Hay River Aiming for Waste Reduction

Oct. 24 kicks off waste reduction week in the territory and the aim is to get people to think differently about what goes where. 

For Hay Riverites, it’s not as simple as tossing items into different coloured bins and placing them at the curb on designated days.

Residents have a much more independent responsibility, having to separate before carting a mass of tins, containers and bottles to the industrial park. 

Mayor Kelly Schofield said a recycling program and its future evolution have been on the agenda for some time now, and although it has yet to be implemented will be a key item in this year’s budget talks in November.

Baby steps first, the idea is to install recycling bins in the downtown core for cans and bottles and to work up from there.

“Hay River is very tough to get new programs like this going, so there has to be a first step,” said Schofield.

“I think if the town takes the first step it shows that this is the direction we’re headed, these are the steps we’re taking. Then maybe people will be on board with it.”

Town Council tested out a potential recycling program for cans and bottles in the spring, hoping to partner with local organizations that could also reap the benefits of items collected.

There were few bites.

But there are organizations in town that collect cans and bottles on a regular basis.

The Minor Hockey Association, Assisted Living and Woodland Manor are just a few organizations that either collect or accept donated recyclables.

Jill Stebanuk, day programmer at Assisted Living said it’s something the staff and clients at the day program have working into their regular schedule.

They collect the recyclables from the hospital on Tuesdays and Fridays. Some staff members also donate their recyclables, and dimes collected are put towards recreation activities.

“It gives them a job to do and a sense of satisfaction when they’re done,” said Stebanuk. “A few of them will take part but it’s usually one fella. It’s part of his routine. He’s a big helper.”

While some percentages are measurable, others are difficult.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recorded that 81 per cent of the more than 30 million beverage containers distributed in 2010-11 in the territory were returned to depots.

Still many residents find it frustrating that the rest of recyclables, the ones that don’t reap a return like paper and cardboard, compost, tin cans and plastics require extra work to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill.

The possibility of a drop off point that is more visible could encourage more residents to sort all their recyclables but would come with a significant price tag for containers, education and even staff.

A curb side pickup program, while more a future plan, is looking like a necessity.

“We have to join the rest of the country or we’re going to get left behind,” said Schofield.

“I think it’s also up to residents to of Hay River to tell council that this is what they want so we can try to manage this not only as a town but as a people. That’s what we need more than anything is people to help support the movement.”