A Bad Case of Shingles

The Symptom

A recent Whiteshell Cottagers Association Facebook post had a cottager asking a question about discarding old shingles. Apparently, the South Whiteshell transfer station no longer accepts old shingles. Folks at the transfer station couldn’t advise the person on any other options so they turned to the internet for advice.

A Second, and Third, Opinion

Most people suggested taking the shingles to Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill. The person would be charged a tipping fee and they would dump the shingles and solve their immediate problem.

Then this appeared:

Bury them in your yard but check and see if it’s permitted in your municipality.

Someone who I will keep anonymous here.

I chose to comment on that and ask them to please not dispose of a toxic substance by burying it where it could leach into land, waterways and wetlands. The ensuing discussion was lively, to say the least.

One person compared burying shingles to “outboard motors pouring oil and gas into the lake” and while I’m not a fan of the environmental impact of 2 stroke engines, I think there’s a substantial difference between the transient use of such motors and the gradual leaching, over 300 years, of carcinogens into our lake water.

I guess we shouldn’t have asphalt roads either

Another person who shall remain anonymous.

Yes, asphalt shingles and blacktop highways are made of the same material. A fair comparison, I suppose. That’s where the comparison ends though; while on the house, or in the form of a highway, the asphalt is serving a useful purpose, as shingles, protecting the structure from prematurely going to the landfill or supporting travel and economic activity, in the case of the highway.

When we’re done with the material, we need to dispose of it safely. Or better yet, recover and recycle it (see below).

That poster went on to call me clueless and suggested if I’m going to be an environmentalist I should make up my mind about whether we can use asphalt or not.

The Cycle of Acceptance

Like receiving a diagnosis for a bad disease, some folks seem to be stuck in denial. Or anger.

That some folks would entertain the idea that every 20 years or so, it would be acceptable to scrape the roofs off thousands of residences and simply bury the waste near water and wetlands is astoundingly shortsighted.

Who are these folks that come to the Whiteshell, who’ve chosen to live here among these lakes and rivers and wetlands, that make choices that would poison the very thing that makes this area so attractive? I don’t understand it all; to live in that much denial that we can treat the environment with such egregious disrespect is beyond me.

We need to get our head wrapped around the idea that water resources are limited and threatened and we need to stop and think about the consequences of our actions. We cannot continue acting as if these resources are unlimited.

The Disease

But those folks are not the problem. They are just another symptom. As far as I’m concerned, they can take the time they need to figure out if they really want to treat the land and water this way.

Asphalt is recyclable. Apparently it is one of the most recovered and recycled materials in North America.

And here’s the problem:

The Manitoba Government has abdicated responsibility for product stewardship.

We used to have garbage pickup at the end of our driveways in the Whiteshell with a local dump. Over time, this has gradually changed to centralized garbage drop off and the movement of the dumps to a transfer station. All good choices, but there have been concerns about people dumping waste anywhere because of the inconvenience.

But now you can’t take shingles at all.

You have to drive a two hour round trip to Brady Landfill. Or you have to do the work yourself to figure out who recycles shingles and figure out how to get them there. Some folks, with less sensitivity to environmental issues will find it is an awful lot easier to just dump them into the woods or into a lake.

The government could have contracted with a recycler to pick up shingles. The government could have posted signs with contact information for recycling. The government could have taken responsibility for managing hazardous waste. They could have made it easier for people to dispose of a readily recoverable product.

But they didn’t bother.

We really need to do so much better in product stewardship and protection of precious resources.

Burying shingles is illegal in Manitoba. And bad form. Contact Greensite Recycling for shingle recycling.

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