Resisting Temptation

May 28, 1999

By Michael Jessen

Temptation is a dangerous thing and decisions made today can come back to haunt us tomorrow. Let me explain.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has been searching for a site on which to build the recycling processing depot promised to the public in November 1997. As a result of a decision not to privatize the Central Subregion recycling program, RDCK directors committed to spend money to build a new processing depot. A year and a half later, there is no new depot.

Here’s where the temptation comes in. Since 1999 is an election year for RDCK directors, there may be a temptation to get something started, and perhaps even finished, before the date with electors in November. The dilemma is – where to build this depot and what should it look like?

During my time at the RDCK, there was once a proposal to build the depot on some property already owned by the RDCK. The only problem, it is about 20 miles outside Nelson.

When a waste manager from a neighbouring regional district heard about this possibility, he immediately said it was a ridiculous idea. His reaction may have been influenced by the fact Trail’s recycling processing depot is located a considerable distance from that community.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask? In one word,transportation. Most recyclables are created in the centre with the largest population, in this case Nelson. To transport unprocessed recyclables 20 miles, process them, then transport them to market through Nelson just isn’t a sustainable activity.

In today’s world we need to identify the environmental and economic effects of our decision-making before we make decisions. The energy required to transport recyclables must be considered as an indicator of resource depletion. The greenhouse gas emissions emitted during this transportation must be considered as an indicator of climate change. The effect of additional truck traffic with emissions of acid gases and smog precursors must be considered for their impact on neighbourhoods.

For what it’s worth, here is one person’s vision of how to resist temptation and make an exciting decision. The new recycling depot can be built on the site of the current transfer station in Nelson. Yes it’s on the waterfront, but bear with me.

A waterfront pathway skirts the building. A compost demonstration garden and interactive displays that complement the waterfront setting invite the public in. The building is not the standard issue (a big box) for such a project, but rather reflects its watery setting. Perhaps it is the shape of a fish. The wall facing the pathway is tinted glass that allows passersby to view the work of waste transfer and recycling. The building celebrates its infrastructure instead of hiding it. Schoolchildren visit regularly to learn the principle of flow, the limits of technology, and perhaps the limits of recycling.

Evan Eisenberg describes just such a facility in his book The Ecology of Eden. It is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Eisenberg says “recycling centers ought to be our churches. In some rural communities, they already are: the place which people come on Saturday and Sunday mornings to meet their neighbors, to purge themselves of filth, and to feel virtuous.”

I hope and pray the RDCK can resist temptation for a quick fix and give this project the same consideration it received in Phoenix. This is a decision for the ages.

TRASH TIP – Janine Bate passes along this tip: use a seam ripper to effortlessly remove labels from tin cans. Be sure to do it before you open the can to avoid soiling the label.

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