Construction waste dumped unceremoniously in a bin designated for compost collection inspired a less-than-stellar start for this year’s small Oak Bay Tea Party trash team.
Every year during the largest public event in the community, a small team of volunteers sorts each piece of trash into four categories – compost, soft plastic, hard plastic and garbage headed for the landfill.
It’s a process already complicated by recycling requirements and lack of buy-in by party participants, but when organizer Noreen Taylor arrived the Saturday morning to a pile of debris in the bin, it added to the stress.
While removing the debris to make way for the actual compost, volunteers found an address and reported it to the authorities, but it cost time to the half-dozen dedicated volunteers who sort trash, Taylor said.
With the goal of zero waste always at the heart of the endeavour, that goal was marred by thousands of single-use ketchup and mustard packets as well as candy wrappers lingering from Saturday’s parade.
They wound up with only two bags of plastic to be recycled, far less than previous years, because most of it was contaminated.
“In view of trying to get our zero waste goal, we’re going to have to really change our strategy,” she said. “There will always be people typically throwing an ice cream cone over plastic.”
Volunteer count would need to increase more than tenfold, 120 to 160 to man stations throughout the event, showing folks how to separate at the source, keeping the hard and soft plastics clean enough for recycling, she said.
They have tried unsuccessfully in the past to use separate bins – relying on signage for patrons to determine what bin is for what item.
“If we had those volunteers and those stations … where we stopped people and guided them into the proper bins, we would be able to recycle so much more,” Taylor said.
On a positive note, by Sunday evening the crew filled one bin and about three quarters of a second, diverting the compost away from the landfill.