The Government of Nunavut is reviewing potential contractors to recommend a solid waste management plan for the entire territory, but with approaches tailored to each region.

The plan would possibly be based on Greenland’s methods of incinerating waste and turning organic material into gas. It may also incorporate Alaska’s backhaul system, sending hazardous and non-combustible waste to destinations where proper disposal is available.

“The goal of this regional approach is to increase the amount of waste leaving communities, increase opportunity for waste diversion and waste-to-energy production, and implement regular backhauling of hazardous waste to protect public health and the environment,” states the government’s tender document, which closed to bids on Dec. 17.

Speaking as president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, Kenny Bell believes it’s a promising development.

“I think that’s a great idea if we can pull it off. We can’t continue to just bury garbage all throughout Nunavut,” he said. “I’m hoping this plan will come up with ways to recycle from each community as well.”

However, as mayor of Iqaluit, Bell is puzzled at the inclusion of Iqaluit in the GN’s territorial plan because the city has already embarked on its own process.

“So when I first became mayor, there was multiple discussions with DOE (Department of Environment) but those quickly died once Covid joined us,” he said. “So I’m kind of surprised that they put this out for all 25 communities when Iqaluit wasn’t really consulted and we are well on our way in our solid waste management plan. But having said that, I wholeheartedly support a territorial solid waste plan. What we talked about two years ago was a power generating incinerator in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay and backhauling garbage stored for the winter in each other community to those three (centres).”

The GN informed interested consultants that “community engagement is not part of this scope of work,” that this is a desktop study that doesn’t require travel to the communities and instructed them to include the City of Iqaluit in the second phase of the plan.

A Department of Environment official told Nunavut News that the “this project is preliminary work,” essentially a study.

“We continue to pursue all opportunities to collaborate with all of Nunavut’s municipalities. Once developed, Nunavut’s solid waste strategy will provide support and guidance to all community governments,” reads correspondence from the department.

“No decisions have been made about the best model to follow. This will be our first extensive investigation into the solid waste practices in Alaska and Greenland. Communities in Alaska and Greenland have similar infrastructure profiles to Nunavut’s communities, and we hope to learn from the innovations these jurisdictions have implemented to improve the state of solid waste management in the territory.”

The five companies with hopes of formulating the plan for the GN’s solid waste management approach are CORE Environmental Consulting Inc., Dillon Consulting Limited, Nunami Stantec Limited, BluMetric Environmental Inc. and Morrison Hershfield Limited. The department expects to make its selection by the end of the month.

The territorial government is asking the successful contractor to have the plan submitted by the end of this year.

The last time the GN completed a formal study of the solid waste predicament in Nunavut was in 2014. The government describes the status quo thusly: “The current best practices guide encourages hamlets to segregate and properly handle their waste materials. However, the municipalities were not provided with the appropriate infrastructure nor given direction of what to do after the materials are segregated. The result in many communities is piles of tires, heaps of bulky materials and overflowing containers of hazardous wastes contaminating the environment with no plan in place to clean this up.

“Many dumpsites are at capacity, do not have proper segregation or storage of hazardous waste, have no leachate or runoff management, and have no means to control public access to the dumpsite. The lack of past proper management and appropriate infrastructure at these sites is posing a threat to the health and safety of Nunavummiut and the environment.”

Among the criteria for the chosen contractor is to provide a 20-year cost estimate for the regional approach recommended in the solid waste management plan.

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