The ‘Share Shack’ in Scotch Creek is serving its intended purpose, reducing waste by giving new life to secondhand items otherwise headed for the landfill.
The Scotch Creek Refuse Transfer Station facilitates all kinds of waste management services. There are bins for trash, yard waste, metal and lumber, the recycling area, a compost system and the Share Shack, officially called the Reuse Centre.
The Share Shack is the place for everything that gets brought to the station that still has life left in it; furniture, books, small appliances and other items, waiting for new homes.
Pilinka Wiseman worked at the transfer station last summer and said she was dubbed the ‘Fisher Woman’ within two weeks, as she was known for diving into the garbage bins and finding things that could be another person’s treasure. She said she is passionate about reducing waste and the job, and the Share Shack brings her a lot of joy.
“I would do constant loops to check the garbage bins, see if there was anything worth moving to the Share Shack instead,” said Wiseman. “I ran myself ragged on a mission to save the planet, averaging about 12 to 15 kilometres a day just walking the yard.”
Items in the Share Shack are free to browse and take at no cost as long as you aren’t bringing anything with you to drop off. People dropping off their used stuff only pay the same amount that they would if they were throwing it away in the garbage section.
The prices for each type of waste or recycling can be found on the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s (CSRD) transfer station website. Loose garbage and bulky waste have a minimum charge of five dollars to be dropped off at Scotch Creek, with an additional disposal tipping fee of $80 or $160 per tonne respectively, as these items might have to be disposed of later. Bagged waste up to 26 by 36 inches in volume costs three dollars per bag to drop off and have a three dollar disposal fee.
Items not accepted in the Share Shack include hazardous materials, cloth items, liquids, mattresses, food, building materials, fridges, air conditioners, large appliances, tires and real or replica weapons.
Wiseman said a lot of people are unclear about what they have to pay and what is reusable, often resulting in things being thrown away, or furniture getting tossed in the lumber pile, when they could be picked up by someone in need.
“We’re not able to be everywhere at once, and there’s two employees in the yard, but someone has to be in the recycling area pretty much all the time; people need direction when it comes to what can actually be recycled,” said Wiseman, noting stuff that could be reused definitely gets missed.
“We need to educate the public and change our whole attitude when it comes to garbage.”
Wiseman hopes to encourage people to ask questions and learn about what things can still be reused. She said she has completely furnished her trailer and the outside area where she lives with things from the dump, all of which she got for free.
“I have a stereo, a toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker, all from the Share Shack. It’s just a plethora of treasure,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman shared the motto of the employees at the transfer station: ‘the dump will provide.’ She said if one of them said they were looking for something, the dump would provide and they would find what they needed, and it helped them cultivate a slow shopping mindset where they didn’t need to go out and purchase new things as often.
Wiseman’s dream would be to have something like the Share Shack at every waste transfer station and a person dedicated to working it, deciding what gets saved and even refurbishing items. However, she admits this would cost money and isn’t something most districts would be able to do.
“It’s also hard because of the liability issues. I know if I’m fishing something out of the bin or going to get something there is risk involved, but to me, that risk is worth it,” said Wiseman, explaining it’s her passion for the planet that keeps her working so hard.
“Our poor planet is struggling. Given the state of it, I truly believe we need to shift our thinking and put much more care into what is waste and what is reusable. There’s so much waste of good things, we don’t all need something new.”
Another Scotch Creek station employee, Ken Benoit, shares Wiseman’s passion.
“It’s the best job and we’re all enthusiastic,” he said. “Although there’s nothing particularly fancy about it, it’s important.”
In the winter, the Share Shack is open five days a week, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the winter. It has the same hours but is open seven days a week from mid-June to September.
The population in the north Shuswap doubles or triples in the summer, so there is more getting donated and more to grab for yourself, Benoit laughed.
Wiseman and Benoit worked together last summer, and Benoit was inspired by Wiseman’s willingness to always give something a chance.
“I was amazed, something that immediately struck me as, ‘nobody will want that’, she’d keep it, it would be gone in an hour,” said Benoit. “It makes people happy to get something they want, and the people that got rid of it are happy too, and we’re reusing.”
“It’s just a wonderful place to work, and the community appreciates it, they know what they’ve got here,” said Benoit.
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