Rethinking “Residual Waste”


Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

Spring cleaning has begun in earnest, and as a friend posted on Facebook, garbage is being dumped in ditches throughout the Pontiac.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

Spring cleaning has begun in earnest, and as a friend posted on Facebook, garbage is being dumped in ditches throughout the Pontiac.
Considering all the education that’s ongoing regarding garbage (not to mention conserving habitats for wildlife, keeping groundwater safe, “tourism” and so on — not to mention simply being responsible) this practice of dumping garbage into the countryside shocks me every year.
Particularly in a time of Quebec’s far-reaching goals.

Quebec’s stated goal regarding residual materials – aka “garbage” – revolves around an “intent to build a green economy” (
The website notes, “The approximately 13 million tons of residual materials that are produced in Québec each year hold an undeniable potential for being used in manufacturing as well as in the production of energy.”
The province’s goal is to ”create a waste-free society.”
Although this may appear simplistic if not naïve, what’s wrong with making this a stated goal? What’s wrong with reminding all of us, from the municipal through provincial to the federal level, that Canadians need to be more mindful of their garbage?
I don’t think there’s anything amiss from aiming at 100% reduction and repurposing. By aiming at the highest level, we can achieve much.

What’s trash, and what’s recyclable? Was that chair upside down and now bleached and soaked in the ditch truly unusable, or could it have been sent to a second-hand shop? There are several such outlets here in the Outaouais and surely everyone has the wherewithal to research them with social media or, heavens, by chatting with friends, using the telephone directory or googling.

Speaking personally, the biggest item in my garbage bin is plastic wrapping.
Ridiculous case in point? I recently bought an organic cauliflower that was encased in plastic wrapping, whereas the conventionally grown cauliflower had no plastic wrap. So, I purchased a supposedly healthier food choice but traded health for more garbage.
What’s your biggest garbage challenge? We could all give a nod to batteries, paint, and other household (and business) items

Instead of considering everything we throw out as waste, think about its potential as a needed resource to someoneelse. And research a safe place for what we know is hazardous waste.
For instance, Aylmer’s St. Vincent de Paul, Gatineau’s Value Village, Quyon’s La Maison de la Famille (Quyon Family Centre), and many other venues all over our region have second-hand shops.
Stores such as Bureau en Gros take spent batteries. Plus, municipalities have hazardous waste drop-off centres (contact your municipality for locations/dates for special pickups).

Right at the start of the acquisition chain, as consumers, let’s consider whether we truly need the item, and if so, whether it might reside at a second-hand shop, can be borrowed from a friend (a type of free & fair trade at our community level), or rented from a local purveyor.
Last February, I discovered a $6.00 pair of used, perfectly adequate snowmobile snow pants at Aylmer’s St. Vincent de Paul. Perfect recycling example – and perfect for my weekend of winter camping where I wasn’t going to pay $60 to $300 for winter pants.

We all need to rethink what we consider garbage, how we purchase items. Often we glibly say “be the change we want to see in the world.” But if we all, as individuals, actually did this with garbage just as one example, we’d be better off.
And so would the planet. It’s just that simple – for starters.

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author and visual artist. Contact her at; check her art at