Column: Recycling alone is not enough

Residents can go a lot further than using blue bin

It wasn’t until I was being driven around a landfill that it really hit me about what we put in the ground.

The former manager of the Highwest commercial landfill in Highlands matter-of-factly told me it would only last for about 25 more years.

As a journalist I am paid to ask why, so I did.

“Because it will be full,” he said, giving me the kind of odd look that said I should have known the answer. In all honesty I didn’t. I had never thought about a landfill reaching capacity.

After seeing empty craters several metres deep, the knowledge that they would be filled to capacity in that amount of time sickened me.

It’s easy to pretend things aren’t happening when you don’t physically see them. I have never been to a landfill before, although I know the Hartland landfill offers annual public tours.

The Saanich facility’s clock is ticking, with an estimated 2035 closure. That’s why we are strongly encouraged not to put paper products or other recyclables in our garbage. Food waste is the next to be cut out. Its diversion will extend the life of the dump.

As a renter in Langford, I have had little control over kitchen scrap recycling or building a compost heap in the backyard. That’s been my excuse for a while about throwing food waste in the trash, but it’s not anymore.

I have looked into composting businesses that will pick up my food waste, but the cost is more than I can afford. So I made my own little compost bin out of an old garbage can. If I have to move, I’ll bring my compost with me.

I rarely buy packaged foods other than the occasional box of crackers for my daughter. In my house we are making all sorts of changes to reduce our waste. Making all of our food from scratch has drastically lowered the amount of items in the blue box.  If we make our own crackers there is no box. If I make my own milk kefir in a Mason jar – it’s a cultured dairy food high in probiotics – there is no plastic tub to recycle.

But it’s not enough to make the change to recycling instead of dumping it in the landfill.

For the past year, I have been making my own laundry soap and storing it in old juice jugs. More recently I have begun making my own dish soap for the sink and dishwasher, as well as my own toothpaste, lotion, salves, shampoo and conditioner.

Making these products isn’t for everyone. You have to get over having bubbles in the sink when washing dishes. And the shampoo won’t lather either, but everything still gets clean.

All you need to make liquid laundry soap is a bar of soap, washing soda, Borax and water. It takes 30 minutes to make four litres and costs about 50 cents. I will never go back to store-bought detergent.

Other than saving money, it’s nice to believe that the dish soap bottle beside my sink is the last one I will ever own. Same goes for the shampoo and the rest of the products.

I have always been a crafty person, and making these things is fun. I get my daughter involved and we make it an afternoon project.

My three-year-old loves the sense of pride she gets brushing her teeth with her homemade paste. The almond extract and orange essential oil give it a great flavour that no kid could say no to.

On a side note, I was a gardener at the Pilgrim Community Church garden in Colwood for nearly five years, and was disappointed when the church decided to close it down recently.

When the landfills reach their capacity, another large area of Earth will need to become the next one. If we are looking for public uses for our land, I’d rather have another community garden than another landfill.

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