Lifestyle, Pelee Island

Over the Lake: When There Is No ‘Away’ to Throw It

Panorama of Pelee Island Landfill by Hollie Crawford

Everything that comes to and leaves Pelee Island does so at great cost. By ferry, plane or personal watercraft — everything consumed or wasted has to come and go somehow. The actual cost of wasting things on the island cannot be fully understood unless the cost of producing the thing that is wasted also factors in the fuel, manpower and subsidized transportation to and from Pelee.

Everything from discarded appliances to cheesy pizza boxes has to go somewhere. So, what exactly happens to waste on Pelee Island?

The Pelee Island Waste Transfer Station was established in 2010 after the Pelee Island Landfill was closed. Decades of indiscriminate tossing of goods into a giant pit located at the southwest corner of the island gave way to large containers, neatly assigned for trash, construction waste, recyclables and metals.

For a set fee schedule, residents, cottagers and visitors can bring in bags of garbage during Transfer Station operating hours. All recyclables are collected at no charge. Sorting is encouraged.

The original Pelee Island Landfill was a hole in the ground that required a two-handed hurl of all trash bags directly onto the mountain of garbage while dodging flies and vermin and holding your breath. It was also a picker’s paradise.

Hollie Crawford grew up on Pelee Island and now operates a much-loved upcycling clothing and goods brand called “Brown Eyed JO’s.” She recalls fondly the days of the “old dump” when she and her great-grandfather would peruse the leavings of others for useful bits, and found treasure.

Hollie credits the experience of growing up on Pelee Island for teaching her that there is no “away” to throw things. As much as there was no away to throw your garbage, there really wasn’t anywhere to source materials in a pinch either.

Many islanders referred to the landfill as the “mall” to find anything from engine parts to old lawn chairs. Reusing and recycling has greater importance on islands with limited supplies. Crawford’s passion for upcycling is evident in her stylish but also useful wearables and home décor created from what has been discarded by others.

Garbage truck on West Shore Road by Cathy Miller

Today, the Municipal Pelee Island Waste Transfer Station is serviced by GFL Environmental Services with nine 40-yard bins that are removed from the Island by the Pelee Islander II. Everything that gets transported off the island ends up at the GFL facility in Windsor and the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority.

A trip to “the dump” looks quite different these days. Catching up with neighbours and a friendly chat with the transfer station attendant Mack are regular outings for Islanders.

Every April, Islanders get busy cleaning beaches of debris and trash that washes up over the winter months. Throughout the month of April, and in honour of Earth Day on April 22, The Pelee Island Waste Transfer Station is supporting The Great Canadian Shore Cleanup by accepting refuse picked up along the beaches at no cost.

The Pelee Island Waste Transfer Station is now on Summer Hours:

8 a.m. – noon

Saturday and Sunday:
11 a.m. -4 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursdays:

For more information:
Township of Pelee Waste Transfer Station  
The Pelee Buzz (shoreline cleanup)

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