Waste handled at the Whitehorse Waste Management Facility




Solid waste disposal in landfills can pose environmental and health risks as well as land use planning challenges. Waste is costly to manage, whether it is sent to landfills, diverted through recycling and composting, or shipped outside the territory for treatment.

Landfill closure liability is a new Public Sector Accounting Board principle that requires owners of landfills to account for the full costs of the closure and post-closure of a landfill. In Yukon, this has put financial pressure on municipalities to incorporate the new liability, but has also provided an incentive for waste diversion as a means of lengthening the life of a landfill.




Long-term study of soil amendments in northern soils


Yukon agricultural test plots.

In partnership with the City of Whitehorse, the Government of Yukon’s Agriculture Branch initiated a long-term trial at the Yukon Government Research Farm in 2010 to test the effectiveness of soil amendments in northern soils.

Soil amendments are added to improve soil properties (such as nutrients, fauna/flora, or carbon) to improve vegetable and other crop production. Common soil amendments include fertilizers, manures and compost. Producers must decide which amendments to use and consider the transportation and application of products, the availability of local products, and the varying costs of shipping, using and buying amendments. Local soil amendments are limited; one of the products readily available is compost from the City of Whitehorse.

The soil amendment trial being conducted at the research farm evaluates the city compost alongside synthetic fertilizer and organic fertilizer. Other amendments were added in combination with the main treatments including calcium, biochar and humic acid. Different vegetables were grown in rotation each year starting with beets in 2010, carrots in 2011, kale in 2012, and snap peas in 2013, repeating the rotation in 2014 with beets, followed by carrots, and again kale in 2016.

Other Canadian research concluded that organic fertilizer amended plots usually lag behind synthetic plots until the third year. Yukon growing conditions followed this trend. As expected, the synthetic fertilizer plots had the highest yields in the first two years and the organic fertilizer plots yielded similar results by the third year. The compost plots yielded substantially less than the other treatments in the first few years of the trial.

In 2014, the fifth year of the research, the compost amended plots started to achieve production levels approximately 20 per cent less than synthetic fertilizer treatments. In 2015, the compost treatment had equal yields to both the synthetic and organically amended plots, indicating that the addition of city compost over time is a valuable soil amendment. Last year indicated that compost is on par with other amendments, but in 2016, using a crop that has a higher nutrient demand such as kale, the yields in compost treatments lag behind compared to synthetic and organic amendment treatments. Although there was a decrease in the yield in 2016, the productivity from treatments using compost provide good in-territory options for amending the soil. The addition of lime, humic acid or biochar does not have any impact on yields based on this research.

The trial will continue to evaluate compost and commercial soil amendments to add to our understanding of northern soil amendments.


Beets being grown at the Agriculture branch research and demonstrations site as part of the Soil Amendment Evaluation.



What is happening?


The City of Whitehorse monitors the amount of waste handled by the waste management facility. This includes waste that enters the landfill and waste that is diverted away from the landfill through composting or recycling (Figure 1).

Waste that enters the landfill come from three major sources:

  • domestic or household waste and the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sector;
  • construction and demolition; and
  • waste from outside city limits. Since 2006, the City of Whitehorse has accepted waste from outlying communities on a fee-for-service basis in order to lessen the landfill burden on those communities.


Figure 1: Type and amount of waste handled at the City of Whitehorse Waste Management Facility


  • 610 kg—the total average, annual amount of waste per person landfilled in Whitehorse in 2016.
  • 31 per cent—the percentage of waste diverted from the Whitehorse landfill through recycling and composting efforts.
  • The most recent information for Canada-wide waste per person is from 2012, when the amount of waste landfilled was 0.72 tonnes (Statistics Canada, 2015b). Comparatively, Whitehorse waste per person in 2012 was 0.77 tonnes and is now 0.61 tonnes.


Figure 2: Diversion rate of organic and recycling materials from the City of Whitehorse Waste Management Facility


  • Increases in the diversion rate can be attributed to the City’s 2013 Solid Waste Action Plan, which focused on the diversion of cardboard and organics from the commercial sector in 2014/15.



Territory-wide waste management


Marsh Lake waste transfer station.


The Yukon government is responsible for 16 public solid waste facilities located in the rural communities. These facilities are operated by the Department of Community Services. There are also three highway camp solid waste facilities that provide some access for public use; these are operated by the Department of Highways and Public Works.

In 2016, Yukon government advanced responsible solid waste management across the territory. Some of the key actions were:

  • Implementing a “continuous improvement model” for solid waste management, including specific capital improvements at the solid waste facilities near Carcross, Marsh Lake and Pelly Crossing, such as:
    • Installing solar panels at the Mount Lorne Transfer Station, providing power to run the recycling baler and solid waste compactor, and directing excess energy into the connected grid.
    • Improving the Marsh Lake facility to increase its expected life-span by:
      • Completing earth work to properly manage surface water and increase storage capacity for landfilling construction/demolition waste.
      • Collecting tires in bins to free up space and keep dirt from entering tires.
      • Establishing a traffic loop to enable the disposal of various forms of waste before approaching the “garbage” dumpster/compactor.
      • Improving the receiving station for household hazardous waste.
  • Initiating the building of new recycling centers in the communities of Ross River and near Burwash/Destruction Bay.
  • Pursuing the purchase of recycling balers to allow more recyclable materials to be compacted in the communities, allowing for more efficient hauling to Whitehorse.
  • Maintaining regional solid waste agreements with the Town of Watson Lake and the City of Dawson establishing municipal landfills as regional facilities. (The agreement in Southeast Yukon enabled the closure of the Upper Liard Solid Waste Facility where construction and demolition waste was previously landfilled.) The shift to regional facilities lightened the environmental footprint of landfill activities in the region.
  • Completing site reclamation at previously closed landfills near Burwash Landing and Horsecamp Hill. Yukon government completed closure plans for other solid waste sites that have been converted from landfills to transfer stations.
  • Updating the landfills liability report. This report assesses the remaining lifespan of each landfill in the territory and identifies an estimate of the costs associated with site closure and reclamation, as well as the costs associated with groundwater monitoring for a projected 25 years post-closure.
  • Conducting a review which lead to amending the Beverage Container Regulation and the Designated Materials Regulation (targeted implementation date of August 1, 2017). The amendments include adding more materials to each regulation (milk and milk substitute beverage containers, electrical, electronic and larger sized tires).
  • Conducting groundwater monitoring at all solid waste facilities, including those that have been closed to public access.
  • Establishing gates, site attendants and operational hours at community solid waste facilities in Destruction Bay, Champagne and Ross River, to increase control at rural transfer stations, mitigate the potential for inappropriate dumping and promote proper use of the facilities. Community meetings ensured local engagement in the development and implementation of these improved systems. Similar discussions are being initiated in the community of Pelly Crossing.
  • Partnering with local champions and non-government organizations in the unincorporated communities to create a successful compost pilot project with the Marsh Lake Solid Waste Society and the Mt. Lorne Solid Waste Society which reported a greater than 50 per cent increase in waste diversion.

In 2015, Yukon government allocated $333,000 over three years to assist outlying communities with the cost of groundwater monitoring at municipal landfills. This fund is in addition to operational funding already used for similar monitoring programs at Yukon government's solid waste facilities in unincorporated communities.

Financial support for recycling was increased in 2016. At the request of processors, Yukon government increased the ‘per tonne’ rates for various recyclable materials and allocated over $700,000 for diversion credit payments. Diversion credit payments are product-specific rates based on commodity values as described by the processors. They are one part of a comprehensive, territory-wide recycling program as Yukon government also pays for the transportation of recyclable materials from unincorporated communities, to the processors. This is in addition to the core funding made available to community recycling depots, providing greater opportunities to divert all forms of recyclable materials from a number of rural transfer stations.

Yukon government also supported a 10 per cent increase to the processing fee payments to recycling processors. These payments are provided to recycling processors who collect, bale and send beverage containers to recycling facilities out of the territory.



Taking action


  • In 2014, the City of Whitehorse launched a pilot program for organics collection from multi-unit residential buildings and businesses. Five out of the six major grocery stores are now having organics collected and diverted.
  • Other initiatives include offering one-on-one assistance to businesses to identify waste diversion options and the creation of a waste-sorting app called “What Goes Where?”
  • Organics from food service providers, cardboard and clean wood have become controlled waste under the City of Whitehorse’s Waste Management Bylaw, which means that they are no longer welcome in the landfill and must be sorted.
  • The composting facility at the City of Whitehorse Waste Management Facility was upgraded between 2012 and 2015 with the help of Build Canada Fund and Gas Tax. The City is now applying for organic status of its compost product and had record sales (roughly $50,000) in 2016.


Whitehorse landfill.



Data quality

  • The Whitehorse population estimates are based on total Whitehorse area (excluding Marsh Lake but including people residing outside city limits) and were obtained from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.
  • The 2012 population for calculating the Canada-wide waste per person is an average of the four quarter estimates from Statistics Canada (2015a). The quarterly estimates are based on the 2011 census.


Statistics Canada (2015a). Table 051-0005 - Estimates of population, Canada, provinces and territories, quarterly (persons). CANSIM [modified 2015 Jun 9; cited 2016 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?

Statistics Canada (2015b). Table 153-0041 - Disposal of waste, by source, Canada, provinces and territories, every 2 years (tonnes), CANSIM [modified 2015 Jun 9; cited 2016 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?



Occurrence and fate of pharmaceutical and personal care product in Whitehorse


Hundreds of ducks using the long-term storage pond.

The Whitehorse sewage lagoon has a significant bird population. In 2015, Devon Yacura conducted an assessment of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) to measure the effect on the environment at Whitehorse’s wastewater treatment centre–the Livingstone Trail Environmental Control Facility. This research is a first for Yukon wastewater treatment plants.

Tests perofrmed on samples of water, sludge, aquatic invertebrates and algae revealed what chemicals were present, when they were present and how they were absorbed into the environment.

The PPCPs with the highest concentrations in the water were:

  • acetaminophen (150 µg/L);
  • caffeine (100 µg/L); and
  • ibuprofen (10 µg/L).

The PPCPs with the highest concentrations in sludge, aquatic invertebrates and algae were two antimicrobials:

  • triclosan (93 µg/g in sludge; 36 ng/g in aquatic invertebrates; 210 ng/g in algae); and
  • triclocarban (31 µg/g in sludge; 29 µg/g in aquatic invertebrates; 47 ng/g in algae).

These chemicals are ubiquitous and are found in many household products including soaps, toothpaste, deodorants, cosmetics, detergents, and many plastic products. Estrogens and synthetic perfumes also had low concentrations in all of the samples.

At the Whitehorse lagoon, PPCPs are removed very efficiently—either equalling or exceeding standards from other facilities. The study also found that PPCP concentrations were significantly lower in spring than in summer and fall. Triclocarban was the only PPCP found to bioaccumulate in living organisms.

The baseline information from this study can be used for future monitoring and identification of trends at the treatment facility, positioning Yukon as a leader in the field of pharma-ecology.

Devon Yacura, Master’s Candidate, University of Alberta/Yukon College, Department of Renewable Resources

(L) Algae, heavily fed on by dabbling ducks. (R) High concentrations of Daphnia, an invertebrate.