What’s worse?

Went to dump a load of garbage this morning from a construction site at the transfer station in North Van. It’s owned by Wastech, but administered by Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver has a ban on Cardboard in the waste stream, and auditors there to monitor it. They are ruthless.

I was asked if I was going to pull out the cardboard from the load, to which I replied, “What cardboard?” Because I genuinely hadn’t noticed it.

She pointed it out, and what my client had done, was use old boxes lying around the site to put garbage in and then threw those boxes in the garbage. I pulled them out.

But it forced me to think, what is better, using an old box lying around your construction site for garbage, or, noticing you have a problem with detritus on your site. Getting in your car and driving to the store, buying a box full of plastic bags (made from the same (potential) oil that was spilling up through the ocean floor until just a couple of days ago), driving back to the construction site, putting that garbage into the bags, throwing the bags away. Bags that don’t break down. Cardboard, last I checked, breaks down relatively quickly.

I get banning cardboard from the general waste stream, when a cardboard compactor makes logistical sense, but I think an environmental argument can be made for the 2 cardboard boxes that I almost threw out this morning.

Thoughts? Seriously, lay it on me.

People get so upset about the potential burning of garbage and turning it into a commodity, but what about all the extra driving? The driving to and from the store to buy these bags made of plastic/oil, or hiring me to separate the more environmental solution out of the waste stream and then driving to another location. With all this extra driving, aren’t we burning the garbage already? We just call it, “stopping to get gas”.



  1. Nick Goodall said

    Buy reusable cans. Reuse them.

    Or do what I do when I forget my reusable bags at the grocery store, put the garbage in your pockets.

  2. This is an interesting slant on recycling intitatives. Yes cardboard breaks down, but not necessarily in landfill, where it’s weighed down by other waste and has no air. It’s then breaks down anerobically and produces methane, as opposed to CO2. Admittedly, you’re right though. It’s better to use old boxes to transport your waste to the dump.

  3. Interesting ideas Nick, Richard. As far as I know, the transfer station is a little bit like your average drive through. If I walk across the scale with pockets full of garbage, they’ll tell me to get stuffed and go find a vehicle, but good thinking.

    Richard, I totally agree, buried cardboard certainly does take longer to break down, but you correctly pointed out, it’s the best of a bunch of not very good options.

    I’m not advocating for removal of the cardboard ban (there’s no way you should be able to dump a car/truck/compactor of cardboard with the garbage), just a little common sense enforcement.

  4. webbiana said

    I agree with you. Based on the choices available, reusing an old box to throw small stuff going to the landfill into makes the most sense. It’s easier to make sure that the stuff gets to the landfill if that is the only suitable place for it. The boxes can be dumped at the landfill and back into the vehicle so that they can be taken to recycling afterward.

  5. Hi Webbiana,

    Exactly. I’m not suggesting that new boxes be used, I’m suggesting boxes that you have on hand from new lighting, or cupboards, or the new television are handy to put garbage in. It makes more sense to use what you have on hand than it does to drive to the store to buy garbage bags, something that’s legal to throw out, and fill them.

    Sometimes, based on my experience it is easy to pull boxes and empty them, and sometimes they’re buried in the load of garbage.

    What I think would be the best, most cost efficient, would be to have one place where “garbage” is unloaded from trucks and then sorted on the ground by employees. It would be cheaper to hire and train a few extra employees than foist the burden of “education” 100s if not 1000s of individual clients onto small business.


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