We’ve been huge proponents in this space of reopening the free stores at the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s three transfer stations to divert still useful items from the landfill to those who want and can use them.
But our jaws dropped right along with the members of the CVRD’s committee of the whole when staff said it would cost $134,000, minimum, to reopen even one of them.
That estimate left everyone more than a little breathless and flabbergasted.
Six figures just to reopen something that used to exist, and seemed to function pretty well to the casual observer?
We can’t help but question that math.
The way the free stores work is that someone brings an item that still has some life left in it to the transfer station and pays the garbage disposal fee for it, but instead of chucking it in the bin, they leave it at the designated “free store” area. Then, other visitors to the transfer station can pick through the free store and take any items they want home for free.
Some staff time had to be spent tidying up and getting rid of trash that inevitably found its way onto the shelves, so to speak, but the free stores were basically run by the people using them. However, when reopening them came up, a report recommended full time staff for the “stores”, along with other infrastructure like containers for items. But the major expense was the new staff.
We’ll grant that maybe the way the stores were working before could use some improvement, but do we really need a whole new — expensive — model to get them up and running again?
It is vital that we reuse items. And we must begin to do it a lot more than we currently do. Thrift stores simply can’t keep up.
Pop-up events are all well and good, but frankly should be offered in addition to the free stores, not instead of them.
It would behoove our elected reps to question this report and see if costs can’t be driven down to a level that can be stomached. Losing the free stores permanently would be a shame.