Things we throw away

By Jenn Watt

August 2 2016

A side effect of not having municipal garbage collection in Haliburton County is the confrontation we have each week with the things we throw away.

Every Sunday as I drive my car over the perpetually shifting roadways through hills of garbage at the Dysart landfill I have time to consider the volume of waste our small community generates.

Most weeks I drive through feeling guilty that we discard so much noting the strange and potentially useful things that end up in the landfill. Aside from poorly sorted garbage (glittering bottles and cans litter the garbage pile) there are commonly reusable items such as board games children’s toys and furniture that make their way into the rubbish. I peer out my car window at the mound of stuff mixed in with dirty diapers and banana peels and wish there was a way to divert these items from the landfill.

And of course there is.

Last week in the County Life supplement of the Echo we featured two examples of women who are doing something about discarded items wrongly chucked in the garbage. Both women are artists – one completing a residency at Haliburton School of Art and Design and the other using items from the landfill to create a beautiful playground for her children.

Valerie Ashton this year’s Reclaim artist has been visiting the landfill regularly and has been predictably disappointed by what she finds there. From kids’ toys to office furniture she has salvaged only a small amount of what she discovers. One of her big beefs: people don’t seem to know there are better places to put reusable items.

Likewise Brandon Jarvis speaks passionately about the things she finds and cannot take home with her that will be pushed back into the garbage pile never to be used again. Jarvis brilliantly illustrated just how easy it is to take people’s used things and turn them into something beautiful. With some spray paint and creativity she has taken an old door cutlery and other jingly items and made them into a musical wall for her child. She found a discarded metal boat filled it with sand – instant sandbox. She even found a pop-up screen tent which she assembled at home for her outdoor work station. All of these items came to her for next to nothing and have provided a creative outlet for her and her family.

The things she makes are innovative and beautiful.

Reusing isn’t the solution to all of our garbage woes but it is a start. It gets us thinking about what we throw in the garbage and also about the items we buy and whether we need so much stuff in the first place.

The attendants at our local landfills are experienced knowledgeable people who can help you find the best home for your things without necessarily contributing to the mound of garbage (try the Lily Ann and Thift Warehouse in Haliburton).

And you never know that old mixing bowl might end up being the next astronaut’s helmet or cottage bird bath.