Just when you thought everything is in place, you realize it’s not. That’s what Rod Mamianskum is discovering. He’s the new Local Environment Administrator who took over the Environment and Land Management Department in Wemindji four months ago. He’s now responsible for several portfolios including the community’s water system and recycling program.

“I’ve been concentrating on the water network system – getting water samples and fixing leaks. Now I am starting to focus on the recycling file.”

Wemindji has been at the forefront of recycling in Eeyou Istchee. In 2006, the community set up a recycling program, which meant that every home and office received a recycling box to deposit cardboard, paper, cans and glass. The following year, the comumnity’s innovative program won the prestigious Phénix award from the Quebec government.

In light of the program’s success, Wemindji decided to take recycling a step further and set up an eco-centre to deal with more of its recyclable wastes last August. The centre was the first of its kind in Eeyou Istchee.

Established next to the community’s incinerator, the eco-centre consists of four large containers for different types of waste: construction and demolition waste, metals, bulk waste (like tires and old appliances), and wood. Plus, there’s a small plastic bin for glass, a barrel for hazardous waste (such as batteries) and two smaller containers for domestic waste and recyclables. The eco-centre is available to users 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Once again Wenindji was at the forefront of environment-friendly innovation. However, when the global economic crisis hit earlier this year, a wrench was thrown into the works. One serious effect of the downturn has been a decline in demand for recyclables.

“The recycling company from Chibougamau that brought our materials has gone bankrupt,” explained Mamianskum. “Now we are trying get a deal with another company, either from the Val-d-Or or Rouyn area. We are still collaborating with the engineering company, Dessau, that helped us as consultants set up the eco-centre.”

When asked what was happening to the recyclables, Mamianskum said, “They’re piling up right now. Since nothing is being picked up, it’s getting a bit overwhelming. But we should have a new company very soon.”

In the meantime, Mamianskum is forging ahead and getting his sector organized. “We are doing the baby steps right now. We are in the midst of sorting out the stuff people are throwing into the recycling. I will be doing another information blitz to the community to make people aware what they can or cannot recycle and where they should put things. That way it will be a lot easier for my guys to do the sorting.”

Mamianskum pointed out that while there’s been an increase in the number of residents who recycle, it’s a slow process to do it properly. “At the moment, people are still throwing tin cans into the garbage which then goes to the incinerator and as we know cans don’t burn. It is my job to inform the public how to recycle properly.”

As Mamianskum stated poignantly, “If we don’t control the waste, then it will control us. Then the land will suffer, and if the land suffers, then we suffer.”