Open Burning

Let’s Talk Trash - April 2022 - Open Burning


    I grew up on a farm in Alberta and like most rural households, we had a burning barrel in the yard. On the days when our trash was set on fire, thick, grey, reeking smoke smouldered where we played and grew our food. Sometimes, the low trailing clouds of pollution would make a wall between the house and the barns and us kids would pretend that passing through the smoke to the other side meant entering another world. 

    To me, open burning is indicative of a time when we were ignorant to what we were releasing into the air and taking into our bodies. Rural folks burned their garbage in barrels or open pits back then because that’s how things were done. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence proving how hazardous this is, the practice continues today, even on Lasqueti. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of the world’s garbage is disposed of this way, making open burning a major contributor to climate change and the melting of the polar regions.

    Open burning produces more dioxins and furans than all industrial activities combined. Dioxins and furans are byproducts of incomplete combustion of household garbage. In the short term, exposure to toxic smoke can cause headaches, nausea and rashes. Over the long term, it can cause heart disease, liver problems, certain kinds of cancer, impairment of the immune system, endocrine system, reproductive functions and in children, the development of the nervous system. Children, the elderly and immuno-compromised are more susceptible to the damage from mercury, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals in smoke. Chronic diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and cancer can take 20 years to develop from low exposure to smoke and toxins that originally seemed harmless. On a personal note, this makes me wonder if, at least in part, the cancer that grew in me nine years ago was related in some way to my exposure to these toxins during my childhood. 

    In BC it’s illegal to burn garbage and construction debris. Small fires at low temperatures in oxygen-starved environments leave behind toxic litter. The ashy remains of concentrated toxic material makes its way into soil and groundwater. Emissions are untreated and the smoke stays low in the atmosphere where people nearby are exposed to it.          

    Burning your trash doesn’t make it disappear. It converts it from solid matter to air pollution and the resulting particulate matter settles on our houses, gardens, ponds, oceans, streams, pets and neighbourhoods. Toxins deposited on plants are eaten by animals. Pollutants absorbed by the animals stay in the food chain until they end up in our meat and dairy products. 90% of our intake of dioxins and furans, in fact, come from our diet. 

    It’s been suggested that we might as well burn our garbage on Lasqueti because it’s just going to get incinerated anyway. In fact, none of Lasqueti’s garbage is sent for incineration. Our waste is now sent to Powell River where it joins their local waste delivery by barge and bio-diesel fueled train to the state-of-the-art Roosevelt Regional Landfill in central Washington. This is an engineered landfill and has over 90% methane capture which is converted into electricity for local homes.  Leachate from the landfill is captured and recirculated into the landfill to further increase methane capture.

     A small amount of the plastic bags collected by Recycled BC at our depot does get transformed into engineered fuel (some harmful chemicals are removed), before it is sent as a replacement for coal at cement kilns.  

    Backyard burning is very different from urban waste incinerators, which are regulated and burn much hotter than a backyard burn barrel. High heat destroys many waste chemicals and some, but not all, of the remaining toxins are captured by smokestack filters. Even so, incineration is not a great waste management option. Incinerators are extremely expensive to build and operate and often sited in communities where residents are disadvantaged. Incinerators worsen the impacts of multiple pollution sources on already overburdened neighbourhoods. 

    Open burning is most common in rural and agricultural areas where there is less easy access to waste collection. On Lasqueti we can’t use this as a justification for open burning as we now have a functional waste management program in place. We can deal with our recycling at the Depot and our trash at the monthly barge run. 

    In 2021, the total waste taken off Lasqueti was 14.91 tonnes or 14,910kg and recycling added up to 8.62tonnes or 8,628.5kg - not including trash or recycling taken over on the ferry or privately. This means lots of Lasquetians are using the services available to them. 

    Burning trash reveals a disconnection of our impact on nature and each other. While landfilling and recycling are not the perfect solutions, open burning is clearly more damaging. If you are one of the few still open burning to “dispose” of your garbage and recycling, know that there are better, local options available.  The air, ocean, soil, and all those that share the island with you will thank you. 


April 20th Tire Drive! 

At the Weldon Bay Ramp (weather permitting) from 10am until Kelli’s barge is full. Tires can’t be dirty or holding water. Collection is free if the tire is off the rim. $3.50 for tires on the rim. Only 200 tires will fit in the bins so there may be a personal limit. More information to come in a flyer.


From Waste Manager Mark: The Waste Oil Collection is still in a trial period. For now we accept used oil, antifreeze, filters and jugs. However, due to space on the barge and permits we can only move up to 200 litres per trip. In order  not to overwhelm the depot with buckets of oil, I’ll need to cap the amount coming in per month. If you call me before you bring oil in, I can give you an idea of how much to bring in. Depot staff need to check every container that comes in to make sure that it’s just oil or just antifreeze. Contaminated material is not accepted by Used Oil BC. Please make sure to put the lids back on the containers so they don’t leak in the bags. If you have huge amounts of oil stored up you could start decanting it into smaller containers and take it into the Pville depot next to Buckerfields.  


Trash Removal System: April 13th, the second Wednesday of the month, 10 am until the barge is full is the regular trash removal day at the False Bay barge ramp.  Any changes due to weather will be posted on the email list, FB Lasqueti Hotwire, and the Lasqueti website. No construction materials, renovation or demolition waste, prohibited waste, organics, recyclable material or stewardship materials. $5 per bag, $25 per average truckload. Mattresses and boxsprings $15 each. Please call Mark if you have any questions about what constitutes acceptable garbage. 8601 or 250 240 9886

Recycling Depot: Spring/Summer Hours  April 1- October 31st

Mondays 10 am - 2 pm, Thursdays 1 - 5 pm, Friday 10 am - 4 pm

Closed on Statutory Holidays. All recycling is monitored. Please bring it CLEAN and DRY and SORTED.

Free Store: Spring/Summer Hours  April 1- October 31st

Monday 10 am – 2 pm and Thursday 1 - 5 pm 

Please respect the signs. Drop donations during open hours so they can be quarantined. Outstanding items only, i.e. clean, usable clothing and household items. Please, NO food, garbage, recycling, TV’s, soft foam, batteries, electrical devices, mattresses or hazardous materials, ie: chemicals, fluorescent light tubes, prescription/non-prescription drugs, or pills in general. There are recycling programs on Vancouver island for many of these materials.

Recycle BC Website:

Return-It Beverage Depot open 24/7 Front left of Free Store. It’s not part of Mark’s contract to deal with refundable beverages. He no longer accepts glass (beer, wine, hard liquor) containers. Please take these over yourself. He’ll continue to accept aluminum beer, cider, pop cans, coconut water cans, boxed wine cartons (leave them intact) and tetra juice packs, including (rinsed) milk and milk substitute containers, Please leave the caps on and push the straws in. 

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions for me and the qRD Let’s Talk Trash team, please get in touch. jennyv [at] lasqueti [dot] ca or 8601



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