Cree community develops state-of-the-art waste management system

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As stewards of the land, the Cree Nation of Mistissini is walking the talk when it comes to recycling and waste management. According to Mistissini Public Services Manager Jonathan MacLeod, the idea for the community’s Eco-centre was put into place under the premise of best practices for the protection of the land and environment.

Initially, a pilot project raised awareness among community residents about recycling and household waste. The first year of the recycling program involved only 50 homes. The following year they bumped it up to 100, and eventually the project outgrew the environment administrator. At that point the project was handed over to public works to take on the responsibility of collection and proper disposal or reuse of recyclables.

“Recycling in the community has been practiced for a number of years now,” said MacLeod. “We have expanded operations from baling cardboard and paper to baling plastic. We produce five cardboard/paper bales per week and three plastic bales.”

This reduced the number of trips to Chibougamau, where his department delivers recyclable waste for transport to a recycling plant. Mistissini doesn’t produce enough material to transport to a plant directly, though McLeod says they are planning to make arrangements to work directly with a recycling plant such as Cascade for cardboard and paper bales.

The band now has two full-time employees for collection from residences, businesses and institutions. Another employee handles sorting and baling with occasional help from someone from a work-experience program.

“We also have a full-time person at the Eco-centre, where we sort and store bulky waste, like tires, metal, solvents, reusable appliances and electronics,” noted McLeod. “We store the bulky waste there until we have the volume to call a recycling company, which will properly dispose of the solvents or electronics. The tires and metals are also picked up and transported to a recycling facility. The cost of recycling is expensive, but necessary to maintain a clean a safer environment.”

The band council budgets $15,000 to transport materials with an additional $130,000 for wage costs.

Down the road, MacLeod said the community could really use a composting facility for recycling wood from the construction in the community. Usually construction waste will go to the landfill. Composting will be more of an “end phase” activity, explained McLeod.

“The Cree Nation Government did fund the development of the Eco-centre and also the operation and maintenance of the facility. The Cree Nation Government has been supportive of our recycling program. Hopefully this will continue for generations to come. I am sure the recycling will only improve in the future as we become better informed and better educated. Cree people have always considered the land sacred. We have always believed the land will provide for our needs and therefore protecting it comes naturally to us. If we take care of the land, it will take care of us,” MacLeod concluded.

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