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Janice Wells: Rescuing reusables

123RF Stock Photo — Chairs and other household discards are shown at a dump. Robin Hood Bay’s system doesn’t lend itself to “picking” but it would be good if there was a place to drop off re-usables.
123RF Stock Photo — Chairs and other household discards are shown at a dump. Robin Hood Bay’s system doesn’t lend itself to “picking” but it would be good if there was a place to drop off re-usables.

So they’re talking about banning plastic shopping bags. I couldn’t agree more. I’d go so far as to say all disposable plastics should be banned. I predict the day when disposable plastic users will go the way of smokers; in the minority, often sheepish, sometimes even skulking.

I’ve never smoked and I don’t use bottled water, but I know, like smoking, giving up disposable plastic would be easier said than done. I am guilty of bringing home plastic bags every week even though I have reusable bags up the ying yang. The compartmentalized liquor store bags are good and bad; you can use them for groceries and they’re not big enough to get too heavy, but it looks a bit bad when you’re bringing three or four full liquor bags into the house every week. Doesn’t matter, a few times a week I’ll forget and leave my reusable bags in the car, carelessly contributing to the pollution of the ocean and the size of landfills.

I do try. The three adults and two animals in this house don’t usually produce more than one bag of garbage a week, but I feel it is time to tell my dump story again because it’s a dozen years since I told it.

Janine reminded me of it this morning. She now lives full time in what was her summerhouse, not across town anymore. She told me about how, on the drive in, she was bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t have as much fun in her life because; we live farther apart; the closest dump to her has closed. Not closed, but you know, gone modern, so she can’t go there looking for treasures anymore. And that is not good because Janine has single-handedly reduced the waste in more than one dump. She has picked her way down a steep bank to rescue a lobster pot but even she is not up to rappelling down concrete walls.

Anyway, years ago, preparing his house for sale, Newman was replacing windows and generally cleaning up. Off we went to the dump one Saturday morning and didn’t I spy two lovely chairs, just sitting on top of a pile a few feet away. One was a bentwood rocker and the other white wicker I think, both in excellent condition.

I was tickled and brought them over to load in the van when I was approached by a dump worker who told me it was illegal to remove items from the dump. No amount of pointing out the foolishness of such a policy would sway him. (Newman likes to say that I was kicked out of the dump.)

“ … Years ago, preparing his house for sale, Newman was replacing windows and generally cleaning up. Off we went to the dump one Saturday morning and didn’t I spy two lovely chairs, just sitting on top of a pile a few feet away. One was a bentwood rocker and the other white wicker I think, both in excellent condition. I was tickled and brought them over to load in the van …”

 

Disgusted at the waste, I called a city councillor. He talked about liability, and what if a marriage broke up and one wanted to throw out the other’s things and then someone took them from the dump so they weren’t really thrown out at all.  Me nerves.

Then we made a second trip, and there was a man loading “my” chairs into his truck while the same worker chatted with him! To Newman’s horror, over I went and claimed the chairs and put them in the van.

I gave one chair away and the other to a thrift store but not before I called The Telegram. The story and pictures of the chairs appeared in the paper with a quote from said councillor suggesting Ms.Wells indulge her love of junk at yard sales. 

I Googled and found many articles about waste managements projects rescuing reusable items from the landfill. Sometimes they have a building where they store stuff and sell it. Sometimes a charity runs it. Sometimes there’s a co-ordinator for the centre who picks over piles at the landfill four times a day to salvage items. A co-ordinator in Nova Scotia is quoted as saying “Finding the goods is exciting. It felt like the first time I caught a trout.”

Our current system’s design doesn’t lend itself to “picking” but there should be a place to drop off reusables. I hope Deputy Mayor O’Leary sees this; her mind is on the right track.

I’d love the picker’s job. Heck, Janine and I would volunteer.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

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