Students learn benefits of their recycling efforts

Angele Cano/NNSL photo
Tri-R depot manager James Nahanni releases a large bale of plastic that will be sent away for processing.

Students from Diamond Jenness Secondary School got a chance to see where their recycled items were going last week.

Each year, Grade 8 classes gather recyclables for processing and also take part in a telephone directory recycling challenge by Northwestel. Depending on how many books are collected, the school receives cash back.

On March 5, students took a trip to Tri-R Recycling Depot in Hay River to see exactly what happens after their mass collection.

What we try to do here is keep everything we can out of the landfill,” said Tri R Recycling Depot manager James Nahanni. “It’s amazing how much comes through here sometimes.”

With the tagline ‘There’s Cash in Your Trash’, the depot is one of only three in the territory, and it processes and refunds for glass, cardboard, paper, plastic and the like from communities all around the North.

Of the large, 1.5-metre tall white bags that separate the objects, up to 25 go into one bale of 14,000 pounds. After glass is crushed and cardboard and plastic is bailed, it is shipped to Edmonton and then on to China.

Then plastic can be made into anything from fleece, to rugs, to more plastic,” said Nahanni.

At Diamond Jenness, six groups of Grade 8s assemble monthly to gather up all the used cans and bottles in the school. Each group comes back with approximately 500.

Last year, students collected the most copies of telephone directories, 1,090, around 3.6 per student, out of all schools participating in the NWT. They earned $750 for their collection out of $8,650 awarded to 13 schools and used their earnings for travel club activities. Exactly 6,288 directories were collected around the NWT.

The program began in 2002 and more than 102,000 directories have been collected from schools across the North up to 2010.

After the students’ tour, Mayor Andrew Cassidy talked to them about what those numbers mean.

There are more than 31,000 phone books given out annually in the NWT, Cassidy said. “The directories Hay River receives equals more than four tonnes of additional garbage, just in phone books, that would be packed down in the landfill. They would be there for a long time. With this program, they are broken down to be used for new ones.”

Jessica Gill, who took the tour along with her classmates, said members of her family are avid recyclers, even though it’s more work than leaving objects out at the curbside.

I know if we recycle, it keeps more out of the landfill,” said the high school student.

— Angele Cano