A Lopezian with a classic Chevy pickup disposes of trash at the Lopez Dump, where “Absolute Garbage” is what’s left after you’ve dropped off recyclables and reusable items.
REGULAR READERS (BOTH OF YOU) will know that trash disposal is a challenge on our island, where the garbage truck doesn’t stop. You’ve seen those “Pack It In, Pack It Out” signs at wilderness trailheads? We should have one on our dock.
That’s right, there is no system of trash collection or disposal for the 24 or so full-time residents who call Center Island home (or for the many more vacation-home owners who come for weekends or summer visits).
What there is, is the famous Lopez Dump, on the next island over.
That’s what they call it, even on a handcrafted sign out front, though that label is tongue-in-cheek. The name suggests an old-style, 20th-century landfill, where you backed up your station wagon anywhere that you wouldn’t get mired in mud and unceremoniously shoved your discards into a malodorous, open-air heap to be picked over by rats, crows, gulls and maybe the family that lived in a shanty behind a pile of old cars.
The Lopez Dump is actually a transfer station, like in the big city. Partially staffed by volunteers, it is operated with a phenomenal degree of good-sense environmental and community sensitivity. On its website, I even found a Mission Statement: “The Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District provides a convenient local facility for solid waste collection with reuse and recycle options, operated in a fiscally, socially, and environmentally responsible manner with a goal to educate and inspire the community to reduce waste.”
But it’s a fun place, too.
Every two weeks or so, we pack our recyclables and bagged trash into a few plastic storage totes, cram them aboard our 20-foot runabout and convey them to Lopez Island’s Hunter Bay public dock, where we keep our Ford pickup. Everything goes in the pickup for the 8-mile drive to The Dump, on the edge of Lopez Village.
At the gate, we pay $4.50 per 18-gallon tote of trash. Usually we have only one or two totes of trash, because most of what we bring goes into their astoundingly thorough recycling operation.
Friendly recycling advisors help guide you to the right bins at the Lopez Dump.
The recycling station is our first stop. A line of receptacles is precisely labeled with the type of plastic, paper, cardboard, metal or glass that is accepted. In case you’re not sure what goes where (is this cat-food can aluminum or steel?), a friendly recycling advisor in an orange vest is there to guide you. For a small charge, they’ll accept bags of mixed recycling items, but if you sort it yourself there’s no fee.
Got something like an old lamp that you’ve replaced or just don’ t need anymore? Next stop is the Take It or Leave It shop. Here, they’ll accept almost anything that has potential for reuse by another islander. Out front is a lineup of used bikes, slightly crotchety lawnmowers, even — yes — kitchen sinks. The difference between this and, say, Value Village or Goodwill? Here, you can donate things, for sure, but you can also pick up anything you see and take it home at no charge. Be careful, though; a few months ago when I let the rambunctious volunteers know I was a first-timer, they insisted that all first-timers were required to take home a mower. (I quickly managed to get lost behind the bins of old shoes.)
Barbara carries items ready to donate to the Take It or Leave It shop.
Barbara and I have quickly grown to love Take It or Leave It, and other visitors often make a beeline for it whenever they’re on Lopez. Barbara picked up a like-new Vera Wang handbag (we proudly call it her Dump Purse). I got the Polk Audio computer speakers on which I listen to the Troubadours Channel on Amazon Prime Music while I pound on my laptop in Wee Nooke. (Yes, us rustic islanders can be modern on occasion.)
In return we’ve donated books, kitchen tools, an old carpet sweeper and more.
Our last stop on Dump Day is the giant dumpster where we toss away what nobody else can use. Appropriately, signs label this as “Absolute Garbage.” Yep, they call it like it is at the Lopez Dump.