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Recycling program takes step forward

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RANKIN INLET - The recycling program in Rankin Inlet has become a lot more efficient.

The hamlet was recently able to adapt a barrel crusher - which reduces a 45-gallon drum to 3.5 inches in thickness - to condense the mass of aluminum cans.

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Rankin Inlet works supervisor Arnie Brown displays a block of aluminum cans after they were condensed by a converted barrel crusher this past week. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The device can compress 990 aluminum cans to a one-foot by one-foot block weighing about 30 pounds.

Hamlet works supervisor Arnie Brown said the end result is a convenient little brick of aluminum that's small and easy to handle.

He said the reduction in volume makes it easier for the hamlet to ship the cans because they take up relatively little space, even though the weight is the same.

"Canadian North told us it looks good for the airline to use the bricks for ballast, in lieu of water, as long as there's no odour attached to them," said Brown.

"We have a recycler in Edmonton, who will pick the cans up and pay the hamlet a small fee based on the weight of the aluminum.

"It's not a great price, but the arrangement will allow us to get the cans out of Rankin for free and bring in a few dollars at the same time."

Some estimates place the volume of aluminum cans at more than six million per year in Rankin.

The hamlet is also looking at ways to process plastic containers as easily as aluminum cans.

The big difference between the two is plastic has a memory and will go back to its previous shape if not heated while being condensed.

Aluminum has no memory and will not revert to its original shape after being crushed. The recycling program helps to make Rankin a cleaner community and has created two part-time positions at a recycling depot. The workers each put in about 20 hours per week.

Once the hamlet gets caught up with its stockpiled aluminum, the converted barrel crusher will allow the two employees to process every can they take in during the run of a day.

Brown said a typical sea can will be able to hold about one-million pounds of aluminum cans after they meet the converted barrel crusher.

"The only downside to the program are the people who go to the dump to collect discarded cans.

"Even though what goes to the dump is supposed to stay there, our operators really don't mind people being around.

"The problem is some people see our workers as disruptive to their gathering efforts and sometimes refuse to get out of the way when the operators are trying to work.

"That's an unsafe situation, but it's one that will be greatly diminished when we start using the new dump that's a lot farther away from the community."