Can-do can recycling
Northern News Services
Since Jan. 16 when it opened its doors as a depot, it has earned $1,371 in handling fees, plus more money in cans and bottles that youth find to return for the deposit money.
"It makes us a little bit more money than bake sales," joked Amie Sherwin, manager of the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corp. She and youth co-ordinator Terri Lee Kuptana oversee the youth centre's recycling program.
Residents have embraced recycling with a passion, now that there's a return on their deposits.
"The community is doing an excellent job recycling," said Sherwin.
Across the NWT, 26 of 31 communities have established recycling centres.
Many are run by private enterprise, so Tuk's youth centre entering the can and bottle business is different.
"In the beginning we were a little overwhelmed by the number of people who were recycling because we didn't expect it to take off as well as it did," Sherwin said.
The centre is open Wednesdays and Sundays to accept beverage containers.
Youth are most directly involved on Sundays when they staff the cash register and help people sort through the containers, Kuptana explained. Large four-foot by three-foot white fibre reusable bags provided by the territorial government hold the items.
Once full, they go into a trailer-sized "sea can" metal storage container. While the ice road is open, the Inuvik regional depot sends up a truck to collect the bags for processing in Inuvik.
And best of all, for the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, there's hardly a tossed-aside bottle or can to be seen.
"Youth have collected cans around the Northern store and Kitti Hall (so thoroughly that) you don't see any cans on the road anymore," Sherwin said. "It makes the youth aware of their environment and their community."
Although the youth are volunteering their time, they are rewarded in other ways.
"We don't have extra money to pay them, so we have incentives like a trip to Inuvik to use the pool," Sherwin said.
"Now we have even more youth applying (to help recycle) because they want to go to Inuvik!"
The summer months will present a different problem: no ice road.
But the government will pay the rent on as many sea cans as needed to store the recyclables until they can be barged to Inuvik, Sherwin said.
The hard work the youth have put in to make the recycling program work has not just paid off in money collected.
Youth want to use the money to improve the centre itself, and some of the cash will go to that; but also to pay for Internet time for their computers. The bad news is, the computers don't work.
The good news is that oil industry company Devon Canada Corp. in Calgary heard about the youth-driven efforts and donated five computers, with the Yellowknife-based Computers for Schools program coming up with scanners, desks and chairs.
"Once we get the equipment, we'll have a whole computer lab set up," Sherwin said.
The territorial recycling program is run through the government's environment protection division in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The youth centre got the nod when Sherwin talked to Tuk's economic development officer about applying. They got the contract.
The selling point for the government may have been the long-term effects that running a business will have on these youth.
"They're the next generation of leaders," Sherwin said. "That's why we wanted to get them involved: they can see how much recycling is making a difference in their community."