Waste Management in Labrador and Northern Communities: Opportunities and Challenges


  • Catherine Keske University of California-Merced
  • Morgan Mills Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Laura Tanguay University of California-Merced
  • Jason Dicker Memorial University of Newfoundland




The Northern Review 47 (2018): 79–112

This article discusses the origin and management of waste in two Labrador communities, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Nain and results from the qualitative phase of a two-stage mixed methods research study. Results illuminate challenges and opportunities associated with waste management in northern communities. Like many regions across the Canadian North, the principal study area consists of a population centre surrounded by diffuse, rural, and Indigenous communities, multiple land uses, and complex governance considerations. We identify factors contributing to the accrual, management, and transport of solid waste in Labrador related to historical and ongoing colonialism. Among the consideration are military development and mobile labour forces that generate both industrial and household waste. A combination of remoteness and climate makes waste collection, storage, and transport costly and slows organic waste decomposition. Corrosion from municipally treated water generates excessive appliance waste. Limited local food production and remoteness from manufacturing and retail centres increase the consumption of disposable shipping materials. Despite these challenges, it is essential to simultaneously recognize the efforts of local grassroots initiatives to effectuate sustainable waste management. We conclude that communities may benefit from implementing synergistic waste management strategies to reduce costs and public health risks, and to concurrently recognize the practicalities of waste management in the North. Results of the qualitative research phase led to the selection of a priority waste stream, black spruce biomass cleared for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project, for an economic study in the project’s quantitative research phase.

Author Biographies

Catherine Keske, University of California-Merced

Associate Professor, Management, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program, School of Engineering

Morgan Mills, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Program Coordinator, Labrador Institute

Laura Tanguay, University of California-Merced

Junior Research Associate, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program, School of Engineering

Jason Dicker, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Research Assistant, Labrador Institute







Dealing with Resource Development in Canada's North