The CVRD’s recycling centres take care of some of our waste, but a whole lot of it still goes to the landfill. (Citizen file)

The CVRD’s recycling centres take care of some of our waste, but a whole lot of it still goes to the landfill. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Let’s take long, hard look at the first “R”

It’s no accident that reduce is listed first in the trio

We’ve got to reduce our waste.

That’s really the major takeaway from a recent report released by the Cowichan Valley Regional District as they look at three-stream curbside waste collection for the nine electoral areas. This would mean collection of garbage, recycling, and a notable addition of organics.

This is most assuredly a step that the CVRD should take. While not every home has or wants a backyard composter, everyone is producing compostable waste, every single day.

Just how much waste are we talking about? According to the report, the CVRD shipped more than 42,000 tonnes of garbage to the landfill in 2021, and more than 30 per cent of that contained material that could have been composted.

It’s important to note that there are composting facilities right here on Vancouver Island that can turn this garbage into beautiful, fertile soil, while the current end for our garbage is a landfill in Washington state.

This is just one of the many reasons that our current garbage system is the antithesis of environmentally friendly. All that shipping with its attendant expenditure of fossil fuels? For garbage? Awful. That’s to say nothing of the monetary cost we pay. And the way it sits there, a blight on our landscapes for decades or more.

Considering that all of the municipalities in the CVRD already have organics collection, this really is a no-brainer. And folks who don’t have organics collection may not be aware of all of the things that are actually compostable that they haven’t even considered, such as pizza boxes, wax paper, soiled napkins and milk and juice containers. It’s a lot more than just apple cores and carrot tops.

But aside from the composting, we all need to take a long, hard, look at that 42,000 tonne figure and do something about it.

All too often the only one of the three “R”s (reduce, reuse, recycle) that we spare a thought to is recycle, when in fact this should be the last resort when we can’t take care of the garbage through the first two.

It’s no accident that reduce is listed first in this trio. It’s meant to be our first consideration, not our last. We must look at ways we can consume less, and demand that the things we do buy come in less needless packaging, and when packaging is necessary that it is easily recyclable. Our rampant, often thoughtless consumption is bad on a number of levels, but when it comes to garbage we can actually measure it by the tonne.

Or, in Cowichan’s case, the thousands of tonnes.