Let's Talk Trash

Once upon a time I worked at the Free Store and Recycling Center. It was an interesting, sociable, and gross job which caused me to despair for the world at the same time as it provided me with treasure. Back then, I fantasized about having time to write inspiring, informative pieces about work in the waste stream on a remote and inconvenient island. Seven years later, my dream has come true! I’ve signed a year long contract with the qRD’s Let’s Talk Trash team. (Many thanks to Julie Newton for filling this role since 2016). My new job is to publish monthly, innovative and relevant articles about recycling, use of the Free Store, and offering waste reduction tips while keeping Lasquetians up-to-date on how our waste management system is working and changing. I’m also to communicate regularly with the Waste Manager Mark Bottomley (known hereafter as WMM), which shouldn’t be hard since we live together and many of our conversations concern Lasqueti trash, how to reduce it and get creative with it.

January 2020 - Consider Glass

Let’s begin this new year and new decade, by considering glass. Glass is made of sand. Besides air and water, sand is the most consumed resource in the world. Sand is primarily used as a concrete aggregate, though it also appears in toothpaste, windows, paper, plastics, paint and tires (to name a few).
Though desert sand is plentiful, it’s also smooth, therefore not ideal for construction. The angular sand from the bottom of the ocean, or from beaches, is the perfect aggregate for concrete. Because of demand for this sand, machines are harvesting the sea floor and further endangering ocean health by disturbing the base of all sea-life communities, from micro-organisms to whales. Sand is such a hot commodity that a sand mafia has sprung up (see the Netflix documentary Sand Wars.)
Some parts of the construction industry are now turning to crushed glass as an alternative to sand. Glass is plentiful in the waste stream and undesirable in a landfill. Though it’s inert, it’s also not biodegradable and it takes up a lot of space. When repurposed, it’s a resource. It can be crushed, (into various grades) for use in roadbeds, bedding for pipes, filler around retaining walls, and in polished concrete countertops and floors. Studies have found that finely ground glass aggregate, used in place of sand, can even increase the strength of concrete.
Last spring, a glass crusher was donated to Lasqueti (thanks to Cindy Mundy and her contact on Pender Island). WMM made some modifications to the machine and now the accumulating glass is turned into fine sand (though it needs to be screened to get out the labels and bits of plastic left on the bottles - be helpful - strip your bottles of labels and plastic). This Lasqueti crushed glass/sand is available to anyone who wants to experiment with it. This is a FREE local resource. Please, try it in a concrete project and let us all know how it worked!
Last fall, WMM stopped accepting glass refundable bottles when he realized that the time and energy it took to sort, store and transport them was not worth the minimal
return. (Remember, accepting refundable beverage containers is not part of the WM’s contract). Now that the glass crusher is working, he and Aigul will accept all glass containers (no plates etc) but only during the hours the Recycling Depot is open. Please don’t leave your glass in the refundable area. (If you want a refund for your juice and wine bottles, take them over to Parksville).


February 2020 - Consider Polystyrene

Hopefully you’ve heard that Vancouver is the latest city to join over 100 other cities worldwide in banning polystyrene foam take-out food containers and cups in a bid to phase out single use plastics and move toward the goal of Zero Waste. 

Polystyrene (PS) is a versatile plastic that’s been in commercial use since 1938 (when Dow Chemical trademarked it as Styrofoam). It appears in appliances, automotives, electronics, food service, insulation, medical materials, and packaging. It’s highly valued by industry because it is lightweight, low cost, strong, insulating, and sanitary. 

Unfortunately, it’s easier and cheaper to produce new PS than it is to transport and process this 100% recyclable material. Expanded PS foam is 90% air -  the other 10% contains styrene and benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins hazardous to humans and other forms of life. In our economic model, it’s costly to collect bulky and light-weight, post-consumer PS, and some businesses are now densifying PS (removing the air) so shipping to recycling centres makes more money sense. Recycle BC accepts PS at its depots, though it needs to be collected separate from other recyclables because of its tendency to break apart and contaminate other recycling streams.

The Lasqueti Recycling depot takes expanded PS foam used for food services and for packaging. Foam insulation and packing peanuts, however, are not accepted because they are a different type of material. Until Lasqueti is accepted into the Recycle BC program (hopefully in April) the qRD is figuring out where to send what residents bring in. The current plan is for WM Mark to take the PS packaging (the kind that protects appliances and electronics) on his boat, then in his truck to Cascades Recovery Inc., located south of Nanaimo, where it will be turned into a new hard plastic product. The polystyrene meat and food take-out containers, while recyclable, will need to be stored until Lasqueti is on board with Recycle BC.

With current technology, expanded PS foam is only recycled once. This may change as start-up businesses develop new technologies, but currently after processing it’s no longer expandable or foam-like so it is turned into hard plastic for crown moldings, picture frames and park benches. Unfortunately, PS is often mismanaged and so is less likely to be recycled than it is to pollute oceans and rivers or be buried in landfills. Because PS foam is so lightweight and because aquaculture and docks use large blocks of PS for floats, it makes up 60-80% of marine litter. In our waterways it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it’s microscopic. After that we find it in the bodies of fish and birds, and micro-plastics are even being found in humans! Other PS that doesn’t get recycled winds up in the trash, where it could take centuries to break down.

Burning PS, is not a viable way to manage it. As most residents are well aware, if you burn PS in your wood stove, or in a burn barrel, you are releasing styrene and other toxic chemicals into the air that are a danger to human health as well as to the planet.  Share this information with anyone who isn’t aware, along with the information that PS can be taken to our local depot.

Worth considering: research has shown that people who recycle may be more wasteful because throwing something in the recycling bin makes them feel that using more of that product is harmless. Remember, before recycling, we can reduce and reuse. This means planning ahead, taking shopping bags, re-usable to-go cups, and containers for food with us and making informed choices about what we buy. There are alternatives to PS foam packaging. Ask for your meat to be wrapped in brown paper. Take a container with you if you are planning on getting take-out food. Buy second hand appliances and electronics. Plan ahead and make a practice of being less wasteful.

From WMMark: 

Thanks to everyone for your effort and support of the waste management transition during the last nine months - you guys are getting good! This means our recycling is not ending up in a landfill. Also, I have a good little repair space in my office, so bring in your small jobs so we can try to divert products from becoming garbage. Also, I’m still trying to figure out the best opening hours, please give me feedback. mb [at] lasqueti [dot] ca or 8601 or 250 240 9886

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Lasqueti Landfill is officially closed. For now, you’ll have to hang on to your large appliances, metal and tires until a potential future Round-up event.Trash Removal System: 

first Thursday of the month. 11 am - 1 pm, at the Weldon Road Barge Ramp. WMM will inspect Lasqueti Island residential waste destined for the Nanaimo Landfill before its loaded onto a bin on Keith’s barge. No construction materials, renovation or demolition waste, prohibited waste, organics, recyclable material or stewardship materials. $5 per bag, $25 per truckload. Mattresses and boxsprings $15 each. NO garbage can be left at barge ramp!

Recycling Depot:

Fall/Winter Hours October 1-March 31st

  • Mondays 10 am - 2 pm
  • Thursdays 1- 5 pm

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

Free Store:

Fall/Winter Hours October 1-March 31st

  • Thursdays 1 - 5 pm

Ginja requests you drop off 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.
Also, check out the BUY, SELL, and TRADE bulletin board beside the front door of the Free Store. Lot’s of people are using it!

Return-It Beverage Depot open 24/7

Front left of Free Store. Accepts refundable beverage containers: beer, cider, pop, coconut water cans, boxed wine cartons (leave them intact), water jugs and tetra juice packs. No, milk containers and any kind of glass - please take these to the recycling depot.

Recycle BC Website: www.recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle

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.