In this article series, we have been exploring ways we can learn to live lightly on Mayne Island, and one important consideration when trying to lessen our impact on fragile ecosystems is how we manage our waste. Because Mayne Island does not have a landfill, it is easier (and cheaper) to reduce our waste as much as possible. As a framework for this, let’s take another look at those Four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle, remembering that they work best in that order, with a visit to the recycling depot last on the list.
Cutting Down on Waste
Reducing our waste is number one, and there are many ways we can do this. A big source of waste on Mayne is from building and home renovations. Thankfully the island is home to a tribe of DIYers who are keen collectors of building materials and household fixtures. Placing an ad on the Mayne Island Buy and Sell usually results in an instant move to a new home for these items. Or consider holding a “Free” Garage Sale with a jar for donations to your favourite non-profit (such as the Conservancy!) Many Mayne Islanders are cobbling together homes or guest accommodation and appear to be in a perpetual state of renovation, so you are likely to have all your unwanted building materials and fixtures relocated with little effort and no expense.
For smaller household items, clothing, toys, books etc. you cannot beat the lively volunteers at the Mayne Island Thrift Store for their speedy redistribution of goods around the island. The annual Church Fair is another chance to get these useful items to their new homes. Also, if we shop locally and/or second-hand, we are being kind to the environment by reducing packaging and the gas needed for shipping and off-island shopping.
While many metropolitan areas in B.C. now offer kitchen/green waste collection, we need to be more creative about that here in the Gulf Islands. One excellent source of tips for dealing with green waste is the Compost Education Centre in Fernwood, Victoria (compost.bc.ca). There is a wealth of information on their website, and you can purchase composters and digesters there as well. The beauty of a backyard compost bin is that you can take advantage of the biochemical process that turns organic matter from your kitchen and garden into a nutrient-rich soil amender to put back into your garden. The digester is somewhat different: it uses heat from the sun and microbial activity to produce a leachate that is absorbed into the ground. These digesters take harder to manage kitchen waste like meat, bread, dairy, and pet excrement, and while they do not produce a usable finished product, they can make a big difference in the amount of household garbage put into plastic bags.
So, now we have found new homes for our unwanted building materials and household fixtures, and we have supported the Ag Society by our donations to the Thrift Store. We have managed to divert all our kitchen waste to hungry composters and digesters which will return this to the earth where it originated, and the result is a huge reduction in our waste. What we still have to deal with is all that darned packaging. Because we don’t have curbside Blue Boxes on Mayne, it’s time for a visit to the recycling depot. It may surprise you to learn that our depot accepts many items that the curbside collectors do not, such as DVDs, CDs, cell phones, electronics and small appliances, toner cartridges, paint, styrofoam, and that pesky crinkly plastic. The depot generates a good chunk of revenue from deposit (drink) containers, so by taking those along with your other recycling rather than back to the store, you are supporting another Mayne Island non-profit and saving a second stop in your car. For a full list of what items can and cannot be recycled, and to learn where all this material actually ends up, visit their website at maynerecycles.ca.
If you have stayed with me on this path through the Four Rs, you will now be down to a very small amount of actual garbage. To deal with this, Mayne Island Garbage Services offers a Monday morning curbside pickup and Sunday evening dropoff at Village Bay. For more information, call or text 250 539 0252.
There is no doubt that by decreasing and managing our household waste through a few simple changes we can tread more lightly on our island home.