Mt. Lorne Transfer Station

Winter Hours

Start October 15th

Saturday/Sunday 10 - 6

Monday 7 - 3

Summer Hours

Start April 8th

Friday 7 - 3

Saturday/Sunday 10 - 6

Monday 7 - 3

 

Please note that returns will not be available after 3pm on all days!!!

garbage is a state of mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

garbage is a state of mind

 

 

I’m drawn to the Mount Lorne dump. I know that it’s not a dump anymore but we’ll get to that in a second. By all accounts of weekend activity, I am not alone.

This valley is where we live among steep cliffs and undulating hills; forest groves and open fields; birds, wildlife, waterways, and backcountry trails. It’s where we enjoy a rural life that incorporates a vast variety of homesteads. But also, there’s a subtle tug towards that certain activity in one small East-side enclave. Cars, trucks and people stream in and out to dispose of (and sometimes claim) all manner of unwanted bits, pieces, and the fully assembled that I will inadequately describe for now as waste. It’s a comparatively odd process to the other rhythms of the country residential life. Where nature does not create any waste, humans are tangled in this conundrum.

For years, the now Mount Lorne Transfer Station (TS) was an actual dump that conveniently enabled the disposal of unwanted things. They went “away”. Buried or burned, the stuff disappeared and all seemed well. But the increasing flow of waste into the finite space revealed projections that were not going to work out for the neighbourhood. There are perhaps those who might feel there is ample space for dumps, particularly in a place like the Yukon. But science and common sense have converged on this one. The “over there” arguments fail because everything over there, one way or another, affects quite a bit over here. Nature is one system and it is a relatively porous one. With the transformation of landfills we witness science, industry and government coming to terms and playing a part in solutions-based thinking around waste management.

The TS functions pretty well. There is a dedicated staff who work hard and care about the values of material transformation. The focus is on both reducing absolute waste by preparing materials for recycling streams and promoting re-using whenever possible. Staff implement innovative ideas and adjustments that swing with the changes in efficiency, recycling markets, funding, person-power and the observed trends of the visiting public. But the inflow of materials is significant. To make it work, it’s our job – the public users to keep the TS systems humming by reducing, separating and reclaiming as much as we can.

It’s a Transfer Station because all materials (except wood and organics) get transferred to other facilities for transportation or other processes. I’ll look at each one in subsequent blogs. But we still have garbage. The big blue compacter of garbage goes to the Whitehorse landfill. It’s not in Mount Lorne but it’s still a non-starter problem. Can what seems like end-of-the-line garbage be reduced or diverted into other streams?

For me at home, while I sort and manage my own separation-at-source materials, I can’t help but notice just how many materials are now in the recycling stream. My recycling is easily 5x the volume of my garbage. There are a lot of packaging and container materials in our economy. Most are intended for a short life - one use. Recycling can be a useful process but it takes significant energy; is driven by market forces; is challenged by transportation costs; and is dependant on sorting materials into pure streams. To maximize the effect of recycling, at our level, we need to diligently keep the material streams (different bins) pure.

While playing my part in keeping the TS humming, I can’t help but think of the whole system of goods. Can I reduce the amount of materials ending up at my home in the first place? And then further, can the stores reduce the materials that they supply? And can the manufacturers reduce the amount that they create? And can the designers reduce the amount needed in the first place? I’m not passing the buck here. I’m realizing that everyone in the long chain of a product can consider how to contribute to efficient longevity, reuse, or recycling. From designers, manufacturers, distributors, consumers, scavengers, and waste management, the idea of “how can we end up with less waste?” is at hand.

I confess that I’m a little obsessed with the TS. I imagine all of the processes required to make products. Take minerals, oil, plants, water and combine in subtle ways according to design and planning with labour and technology and then push it out with marketing, distribution systems, transportation – you get the idea. In the end, I get this “thing.” It’s a great thing. Look what this thing can do! I can work or play so much better with this thing. This thing even looks great. I love this thing. It’s so helpful that I got 3 of them. When was the last time you saw a thing so well made as this? Right? Then, inevitably after a time, this thing has served its purpose; I don’t need it anymore or it falls apart. So now what?

There is absolute possibility in that question. So many options could be taken with that thing. Thinking back on what it took to get made and into my hands, even if it is an incidental thing like packaging, or something not meant to last long, or a broken part, it’s still a responsibility to curb its path away from being absolutely useless as garbage, or worse, detrimental to the health of people, animals, soil, water or air. Dealing with unwanted stuff is mostly a mind-game. It’s not useless; it just has a different kind of value.

In a finite system, garbage is not rational. Given the ingenuity that humans have to make the thing in the first place, I feel that surely we have the same ability to redesign its potential obsolescence into something else – something lasting, or really absorbable by the system that created it. But while those levels are getting worked out, I’m resolved to reduce, re-use, and recycle in that order and follow the directions set out at the TS. There are a lot of bins and a lot of special products in our economy. When in doubt about where to put things, I don’t guess; I consult with the TS staff. Their knowledge and our sorting makes the place work.

 

Sometimes, I can’t get over the complexity of manufacturing. Building technology is one thing: cars, electronics, robots, rockets – yeah ok, a lot of material streams have to be worked out there. But even small household products, that don’t run on electricity, involve a production plan. They probably come with 3 or 4 materials in the packaging along with the thing itself, which could also be a conglomerate of materials. We see a lot of those things at the Mount Lorne Transfer Station(TS) (though not that many rockets).

Streams of raw materials and semi-manufactured materials and final parts flow from all over the world to factories where our little thing gets made and packaged. It’s challenging to see the scale of this because we typically only see in stores, or a picture of one thing online, or what is in our weekly garbage container. But the scale is huge.

It was tough a first to convince myself that my little part in sorting or recycling or thinking about re-use was going to make any difference whatsoever. It seemed like a lot of work on my part for the result of my couple of bins of recyclables and the odd re-usable thing. But two things conspired to make it easier to see. First, it was a great influence that the TS was just down the road. I could see that Mount Lorne had a commitment to these processes and I could also see that a lot of other neighbours were engaged in sorting and dropping off and picking. Secondly, I came to terms with the fact that I bought these things. It’s pretty easy to assume that the garbage man, the city, the recycling centre, the bottle return depot, the re-use stores, and places like the TS are there to handle all this for me. Once I’m done with the thing that I paid for, someone else takes over. But that’s not really it. The thing is here, in my possession. I am ground zero. In order for those other systems to make excellent progress, I have this role to play to get materials to them in the way that is needed.

These are fair observations. But then came the excuses. I don’t know where to put everything. Do I have to take it apart? It’s messy. How will I sort it? It takes too much time.

Of course, at the beginning it did take time. My system had to get worked out. But once I figured it out, it was no big deal to clean containers or take stuff apart or sort it. It became a part of the kitchen and household routine. It worked its way into the available space.

Then, something interesting started to happen. I became aware of the flow of each material. I saw them separated, stored up and taking their own volume. I could see what the materials were and sometimes, how they were put together.

I don’t get the feeling that manufacturers have yet seriously considered the amount of materials that they are ostensibly providing and that have to get channeled through recycling and reclaiming systems. This is perhaps another direction for advocacy. But it’s not a we and them situation. If the thing finds its way to my home, I am complicit in the problem.

I started to see what garbage was. I started to see items by their materials. Admittedly, this has yet to take hold while shopping. I am still wooed by marketing and my apparent need for things. It is pretty rare for me to make a buying decision based on materials or packaging. But I could see that coming into play, in the same way that Fair Trade ethics or Organic food has made a difference for consumers.

I get that there are a lot of reasons for materials in products and packaging but being aware of my immediate material flow-back to the TS has become fodder for future thinking about what I am sourcing from the marketplace and what the marketplace is providing in the way of materials and their relative durability.

For now, the habit is formed. I just do it. I adjust the separating as I become aware of changes at the TS or ones further down the line (Recycling companies have reportedly come down hard on the purity of material separation. They promise to reject shipments if the materials are not up to their purity standards). This is a big deal. To keep the TS streams pure, I have to do my part, but more than that, all the materials need to be thought of as resources. They might feel like a kind of garbage, but they are actually valuable in a whole new way.

I see people doing the separating at the TS instead of at home and that is a preference that works just as well. Any system that keeps the TS bins and containers full of the pure materials that are intended is helpful.

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