Recycling at the cottage

Photo: istockphoto.com/Frances Twitty
Tradition in cottage country is changing. Recycling, a regular part of city living, is making waves in the land of lakes and trees. Lighter loads A trip to the dump can be as quintessential a cottage experience as roasting marshmallows or picking raspberries. The chance to see real black bears in their un-natural habitat often causes many tourists and cottagers to bring their camera along with their weekly trash. Those loads to the dump have gotten much lighter thanks to recycling programs started by townships with exploding summer populations. In 2005, the Dysart et al township faced looming landfill closures unless something was done. Recycling had been around for a dozen years, but the voluntary approach couldn't keep up with large quantities of waste generated by summer residents and visitors. So, in September 2005, recycling became mandatory in the town of Haliburton and the surrounding area. The result was an increase in recycling at the six townships landfill sites by 38 percent in a single season. "A lot of people came on board," said Mark Brohm, landfill manager for Dysart et al. "They were always recycling, but now they recycle better." Simple life, sophisticated recycling Most surprising, recycling programs in these sparsely populated areas are often more complete than their urban counterparts. In Muskoka, cottagers can put out just about every plastic container, fibre, and metal can. As Bob Lacroix, public works officer for Muskoka, says "if it comes from the grocery store, we can recycle it." If you visit Algonquin Provincial Park this summer, you will notice some funny looking recycling bins collecting fibres and containers. The Finnish "MOLOK" bins look short and squat, but their appearance is deceiving. They are actually quite long, but two thirds of their length is buried underground. The design means the weight of the recycled materials squishes the lower material, so more can fit into the recycling bin. That means truck travelling back and forth to empty the bins, which means fewer emissions. Plus, as an added bonus, the ground insulates and cools the bin, preventing nasty wildlife attracting odours. "We're a provincial park, dedicated to preserving ecological integrity and recycling is just part of that," said Tracy Harper, assistant park planner for Algonquin Provincial Park. One hundred and thirty of the bins have been spread among 26 campgrounds, trails, museums and businesses in the park. Organics are even being collected at camps and restaurants, and they hope to start collecting everyone's organic waste in a few years. Recycling tips for the cottage
  • Contact your municipal office to find out what they recycle. Chances are that you can recycle more at the cottage than at home.
  • Get a couple bins for different types of recyclable materials. In some cottage communities, paper is picked up one week and containers the next, so separating materials into different bins will save a lot of time.
  • Regularly clean your recyclable containers and the bins. Any residual food could attract wildlife.
  • If you have to take your recycling to a landfill, offer to take neighbours' recycling when you go. Carpooling your recycling will cut down on greenhouse emissions and encourage others to do it.
  • Think outside the box. Many things that can be recycled could be reused at the cottage. Trade old summer books and magazines with other cottagers, and the recycling bin could be a treasure trove of rainy day craft supplies.
  • Graeme Stemp-Morlock is a freelance science writer who spends his summers at Hay Lake Lodge just east of Algonquin Park.