Rainy Day Recycling

Despite torrential rain on Saturday, like a true Vancouverite, I ventured out. I headed over to the monthly Beyond the Blue Box recycling event at Britannia Community Centre. I wanted to see the operation, as I’m hoping to help set one up at Kits Community Centre in my neighbourhood. I hauled a big garbage bag full of sorted recyclables there. For the last few months, I have been participating in a monthly Village Vancouver recycling event held at members’ homes. I have learned a lot about the different acceptable categories. For example, when I heard soft plastic, I thought that meant just plastic bags. But it also means the plastic that your cheese is wrapped in. And did you know the foil wrap from your granola bars can be recycled? So far, we have been concentrating on soft and hard plastics, but a permanent location would allow us to expand the list of acceptable items and extend the program to the wider community.

When I arrived at Britannia, I realized their event was a very big step up from ours. It stretched across eight parking stalls in the lot west of the ice rink plus a big rental truck already half full of plastic bags. There were canopied stations including a cashier booth. There is a modest fee for the service; I paid $3 for one garbage bag full. The community centre works with Pacific Mobile Depots to produce the event.

Here are some of the items I was able to recycle: aluminum foil pans (from take out); old broken plant pots; Styrofoam; the pumps from some old lotion bottles; the little piece of plastic lined paper from the inside of raspberry packs (pulled it apart); a toothpaste tube; some old straightened coat hangers (that I’d used to open a locked car door I suppose); plastic spines from booklets; and the vegetable broth and soy milk tetrapaks that my store won’t take back. At each station there is a wading pool into which you dump your preferably sorted items. There were between 10 and 15 well-trained volunteers to help with the process. Business was steady and brisk. I was amazed at how many people attended, young and not so young, couples and whole families. It was a real happening, even in a downpour.

As we left, I quipped to my friend, “That feels great, even though some of it may wind up in a small village in China.” She said, “Yes, but at least we’re getting into the habit of separating and building the infrastructure for when there are solid markets for these materials.” For many of these products, what is really required is for the producers to take responsibility as they do now for paints and electronics. But in the meantime, I’d love to see this recycling event rolled out in every neighbourhood. Once a month, rain or shine.

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