Editorial: Dumpster Diving

Trent Ernst, Editor


In the play Trout Stanley, a pair of sisters, Grace and Sugar, live in a house on the outskirts of town, down beside the town dump. Grace works at the dump, pushing the garbage into piles with the dozer. “Got to be in the garbage to know the garbage,” she says. “Everything neat. Everything jus’ so. Blue shy, brown earth, garbage. Tuck my coveralls into my boots an’ walk. Fresh furniture piled high since the mine closed. Fridges, their doors pulled off, lined up like beauty contestants. An’ the most perfect section of all, my pride an’ joy, the residential, black bag upon black bag winkin’ at me in the afternoon sun. I stand back an’ look at it: a perfect pyramid. An’ I’m its builder.

“I decide to climb it—for a birthday treat. I’ll have a view of the whole town…the highes’ point in all of Tumbler Ridge….”

Anyone who has been down to the dump here in town will have trouble keeping up with the wealth of mistakes the play makes. The phrase “down to the dump” is your first clue. It would have to be a tremendously big pile of trash to see over the trees that surround the dump, let alone over the 50 m hill that you have to drive up to get back up to the middle bench, let alone the upper bench.

And the nearest house to the dump is not really at the edge of town. Oh, sure, if it was a trailer in Monkman RV park, I’d be willing to suspend some disbelief. But the author of the play obviously didn’t even look at a map of Tumbler Ridge before coming up with this brilliant setting. (Elsewhere in the play, she talks about a search for a missing Chetwyndian as “following a trail west towards Tumbler Ridge.” Tumbler Ridge, of course, is southeast of Chetwynd.)

But the biggest errors are in how waste is managed in Tumbler Ridge. There is no pile of residential garbage at the town dump. Residential garbage is tossed into a trio of bins.

There’s not even a dozer to push it around with. The person who looks after the dump rides around on a Gator, not a dozer. If something is not put in the right place, she moves it by hand, or waits until someone else can come down and move the garbage with an excavator, not a dozer.

Right now, there is a pile where people can toss old stoves, washing machines, chairs, etc., but soon, even that will be going away, replaced by bins that the district recently put in.

It’s those bins that are causing the controversy that we discuss on the cover.

At the town hall meeting where the issue was discussed, Marcel mentioned Cortez Island, and the Free Store they have there. Intrigued, I called Brian Pfeifle, the manager of the Cortez Waste Management Centre.

He says there, the community got together to build the Free Store. “It’s mostly clothing, books and household stuff,” says Pfeifle. He says they do a booming trade in children’s clothing. “We have a lot of young families here, and the women are constantly coming in and exchanging clothing.”

In addition to the free store itself, there is a second building, called the barn, where couches, fridges, etc. are stored. And, out in the yard, valuable scraps of metal and other things are kept.

While the Regional District provides the space for the Free Store, it also has no involvement with it. All the work is done by volunteers.

Pfeifle says that the reason the Free Store is so popular, is because the island is isolated. “It’s two ferries to Campbell River, and it costs $70, just to go get some new clothes for the kids.”

A Free Store here would benefit the users, but what if your junk could benefit the town?  What if, instead of a Free Store, it was a thrift store, where prices for used stuff was a fraction of the original cost, but the money raised would go back to a charitable cause?

A group of residents are looking at starting a thrift store in town, built on the same model as the Free Store, but sell the items, using the funds raised to meet the needs of the community.

Either way, the needs of all parties would be met. The recyclers could continue to recycle, but out of the dump, where they don’t cause problems. And, while the District might not make as much on recycling, the town as a whole would benefit.