No, that is actually open burning happening at the Baker Laker landfill. It might come as a surprise to many but open burning is still allowed in the north to deal with garbage at the landfills or what we call the dump. Recycling of aluminum/pop cans occur only at a few communities and that is it about all that gets recycled up here. There are no other recycling programs in the communities of Nunavut and almost everything eventually ends up at the dump and usually gets burned. Some communities including Baker Lake do have separate areas for their combustible versus their non-combustible materials (things like plastics, batteries, waste oil, metal, etc.), but this is not always adhered to and it might end up on the same pile as the community garbage (like Baker Lake). Some of the communites that do not allow open burning are Rankin Inlet, Repulse Bay, and Iqaluit as the dump is too close to the airport runway and it might interfere with the flight plans, or the hamlet has banned it. Rankin Inlet uses cover material for their landfill (i.e., they use gravel material to cover the garbage), but this is also difficult because of the difficulty of getting cover material in the winter months and the type of geology in the region.
Of course, there are many other options instead of using open-burning or landfills; for example all of Greenland’s communities have small incinerators rather than landfills or open-burning dumps. Incinerators are much kinder to the environment as they are required to meet regulations, but the start-up cost can be enormous (~ $6 million), and extensive training would be required for the hamlet employees to operate the incinerator!
So, we hope that one day the communities of Nunavut will join the 21st century, but in the meantime we just cross our fingers and hope the wind blows in our favour (like a true sailor) and that we are always up-wind of the burn and smoke when the hamlet is burning at the dump! – Sophia & Rob