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Yellowknife

As salvaging reopens, YK says dump has changed for the better


Chris Vaughn, Yellowknife’s manager of sustainability and solid waste, explains improvements at the city’s landfill.

Yellowknifers eager to find free treasures will notice a few changes when they head to the city dump from Tuesday, when salvaging resumes.

Yellowknife’s dump, or solid waste facility, was closed to the public in March when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the territory. It has since been slowly reopening, culminating in Tuesday’s resumption of salvaging starting at 11am.

Employees have used the time to make a number of improvements to the facility, the city says. That includes a new public drop-off area where residents can sort household waste and recyclables, then salvage items that can be given a new life. 

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“We recognize that the culture of salvaging here is important,” said Chris Vaughn, the city’s manager of sustainability and solid waste.

The new public drop-off area at Yellowknife’s solid waste facility. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

“We want to make sure it’s done safely and that people really take advantage of reuse.”

Previously, Vaughn said, salvageable items would sometimes get mixed up with garbage and go to waste. Now the new drop-off area is safer, close to the gatehouse, and staff will be available to answer questions, he said.

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“In general, we’re just trying to be strategic with how waste is handled and processed on-site so that it’s safe, we’re compliant to regulations, and people really take pride in the Yellowknife landfill.”

While cardboard recyclables are baled at the facility and sent south, plastic recyclables are still being stored at the dump. Vaughn said it’s important that residents continue to sort these items because if a new market for recyclables does open up, it will be easier for staff to manage the shipping process and ensure those items don’t go to the landfill. 

Another big change is the reduction of wood waste, including brush and pallets, since local business Kavanaugh Bros purchased a wood chipper. The dump is using the wood chips for composting. 

“Wood is a resource that we need to start seeing as a resource and not as trash,” Vaughn said.

“Instead of just keeping it here and posing a fire risk, we’re now using it internally.” 

Construction waste at the Yellowknife solid waste facility. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

The purchase of a compactor has allowed more space to open at the dump. The area where construction waste is stored, for example, now has clearer and safer access roads for contractors.

Vaughn sees his job as the “business of space management.” 

“As waste comes in, we want to try our best to divert and eliminate it from entering the landfill,” he said. “But when it does, our responsibility is to make sure it takes up the least amount of space possible.”

The city’s strategic waste management plan, adopted in 2018, sets a 50 percent diversion goal for the solid waste facility by 2030 – meaning half of all municipal waste should be kept out of the landfill.

While Vaughn said this is “ambitious,” he believes it can be achieved with the help of businesses and residents.

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