Journey to the landfill - no hat required

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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There was a time, not really that long ago, when a trip to Robin Hood Bay to drop off oversized household waste meant having a least-favourite baseball hat to wear.

Why?

Because dropping the material off meant going to the dump's scales and being directed down winding, waste-filled roads to haphazard dropoff sites, dodging operating heavy machinery (sometimes boasting 10-foot-high steel-spiked wheels) while hoping to avoid lost scraps of shingle with roofing nails that sought out your tires. All the time facing a reek that, on a hot day, was quite simply staggering.

And that least-favourite hat?

That was for the echelons of gulls that rose directly ahead of the heavy equipment - while you stomped around in the loose, wet dump muck, only imagining what you were parking on top of, the gulls would bespatter you with droppings while also carefully polka-dotting whatever you drove to the dump in. It was one circle of Dante's inferno, minus the flame.

Some believe having a bird hit you with droppings is a sign of luck - in the old Robin Hood Bay, almost everyone was lucky.

The new facility may not be as lucky - but what it is, is light years ahead of the old experience.

I haven't been there too many times since the changes, but last weekend was both the easiest and the most thorough - and, yes, even the most pleasant trip I've had.

Workers ask about electronic waste and metals, and there are sites to take paint and waste batteries, cardboard and other recyclables.

There's straightforward directions on where to take each kind of material, and a simple drop over a railing into containers that then travel to the actual dumpsite in vehicles far more suited to the trip than the family car.

It's not all sweetness and roses, of course: there are times when the facility's weekend dropoff section is completely overwhelmed by the volume of householders dumping their old furniture, tree stumps and renovation scraps.

On those days, with the dump's curious parking-lot-funneled-down-to-one-lane system of constant motion and idling vehicles, you'd better not have a full bladder.

And it still has its particular esthetic moments. With the right wind and weather conditions - like last Tuesday morning - whole swathes of the east end are treated to a stench that literally defies description. (After all, whatever else it is, it is still a dump and it will never smell like springtime and flowers. Buy a house near the dump, and chances are, you'll still smell it. You can't buy next door to an already-existing pig farm and then complain that the pigs are too stinky, either.)

The arguments about improvements may well also fall flat for anyone outside the overpass - especially if they are already paying hugely increased town taxes to cover waste disposal at Robin Hood Bay, and are a $40 pickup truck drive away from the new and convenient dumping facilities.

Judging by the condition of small woods roads on many parts of the Avalon, there seem to be a fair number of people bypassing a new and improved waste facility - convenient hours and all - and instead opting for a dump-and-run ethos that makes us look like a province of swine.

Perhaps the easiest point to make is that there will always be some problems, especially when you're talking about a facility whose reason for existence is to handle the things no one else wants.

That being said, the new Robin Hood Bay, with its attention towards waste diversion and recycling and its far-easier and far-safer dropoff stations, is miles ahead of the old option.

And while you don't even need to wear a baseball hat anymore, you can if you want.

But you can now safely wear your favourite one.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram's editorial page editor. Email: rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Robin Hood Bay

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