9. Solid Waste

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Last Updated: 
25 May 2015

Solid waste creates significant pressure on the environment:

  • Waste disposal sites are required for most materials thrown away
  • New raw materials are needed to replace these materials
  • Disposal of solid waste in landfills generates greenhouse gas emissions and leachate
  • Many community landfills in the NWT have accumulated stockpiles of hazardous wastes
  • Improper solid waste disposal can attract wildlife and often leads to increased wildlife mortality 

Waste reduction and diversion can reduce some of these negative impacts associated with solid waste on the environment.

There is currently little information on the amount of solid waste produced in the NWT1. Information on some types of solid waste is now collected as part of new programs that aim at redirecting that waste to recycling processes. The indicator included in the focal point tracks one type of solid waste: beverage containers. Other indicators will be developed in future reports.

Available data on waste generation, diversion and disposal in the NWT is limited and sometimes inconsistent, making it difficult to identify a reliable indicator for this focal point. Many landfills in the NWT are neither staffed nor gated so it is difficult to control and monitor the waste entering many of our landfills.

The NWT currently has two regulated programs aiming to reduce or divert materials from the waste stream: the Beverage Container Program and the Single-use Retail Bags Program. Indicators for each of these programs are included in this report.

ENR has initiated a pilot program to recycle electronic waste and is working to expand this program to include all NWT communities. Other indicators will be developed in future reports for this and other new programs as they are developed. 

In October 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) approved a Canada-wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility (CAP for EPR)1 and a Canada-wide Strategy for Sustainable Packaging. As part of the CAP for EPR, all jurisdictions committed to work toward the development of framework legislation and/or regulations that make producers responsible for the post-consumer stage of priority products and materials. Priority products and materials are: packaging, printed materials, mercury-containing lamps and products, electronics and household electrical products, household hazardous and special wastes, automotive products, demolition materials, furniture, textiles and carpet, appliances, including ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): an environmental policy approach in which a producer's responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of its life cycle (CCME).

Given the unique circumstances of geography, population and infrastructure of the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut, the CAP for EPR recognizes that EPR may not be the appropriate instrument for all products or product categories in the northern territories, and that other strategies may be adopted to address waste. Under the CAP for EPR, the GNWT is committed to reviewing its progress toward the development of frameworks for the specified materials, and determine if EPR will be pursued.

Since 2014, ENR has been co-leading an Extended Producer Responsibility in the North Project Team through CCME. This Project Team is identifying opportunities and sharing best practices for implementing EPR in northern and remote regions.

Find out more:

Visit the CCME website to learn more about EPR.

Track the progress toward the CAP for EPR's goals made by provinces, territories and Environment Canada.


Ref. 1. Government of the Northwest Territories. 2015. Waste Reduction and Recovery Program 2013-2014 Annual Report. Yellowknife, NT.


Updated: May 26, 2015