Last week, as part of our small business edition, we featured an op-ed by town councillor Tony Devlin calling for Inuvik to push to become a major player in the cold weather testing industry.
It’s a fantastic idea in a town that needs them. Given the absence of restaurants and other amenities, it’s clear the local economy cannot function on tourism alone.
Speaking of ways to create wealth in the region, might I once again suggest we don’t just think outside the box — but that we recycle it too.
An infinite supply of materials comes North every day — cardboard, plastic, metal and rubber. Right now, all these materials that come up as packaging or as items we order, go to the future archaeological dig site outside of town, better known as the landfill. We toss things out, and then we balk at the cost of bringing raw supplies up North.
While there are exceptions, a huge chunk of our trash is recyclable — and much of what isn’t, is being phased out as part of the green transition anyway.
The GNWT spends millions trying to offset the cost of living, which is largely driven by what it costs to bring stuff up here. But what if we made things here? The Aurora Research Institute has already shown this is possible with its work making cardboard feed for wood chip furnaces. But even if that were scaled up to industrial levels we would still have way too many boxes.
Instead of shipping palettes of stationary north, we could re-use the paper we have up here already. Instead of paying thousands for building materials, we could mould our own composites from the plastic byproducts of e-commerce. Instead of lining our playgrounds and parks with shale gravel, we could use ground up recycled tires. Instead of bricked cars sitting where they stopped because there is literally no where for them to go, the metal could be reused for a cement foundation or fencing.
A recycling industry could be a boon for unhoused persons in Inuvik as well. Right now, collecting bottles is a difficult job because the bottle depot is so far from town. Easier access to drop off locations could create a little extra income for some. The town could even hire people to clean up litter and bring it to the right recycling chain.
Creating jobs and a sense of local pride could potentially spill over into other businesses. A recycling product chain could work in tandem with cold weather testing, showing off our products as both the greenest and most effective on the market.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has talked a lot about “muscular industrial policy” lately. In plain English this means Ottawa is looking to invest in business ventures that fit into the green transition.
You can’t get much greener than growing recycling to stop the build-up of trash in Canada’s Arctic. The Town of Inuvik, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and Gwich’in Tribal Council should partner together to build a homegrown recycling industry, because right now we’re just burying money.