Too much junk: Thrift store closure called 'a step backward' for Whitehorse's zero-waste goals

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Too much junk: Thrift store closure called 'a step backward' for Whitehorse's zero-waste goals

Some people have stuff, other people need stuff.

And yet, an "astronomical" amount of clothing and goods is either thrown into the Whitehorse dump, or sent south to be disposed of.

It's a long-standing problem that some expect to get much worse once the city's only charitable thrift store, operated by the Salvation Army, closes next month.

- Salvation Army closing its Whitehorse thrift store 

"We are trying our best to handle as much as we can, and I'm not sure how much more we can handle," said Danny Lewis, Raven Recycling's education co-ordinator.

Raven Recycling has a small "re-use store" at its Whitehorse depot, where residents can drop off unwanted goods, or find needed things. But it's already getting more stuff than it can handle.

Lewis says they're collecting and baling up anywhere from about 300 to 600 kilograms of used clothing each week, and shipping it south.

"And that's just the clothing. So then we talk about shoes and toys and all these other things ... the volumes are astronomical."

'A step backward'

Raven's executive director, Joy Snyder, said the closure of the Salvation Army store is sad news for a city that's talked a lot about reducing waste. 

"For our 'zero waste' goals, this is a step backward," she said. "There will be a lot of other material and I'm not sure what we're going to do with that."

The city of Whitehorse adopted a plan a few years ago that included a goal of becoming waste-free by the year 2040. Last year, it even hosted a conference to talk about becoming a "zero waste" city.

Last spring, however, the city closed its own "re-use store" at the city landfill after a syringe was found among some old clothes. The closure became permanent a few months later when the city decided it couldn't safely and effectively manage the place.

Dave Albisser, the city's manager of water and waste, says the city is still looking for other options, but "we haven't been successful so far.

"There hasn't been anybody that is willing to either take the lead, or we haven't been able to find a suitable location or a suitable model, I guess, to find ways to do it," he said.

City not off the hook, Raven says

Snyder hopes the thrift store closure brings some new urgency to the issue. She says Raven just received funding to staff its re-use store, and that should help get a handle on the problem and maybe find a better long-term solution to managing unwanted, but useable goods.

But she says the city is not off the hook, since "they sort of let the ball drop.  

"It still is part of the waste stream. It still needs the municipal government to be involved in the solution."

In the meantime, Danny Lewis is preparing for a possible new influx of junk at Raven's Whitehorse depot, and urging city residents to take personal responsibility, too.

"If we could just curb the problem at the beginning, and maybe purchase less stuff and really think about whether we need it or not, it would probably help a lot more at this end where we're actually collecting it, than actually just trying to find a place to send it," he said.