After receiving a number of inquiries regarding the unkempt state of the entrance to the Garden River Landfill site, SaultOnline reached out to the Garden River Lands Department to better understand the nature of the challenges facing the organization in maintaining this area.
Garden River First Nation has stated that it is in the middle of transitioning their process for garbage collection to reduce unnecessary waste.
A garbage audit was completed by Garden River and it was found that 75% of what was in the landfill could be diverted through recycling and other disposal methods. A transfer site has been set up to organize and sort through waste to reassign as much as possible from the landfill.
This transfer site is a “central site where you bring your garbage, where it’s then sorted into the various components that make up garbage, like recyclables, compost, hazardous waste, plastics, stuff like that. So it’s a way to increase recycling, and only true garbage will be brought up to the landfill,” Alexis Vanderheyden, Lands and Resources Manager for Garden River First Nation tells SaultOnline.
The mess outside of the landfill gates is a product of illegal dumping. Since COVID-19, the dump has only been open on Thursday’s, but this hasn’t stopped people from leaving their trash outside of the gates.
“I’ve been with the First Nation for 27 years, and it’s always been an issue having people illegally dump here,” Vanderheyden explains, “and we have an issue with people getting used to the new routine. Garden River continues curbside pickup for all the residents and all the businesses, and all the admin buildings, and that service is provided for free. There’s no tipping fee, and we do have a recycling program on site that we are expanding.”
Vanderheyden states that there have been times that she has followed people to the dump coming off the highway, suspecting that they were not Garden River residents. She has had countless conversations educating people on illegal dumping, “we don’t encourage confrontation, we encourage education.”
“There is a plan for a clean-up effort by Garden River,” Vanderheyden explains, “the departments that are responsible for the landfill, Public Works (with assistance from the Lands Department) are understaffed and underfunded, as with many First Nation. Every single First Nation is understaffed and underfunded and are expected to provide the same services that any municipality does. We want to remind our neighbours that our landfill is for Garden River use only and that it is a Federal offence to trespass on Garden River lands.”
Vanderheyden shares that in the past, community clean-up efforts have been well received, and are an option when managing with the stray garbage left outside of the dump.