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No return for bottles

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 02/05) - Thousands of pop and beer bottles now deemed recyclable will be crushed and left in piles around the Northwest Territories because there is no market for them.

Emery Paquin, director of environmental protection for Environment and Natural Resources, told a news conference Monday, that he isn't sure what can be done with the crushed glass.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Yellowknife's beverage container depot, the Bottle Shop, is a family business: Adam Pich (left), wife Donna, daughter Krystal, and her partner Travis Thiessen. - Mike W. Bryant/ NNSL photo

"I wish my crystal ball was working today so I can respond to you," said Paquin.

"At this point our focus is to get this program up and running."

Paquin said the the government designed the program to be revenue-neutral. Other than $1 million set aside for drafting regulations and promoting it, the program is meant to pay for itself through deposit fees charged to the consumer.

The government is also still trying to figure out how to co-ordinate its recycling efforts with City Hall, which has four recycling areas situated throughout the city.

While the city ships its cardboard and aluminum cans to recycling centres in Alberta, the glass stays behind, piled at the dump.

"That discussion took place with the city about a week ago," said Paquin.

"I'm not sure what they decided in the meantime."

Paquin said their Yellowknife contractor, the Bottle Shop, along with everyone else in the territory, will be prohibited from dropping off glass at landfills. He said the crushed glass will remain at the depot site until they can figure out what to do with it.

Paquin said the market for glass containers - other than some brands of beer - is weak across the country. One option may be to use glass to line water and sewer trenches and cover for landfills.

Tetra Pak juice containers are another problem, said Paquin. The government doesn't have a buyer for them either.

Another problem facing the government is how to bring the recycling program to those communities which have yet to sign on. As of yesterday, all stores in the NWT are required to charge deposits for beverage containers, but only 11 communities have contractors who have opened depots.

Environment and Natural Resources minister Michael Miltenberger vowed last week in the legislative assembly that all residents in the territories will be able to return empty containers this month for a refund whether their community has a recycling depot or not.

Paquin said the government may have to run the depots themselves.

"We're not sure how at this point, but the department is committed to enabling residents to take their containers back to a depot or a location within their own community in November," said Paquin.

"If the department has to step in, yes, there will be an extra cost," Paquin said, and that cost will ultimately fall on taxpayers.

On Monday, the Bottle Shop was hard at work trying to ready their facility for its opening date. The depot is located next to Northwest Transport on Old Airport Road.

Owner Adam Pich said he is still searching for a buyer for glass containers.

"We have to find a market for it down south," said Pich.

"Nobody seems to have one, but we're going to work with the city or whoever. We don't want to put it in the landfill."