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Downtown dumpsters step in for scrapped compost bins

Ian Vaydik / NNSL photo The Yellowknife solid waste mangement facility / city landfill / dump in winter

Ecology North is betting that residents will drive downtown to dump their compost bins after the City of Yellowknife paused curbside pick-up on April 3.

The environmental organization has converted two red dumpsters by 5013 50 Avenue, accessible via the alley near the pop-up park, for the dumping of green bins. Craig Scott, executive director of Ecology North, said the temporary measure will allow for waste to continue to be diverted.

Once filled, the dumpsters will be dropped off at the landfill’s organics section, where they'll be processed and turned into soil or compost.

Craig Scott is the executive director of Ecology North. NNSL file photo
Craig Scott is the executive director of Ecology North. NNSL file photo

“As soon as things get back to normal we’re expecting green cart pick up to continue,” he said. “We hope that people will continue to separate out their green, organic material so that when does this resume … they’ll still have their systems in place and still have those good habits.”

About 35 per cent of the landfill is organic waste, Scott said, meaning removing organics can remove a significant portion while creating much-needed soil.

The pause on curbside compost collection follows news last summer that components of the city’s recycling had been effectively curtailed.

Scott asked residents to continue composting nonetheless, and noted the City of Yellowknife continued to stockpile some recyclables and fully process others.

“Keep putting things into recycling bins and making sure they’re all separated and cleaned. (That) makes it more likely it will get recycled,” he said.

Backyard composting and gardening an option, farmer says

On top of the 50 Avenue dumpsters, the non-profit is asking residents to dust off their backyard compost bins and has also offered worms to help residents with their scraps.

Scott said backyard composting can be as simple as tacking together pallets for a temporary bin, and dumping green bin contents in as needed.

To support the effort, local farmer France Benoit will offer tips for backyard composting over social media. She’ll also share her own updates as she develops her compost on a farm in Yellowknife.

She doesn’t like to call kitchen scraps "waste." For her, they’re an essential resource for gardening in NWT, where soils tend to be less nutrient-rich.

Benoit predicted food delivery disruptions in the city as a result of supply chain challenges springing from the pandemic and potential food hoarding.

“This is the year to start growing our own food,” she advised.

Composting can be an option even for residents in apartments, with worms provided by Ecology North, she said.

“It takes a community to feed a community,” Benoit said.

As she develops her own "farm" in the city, she said sharing updates over social media can inform residents how to tackle their own gardens. Her farm comprises several small gardens and most of the lessons are transferable, she said.

She hopes gardening will build resiliency and offer more secure food sources in the city.

“We’re all scared and uncertain and uncomfortable,” she said. “We’ve all been pushed to our limits.”

With that in mind, growing food can be a good first step to build community and respond to the crisis, she said.

“If I can do it here, in the subarctic, then anyone can do it,” she said.