Cans by the ton
Local recycler waits for sealift season

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 08/00) - A slim, snow-packed walkway is squeezed between his house and a towering mound of black garbage bags that provide shelter for some 800,000 aluminum cans.

The cans are destined for a recycling plant in Montreal and the operator of Iqaluit's only recycling business is Bryan Hellwig.

Holding a contract with the Nunavut Liquor Commission (and prior to division, with the GNWT) for the past seven years, Hellwig is in charge of the bottle-deposit return program. He manages to fill at least four south-bound sealift containers twice a year with empties.

"It's mainly the liquor establishments that return their cans and bottles because that's who the contract is set up for -- it is pretty beneficial for them," says Hellwig.

"To be honest with you, I don't have too many individuals coming down and dropping off their cans."

One reason for that is that the only incentive for the public to recycle is simply for the sake of recycling.

"I'll take people's pop cans, but I can't give them any money in return because there isn't a deposit program in place here. The establishments are definitely the biggest users of the program."

Hellwig says that although he isn't fanatical about recycling, he does think that in the normal course of a day, people should do what they can to cut back on the amount of waste they generate.

His contribution is the compacting of thousands of cans into two foot by two foot square bales with a hydraulic press.

Each bale holds 1,200 cans and each sealift container holds 150 bales.

"To prepare all of the cans outside right now it takes about a month, it looks like a lot but it doesn't take long once you get going."

And although the Nunavut Liquor warehouse is reporting sales are up by 27 per cent this fiscal year, Hellwig says he hasn't noticed much of a difference from year to year in the number of cans returned.

"It's always about one million cans a shipment, I haven't really noticed any difference in the amounts over the years."

Weather permitting, he hopes to have his first shipment going south on, of course, the first ship.