Refuse at the Whitehorse landfill. (Yukon News file)

Attention Whitehorse: Clean up your own mess

Apparently adults in this town need to be reminded not to leave their garbage all over the place.

One after another, Whitehorse’s second-hand and free stores have closed or suspended operations, largely because people in this city treated those facilities as public dumpsters.

Operations like the Salvation Army, for one, did not have the people power to sort clothing with resale value from the mounds of garbage people insisted on dropping off alongside their donations. It’s like the opposite of dumpster diving.

Residents in this town so abused the system that the options for second-hand shopping are disappearing one by one. We still have a few out-of-town dumps, infrequent flea markets and “freecycling” events. All are worthwhile sources of second-hand stuff, but none are quite the same as a dedicated thrift store.

And so, desperate to avoid the modest tipping fees at the dump, people appear to be staging Mission: Impossible-style stealth operations under cover of night to foist their household trash upon local non-profits and businesses.

Supply so outstrips demand that Humane Society Yukon this week pleaded with residents to stop using the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter as a dumping ground. The shelter, which had been collecting items for a fundraising yard sale, instead incurred $1,200 worth of tipping fees to get rid of all the crap people helpfully, uh, donated. (The city is considering waiving some or all of the fees.)

A few weeks ago, a frustrated laundromat owner told me people had purposefully been leaving bags of old clothing in the lost and found.

None of this should be happening. There’s still a market for second-hand goods, particularly clothing. Thrift store shopping ranges from a fun pursuit for those looking for sartorial bargains to a vital lifeline for people on fixed incomes or tight budgets.

Instead, cheapskates who don’t want to take responsibility for their old sofas and mattresses have wrecked it for everyone.

Writing on the humane society’s Facebook page, Coun. Roslyn Woodcock tore a strip off Whitehorse’s garbage ninjas who can spend $500 on a couch but not $10 for the piece of land that will become that couch’s final resting place.

“It is pathetic to suggest they can’t find the funds to dispose of it correctly,” Woodcock wrote. “Fees for a mattress (are) $15, a couch $10, a fridge $40. The cost is not the issue.”

For five bucks, you can drop off up to eight bags of household “residual” garbage at the Whitehorse dump. Five bucks is a pittance. If you’re driving your crap to Mae Bachur, you can certainly go the extra mile and take it to the dump. For a reasonable price, you can have peace of mind knowing you did the right thing and didn’t burden someone else with your garbage.

While people should pay tipping fees, the city could entice people to get rid of their large-item garbage by offering more frequent amnesty weeks, during which landfill fees are waived. The city shouldn’t have to do this, but it would take the pressure off local non-profits and businesses that are currently bearing the cost of disposing of other people’s trash.

That’s what’s at the heart of this. Landfills are giant chunks of public space we could use for some other purpose, or that we could leave as nature, that we cover with thick, heady layers of trash. We should pay to throw our garbage away, because we are depriving society as a whole of a small portion of its commonwealth.

Refusing to pay your share of the bill to take care of your trash is childish. Part of adulthood is cleaning up after yourself.

Contact Chris Windeyer at editor@yukon-news.com

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