Getting Down with the Trash

There were about two dozen people at Dawson’s recycling centre over a recent weekend. They were trying to do something about the mess that the place had become.

While it’s true that the City of Dawson’s bylaw officer had served the Conservation Klondike Society (CKS) with a notice saying they had to clean the place up because it had become a health hazard, that isn’t really the reason why all the people turned up for this work bee.

The reason is that a lot of people think recycling is a great idea and they don’t want the service to fall apart.

There had already been a clean-up attempt at mid-week and 20 of those large fibre shipping bags (one tonne or larger) had been loaded on a truck and sent off to Whitehorse.

Here it was just a few days later and the decks were already overflowing once again with bottle and cans. By the time the Saturday afternoon was over, another 20 shipping bags were ready to go.

The situation seems to have gotten out of hand, and a lot of this is the fault of the people who bring their stuff to the centre.

Whether they’re bringing in stuff for the refunds or just recycling tin cans, paper and plastic, lots of people are very sloppy about it. That makes the job so much more labour intensive and time consuming.

Food containers of any sort should be washed out before you discard them. They should be flattened as much as possible. They should be sorted into categories and taken to the centre in pre-sorted bundles. This does not take a lot of time if you simply do it as you use them.

Our cans get stacked by the kitchen sink and, once a week or so, I have a stomping session on an old cutting board. Several weeks’ worth of cans can be fitted into a plastic grocery bag and stored in a closet corner or in a bin.

Those bulky plastic milk jugs squish down so that five or six of them will fit in another bag.

Tin and plastic lids go in separate bags, as do coloured or clear containers. Then there’s one for glass.

We put them all on hangers in the back closet and when a couple of bags get full we trot them out to the bin, which can hold many weeks worth of material. When it’s full we load up a vehicle and take them to the centre, matching the bags’ contents to the displays on the deck.

CKS has made it pretty easy to figure out what goes where, but it’s amazing how many people obviously don’t, or can’t, work it out.

On an average visit there are jugs half full of curdled milk, cans with leftover beer and pop, soup tins with crusted remains around the rims.

Most of this stuff has neither been washed nor crushed in spite of the posted sign reading “caps off, rinse and squish”.

“Please don’t throw your recycling on the deck,” pleads another unheeded sign. “Sort it into the fiber bags.”

The depot has fallen on hard times lately. The summer folk are gone and workers for this kind of job are hard to find. They had to close the shop for a week, but that didn’t work because people came and chucked their stuff anyway.

The society really is trying to catch up, and it’s good that so many civic-minded folk came out to help them. Still, it’s not a problem that’s going to go away unless people get smarter about how they use the service.

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