Discarded recyclables and garbage levels around Cowichan Lake are on the decline, although the area still has a long way to go before its trash problem is under control.
On April 23, the Valley Fish and Game Club hosted its annual environmental cleanup and reported a decrease in the amount of waste collected by volunteers. The club identified and marked 35 sites around the lake and were pleased to have more almost 30 volunteers join the effort that morning, bringing with them 16 trucks for transporting the refuse to Meade Creek and Bings Creek recycling and garbage centres.
“I see there’s a lot less [garbage] than there was before,” said Denis Martel, co-ordinator of the Valley Fish and Game Club, when the day’s activity had wrapped up. “Last time we did this we had a 20-foot trash container. This time we got one that was 11 feet and it’s not even full.”
He estimated there was less than two tonnes of garbage collected.we The real issue, according to Martel, has been recyclables.
“Ninety per cent of what we found today was recyclable. So it was no charge for the people dumping this stuff. The trash was minimal,” he said.
Recyclable materials found at illegal dumping sites included plastic containers and wrapping, glass, metal scraps and even a plexiglass boat near Roberts Creek in Honeymoon Bay. Martel said its not the first time they’ve uncovered a boat during their annual clean up, and because the plexiglass is recyclable, it was accepted at a recycling centre free of charge.
“With some of this stuff, I don’t think people realize it’s free to dump,” he said, adding that he is hopeful the upgrades at Meade Creek Recycling Centre will encourage more people from the Cowichan Lake district to bring in their recyclables.
The dumpster was provided by TimberWest.
“TimberWest has partnered with the Valley Fish and Game Club for a number of years on their annual environmental cleanup around Cowichan Lake. We are always thrilled to see how actively involved the community is to help keep Cowichan Lake clean and beautiful,” said Monica Bailey, director of communications and engagement at TimberWest.
“Our hope is to one day see illegal dumping cease all together, but in the meantime these community driven cleanup events are a great way to build camaraderie, get out doors, and keep the community looking good.”
BRI Security, which works closely with the forestry company, also participated in the event. It was the company’s seventh year getting involved and Bruce Ingram, owner of BRI Security & Consulting, said he has noticed a decrease in the amounts of garbage collected each year, although the types of garbage are the same.
“Washing machines, drying machines, anything people don’t want to bother taking to the dump,” he said.
“[They] do a really good job out in the bush for all forest companies and conservation and the wildlife … It’s disgusting when you leave your trash out there. You’re not only feeding the animals when you shouldn’t be, you’re endangering people out there as well.”
Other volunteers reported collecting old cabinets, bags of hardened cement, drywall and other building materials.
Ingram said he has encountered situations in which a homeowner pays someone to clean their house or garage, only to have the refuse items end up in the forest unbeknownst to them.
“All of sudden instead of taking it the dump where they should have, the [hired help thinks] ‘Oh, quick money!’ They throw it off into the woods,” said Ingram.
Dick Murdoch was one of the many volunteers clean up such messes. This year was not his first time getting involved.
“If somebody doesn’t clean it up and people keep dumping it, we’ll just be living in a giant garbage dump unfortunately,” he said. “They’re just too lazy to take it to the dump … Even charging them five bucks [at the dump] — people will spend 20 bucks to drive out into the bush to dump rather than give the regional district five bucks!”
However, Murdoch did wonder if the limited hours at Meade Creek Recycling Centre play a contributing factor in the illegal dumping. Meade Creek is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Not everyone who participated in the cleanup was from the lake district.
The Valley Fish and Game Club members are from throughout the Cowichan Valley. Keldon Doucette and Hunter Smythe were unofficial representative of their Beavers unit from Chemainus that day.
“I think it’s important to come out. It’s important for the environment,” said Doucette. “We have to clean it up again so don’t throw your garbage in the woods.”
Martel said he couldn’t be happier with the event’s turnout. He said he hopes that one day, the trash levels will be reduced such that his club can focus its attention on other environmental concerns.
“I would really like to take our efforts and put them towards conservation efforts, like rehabing creeks instead of having to pick up trash,” he said.