INNOVATION November-December 2013

f ea t ures

Remote First Nations Solid Waste Management Project Provides Greener Solutions

(above) The waste transfer station at Bella Bella was fully enclosed to manage wildlife interest. (left) In Bella Bella, local challenges included preventing wildlife from accessing and eating waste.

Suzanne Morphet

people has been a very rewarding experience, both personally and professionally.” Getting Started The project began in 2008 after an assessment by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AADNC) showed that these communities have similar needs and challenges when it came to dealing with waste. They’re small, remote, and without road access. Household waste was being disposed of in an uncontrolled dump or burned and old appliances were lying around abandoned. Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all plan on these communities, the federal department invited widespread participation. “From day one, it was quite a departure from the regular approach that Aboriginal Affairs uses for all their projects,” says Emily Chu, a Community Planner who was brought on-board early in the project.

For thousands of years BC’s First Nations communities disposed of their household waste simply and safely. Old shell middens that still exist speak of a lifestyle that might be the envy of today’s locavores , one where waste could be tossed because it was mostly shells and bones. Not so any more. “Everything comes in boxes,” says Matt Douglas, EIT, with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, a Vancouver engineering firm that’s one of the players in a project to help remote First Nations communities better manage their waste in the 21 st century. The project has been so successful that it garnered Conestoga- Rovers APEGBC’s 2013 Environmental Award and has transformed the communities that have taken part. As Project Manager for Conestoga-Rovers, Deacon Liddy, P.Eng., has found the experience gratifying. “This is the first time I have worked with any First Nations communities, and getting to know the

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