Freewheeling at the Free Store

Whitehorse turned into Buenos Aires on Victoria Day long weekend. No, not the beach of Buenos Aires - the dump. Oh, excuse me, I should say the landfill.

Whitehorse turned into Buenos Aires on Victoria Day long weekend.

No, not the beach of Buenos Aires – the dump. Oh, excuse me, I should say the landfill.

There was no charge to drop off garbage and cast-offs, hand-me-downs or recyclables for someone else to use. Well over a thousand people took advantage of this perk that the City of Whitehorse offered in an attempt to get citizens to clean up their yards.

SDLqLook at this!” yelled my friend Dave Hawkey, as we stood amidst heaps of good junk. “It’s a Cowichan sweater! Remember those?”

A dozen or more of us were scavenging. We stood near the overflowing Free Store, where truck after truck was backing up to offload the things they couldn’t use anymore or were now out-of-date. We ran to be the first to get our hands on the goods.

“Oh, here’s an amplifier! If I can get it going I’ve got myself more sound. This place is a great idea,” Dave tells me. “I can fix things because I’m from that generation that learned how. But now everything is built to break and be chucked out within a couple of years. It’s a buy, throw out, buy, throw out cycle.”

Teresa Johnson is quite happy with this syndrome of disposability. “I’ve furnished my whole house with stuff from here,” she says.

“I got stereos, speakers, entertainment centres and carpet for my son’s room. I come to the dump every day except Wednesday when they clean up.

“It’s funny – whenever my husband says he wishes he could find a certain thing, we do find it the next day, or the day after, here at the Free Store. He has $1,000 worth of shirts from here. Everything I wear I found here, including jewelry.”

[image2]

Teresa and her husband are on a fixed income. They couldn’t otherwise afford the furnishings and clothing they get here for free, they say.

As we ran helter-skelter to scrounge through these treasures, there was another competition going on just above our heads. Seagulls screeched and battled nearby over rotting food.

I heard the low, muffled chugging of a diesel engine and looked up from a bag of toys to see a big new pickup backing near me. My eyes bugged out at the sight of a ski pulk with a tinted windshield.

Made in Europe, it’s a high-end sled to pull a baby while cross-country skiing. But Jeff Lister beats me to the draw.

“This is worth a small fortune,” he says. “I’m going to donate it to the ski club. You know I once found a rarely-used Nordi-Track treadmill here at the Free Store. It’s the top-of-the-line exercise machine and a new one is worth a thousand bucks.”

Jeff is a tinkerer and inventor in his spare time. He comes here for parts for his projects. And he’s not alone. I see a man approach with tools in his hands.

“I’m going to take the carburetor out of that lawn-mower,” he tells me as he points to one of three push-mowers. “I have a rototiller at home that needs a new carburetor, and this will work in it. I’ll save myself 300 bucks by fixing the one I have.”

Alex Martin grins from the guardhouse. That’s the trailer at the entrance to the landfill.

You tell him what junk you have, and he tells you what bin number it should go in. There are gigantic containers for household garbage or construction materials and different bins for cardboard, plastics, glass and tin cans.

Later, when I sit down with Alex in the shaky little trailer, a smile of contentment spreads across his face.

“Scavengers and salvagers are good for the environment,” he says. A salvager is more professional than us scavengers at the Free Store – they buy a permit for $100 to go to a higher level.

“We’re one of the last landfill sites in Canada to allow salvaging,” says Alex. “If they have a permit they can go to where we’ve sorted it all to piles of tires, precious metals, construction materials and garbage. They can find copper and sell it and regain the cost of the permit in no time.”

“It’s amazing what is dropped off here at the landfill. We have practically new washers and dryers. Look at our fridge graveyard,” he says, pointing to an area where white fridges stand like tombstones.

“The most common things at the Free Store are furniture and clothing. We get tons of clothing.”

I nod and get up to leave. As I look back up at the mob near the Free Store I see Dave has intercepted a man who thought he might dump his aluminum windows into the construction bin. Dave stops him and gets the windows.

I smile and walk back to my car, wearing new red rubber boots someone dumped off here today. Perfectly good. Flashy, but perfectly good.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley speak during a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on July 29. Silver urged “kindness and patience” during the weekly COVID-19 update on Oct. 21, after RCMP said they are investigating an act of vandalism against American travellers in Haines Junction.
(Alistair Maitland Photography file)
COVID-19 update urges “kindness and patience” for travellers transiting through the territory

“We need to support each other through these challenging times”

Whitehorse Correctional Centre officials have replied to a petition by inmate Charabelle Silverfox, who alleges she’s being kept in conditions mirroring separate confinement, arguing that her placement isn’t nearly as restrictive as claimed. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Inmate not being kept in restrictive confinement, WCC argues in response to petition

Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) officials have replied to a petition by an… Continue reading

wyatt
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 23, 2020

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Most Read