One of the biggest — and most difficult — adjustments moving up here for me the lack of recycling.
My spouse and I are fairly stalwart environmentalists — historically speaking, before we moved up here we recycled our waste usually four to five times more frequently than we threw out garbage.
So coming up here and having to get used to throwing paper, plastic and other recyclable materials into the trash so they could eventually find their way into the landfill was tough for us. Extremely tough, actually.
Thus, initiatives like the Aurora Research Institute’s cardboard pellet heating program are huge boons for the environment, but also for the local economy.
Even after the Covid-19 pandemic is over and we all can start driving to Whitehorse and back without isolating again, the reality of the matter is there needs to be recycling facilities in the area for recycling to be feasible. Driving a big truck hundreds of kilometres to recycle would be completely counterproductive.
Recycling could actually be a major brick in building Inuvik’s economy of the future. There is a significant amount of money that can be made in recycling, as businesses like Caps Off Recycling have shown with bottle returns and collecting e-waste.
Similarly, the new pellet factory will keep a number of people employed in its operation. But this could go much further — as the region’s major hub, Inuvik could become the destination for the entire Beaufort Delta’s waste to be recycled into useful products.
And potentially even exports. The amount of recycled material now entering the market is staggering. Football and soccer fields now use recycled tires for their turf, saving soil for food production. Glass can be repurposed and re-blown almost indefinitely, metal can be melted and reforged, and anything we can do to keep plastics out of the oceans is to our benefit.
Shoes, matting, skateboards, clothing, makeup, luggage, furniture, even construction products like compositions, siding and roofing can all be re-purposed from trash.
The long-term health of the north requires a dedicated recycling centre. Inuvik is in an excellent position to be that centre.
And could even become a major exporter — once the infrastructure needed to break the Delta’s waste products down into usable raw materials is in operation in Inuvik, the next logical step is using those materials to manufacture things the world needs.
We probably will not see any major offshore drilling projects in the Beaufort Delta anytime soon, but we certainly will be seeing shipping as more open ice allows for greater ocean traffic. By establishing itself as a recycling Mecca, Inuvik could quickly become a major centre providing the world with the recycled products it needs.
Recycling should be considered a major plank in any long-term planning the GNWT has for the region. With a little bit of funding to grease the wheel, the Delta could be minimizing the waste in our landfills and recycling it into clean, green jobs that will help boost the local economy.
There is more than enough material coming in to the Delta in the form of packaging and products to sustain a recycling manufacturing system indefinitely. I for one have thrown out enough plastic tomato and spinach boxes and scrap paper to last me a lifetime up here.