more than 2,600 users.

Payne, a city councillor and DIY enthusiast, said he and Jennifer had always reused as many items as possible, often for projects around their home.



“We’re definitely do-it-yourselfers. And if there’s anything I can reuse, or recycle, or upcycle, we’re going to do it,” he said.

“Recycled material gives us a certain feeling and we feel good about being able to keep something from being destroyed or being buried.”

Payne said the Facebook group was Jennifer’s idea after a trip to recover pallets for a home recycling project.

“We were out picking up pallets for garden boxes down in Kam Lake. A friend of mine who lives down there called us over and gave me a life-preserver from a boat called the Arctic Teal,” he said.



“And Jennifer mentioned we should start doing a salvage group. So, we talked for the 10 minutes it took to [drive] home and you know, we were excited to get on the computer and just start the site.”

House plant help

Dump enthusiast Walt Humphries said he hopes Yellowknife’s new virtual dump catches on elsewhere in Canada.

“With the good stuff they want to get rid of but don’t want to just throw in the garbage can, what are they gonna do? Well, here’s their solution,” Humphries said.

“Who knows? This idea may spread to other cities.”

Yellowknife is a different type of place, and you can’t really explain it. You just have to experience it.STEVE PAYNE

Humphries said he particularly enjoyed watching people use the group to help a newcomer who lost her houseplants to the cold while moving north.

“Inside half an hour, there’s like 30 people who have offered her plants, or clippings, or cuttings to start her new garden.”

Luigi Pham, one of the new site’s users said, “I’m seeing a lot of perfectly good items being given away on Salvagers Unite that would normally be posted for sale. From telescopes to cookbooks to surround sound speakers, there are plenty of good finds. 



“It seems that Yellowknifers are using this group as an opportunity to show kindness.

“In these times where so many of us are facing financial difficulties and psychological challenges, kindness is exactly what is needed.”

‘This site makes everybody equal’

Humphries wonders if the pandemic may change mindsets when it comes to things like salvaging.

“Maybe this whole pandemic is telling us we’ve got too much stuff and it’s time to pare down a little, you know, not put so much stuff in the garbage,” he said.

Payne, who is heading into his 25th year in the North, remembers the kindness of another Yellowknifer when he and Jennifer first arrived in Yellowknife.

“When we first moved here we couldn’t afford to buy anything,” Payne said. “I was 20 and Jennifer was 18. Our first apartment got furnished by a guy that still lives in town here, Glenn Walsh.”

He thinks Salvagers Unite shows that kindness is still present in the city.

“There are a lot of people that are on hard times, but this site makes everybody equal,” he said.

“Yellowknife is a different type of place, and you can’t really explain it. You just have to experience it.”