Here’s a game: Stand by any Northern airport baggage carousel—or beside the door where the luggage comes in—and count how many big blue Rubbermaid containers come off a plane. The number might startle you, until you consider their relative
durability, storage capacity, cheap price and how they allow people to stock up on and transport southern goods not available (without giving up an arm and a leg) back home. It makes sense why no Northerner comes home without one.
Large, bulkier goods are extra expensive to purchase in a fly-in community because these items take up so much space on planes. That means people can pay twice or three-times the price for a box of diapers at their local store than in southern cities—or even Yellowknife. So when Northerners fly south for fun, for business or medical travel, they cram Rubbermaids with diapers, paper towel and pop.
Northern airlines have more generous baggage allowances than southern carriers. Your first checked bag is free. Often your second is, too. Northerners make sure they take advantage of every last pound and square-inch.
In Iqaluit, there’s a secondary market for Rubbermaids that have come up from Ottawa or Montreal. They are resold online in town or to people heading to smaller communities, says mayor Madeleine Redfern. These second-hand containers go for anywhere between $5 and $20, a fraction of what they would cost new in town.
A second life
Rubbermaids aren’t just common in Northern airports. Look around any house up here and you’ll find the blue containers full of papers in a home-office, winter clothes in a closet, or caribou and other meats in a deep freeze outside.
Is that mine or yours?
You might think, how can anyone tell these things apart? Well, names are often written large in marker and colourful tape or luggage straps make bins stand out. Still, people take care to read luggage tags before taking one home. Every so often, someone grabs the wrong bin—but people are good about bringing them back.