COLUMN: Mindset of a dumper hard to grasp

NANAIMO: It’s amazing what you can find in the forests surrounding Nanaimo besides the flora and fauna.

It’s amazing what you can find in the forests surrounding Nanaimo besides the flora and fauna.

Furniture, old cars, tires, clothing, animal carcasses wrapped in plastic bags, fast food containers and waste you would normally find in your kitchen garbage are some of the items I and several dozen others helped to remove from the woods in the Doumont Road area during a recent cleanup event organized by the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club.

We picked up 6,700 kilograms of illegally dumped garbage with the help of Waste Management, which donated two trucks and bins. The Mid Island ATV Club was also a huge help with its trucks and trailers, hauling a lot of waste in a few short hours.

The illegal dumping problem at Doumont garnered lots of media attention this summer after some huge piles were dumped in the region. It happens to be a popular outdoor recreation spot for hikers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers and ATVers.

As a mountain biker, I enjoy exploring Nanaimo’s backcountry and admiring the natural forests, lakes and rivers that surround the city.

But riding the Doumont trail system is a constant reminder that many people don’t respect their natural surroundings or care about the environmental impacts of their actions. All these people seem to care about is getting out of paying a few bucks at the landfill to dispose of their waste. Never mind they probably burned up in gas at least the amount they would spend at the landfill, as well as shaving a few years off the life of their vehicles by bouncing along an unpaved logging road full of potholes.

What hit home for me during the cleanup is how much people are throwing out that could be recycled.

The piles and piles of kitchen waste we picked up included a lot of plastics, aluminum cans and takeout containers that could have gone in people’s recycling or green bins.

At this point in time, I think most people are aware of what can and can’t be recycled, so are people just not bothering to separate trash from recyclables? And if people are too lazy to do that, why are they then taking the time to truck it up to the forest to dispose of it instead of simply putting it out on the curb?

Residents already pay for a garbage collection service, so this type of effort is baffling.

We found bags of dog poo – large black bags stuffed to the brim with little plastic bags of poo – and an animal carcass in a plastic bag. These foul-smelling items could have at least naturally decomposed into the soil if the many layers of plastic were not included.

I’m not recommending people continue doing this, just that it would have been the lesser of two evils. The same goes for the yard waste in plastic bags.

A few months ago, I happened upon a couple dumping some leaves and branches in the Doumont area who didn’t bother to take some of the yard waste out of the garbage bags.

I tried to get their licence plate number as they drove away, but didn’t get my phone out in time.

Aldo Leopold, an American author, scientist, ecologist, forester and environmentalist, wrote in A Sand County Almanac: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

How does one go about changing how people regard nature?

So far, talk has centred around deterrence – putting up cameras, installing more signs, setting up patrols, publicly shaming those who are caught.

But some people seem to go to great lengths to dump and this would not stop everyone.

Until the attitude of some changes regarding illegal dumping, people should continue reporting it to the city at 250-758-5222 or the Regional District of Nanaimo at 250-390-6560, 1-877-607-4111 or online at www.rdn.bc.ca.