Discounting Trash

What would you consider to be valuable about Whitehorse? The nearby mountains? The

vibrant community? Being able to fish and hunt close to town? Having the cleanest air in the world? How about the landfill?

As weird as it seems, the Whitehorse landfill actually is a valuable resource that we need to think about more carefully. Why? Well, because it’s filling up fast and replacing it will not be cheap at all.

Original estimations of it having a lifespan left of 76 years have now been reduced to 39 years. Furthermore, we are filling it up faster than we ever have.

The amount of waste Whitehorse generates has increased by 88 per cent over the past 15 years, even though the city’s population has only grown by 18 per cent.

Like any other issue in life, the longer we procrastinate about this issue, the more of a problem it becomes. What is the City doing about this then? Quite a bit, actually.

The City announced an ambitious goal of diverting 50 per cent of waste from the landfill by the end of this year and agreed to become a zero waste community by 2040.

To achieve this, it banned cardboard from the landfill and will soon be restricting compost as well. It is even launching a curbside residential blue box program in the near future. These initiatives will help to divert waste from the landfill, but will require much more co-operation from residents and businesses in order to be truly effective.

But what about zero waste? Why aim to achieve that? We can’t recycle or compost absolutely everything; some objects do have to be thrown out. Working towards becoming zero waste is essentially a strategy to help the public become more conscious about the amount of waste they produce. Once we become aware of how much we throw out, only then are we motivated to reduce our output. The idea of zero waste can be defined as a method to minimize waste generation and maximize resource recovery in order to achieve the greatest possible resource diversion.

This commitment doesn’t mean throwing out absolutely no waste at all. The City states that 80-90 per cent diversion from the landfill counts as zero waste (or pretty darn near). Isn’t this more of an environmental pipe dream than a viable economical option?

Well, diverting 50 per cent of waste from the landfill is not impossible; many larger cities are already doing so.

Consider this: San Francisco diverts 80 per cent of its waste from the landfill. Edmonton diverts over 50 per cent, and even Anchorage has a curbside blue box program implemented!

While someday the City of Whitehorse may not need a landfill, for the moment our lifestyle still requires it, and we need to recognize the importance of keeping it operational for as long as possible.

Reducing our garbage will require a bit more effort and cooperation from all of us, but we’ll be more self-reliant and we all will have a bit more money in our pockets to show for it.

Who can argue about that?

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