Recently, my wife, our dog and I headed out east for a driving vacation through Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
We stayed at private camp grounds, provincial parks, national parks and the odd hotel, and it gave me a chance to see how these locations explained waste management practices to tourists.
Leaving from Milton, like many drivers on the 401, we stopped at a few Ontario ONRoute service centres. I do like the ONRoutes — they are bright, clean, and there are lots of food and beverage options. Looking at the waste sorting stations, I’m curious about the caption “plastics, glass and cans.” Glass and cans implies beverage containers. Is “plastics” referring to plastic bottles only, or to all plastics like coffee cup lids or plastic forks? Personally, I find the signage a bit too vague to be effective.
Our first night was at a KOA Camp outside of Montreal. The welcome sheet told us to sort our waste, but with very little details on how to do it properly. It wasn’t until I needed to visit the two dumpsters that I learned what should go in what bin — it was time for a little re-sort.
The next day we drove to De La République Provincial Park in New Brunswick. There was a centralized waste area for recycling beverage containers and for garbage. What was weird is that every other camp site had its own lidded garbage bin. This made garbage disposal more convenient than recycling, so I’m sure a lot of recycling gets thrown away as garbage.
Our third night was in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick. Upon arriving, staff told me to sort my waste into “wet” and “dry.” Wet was for organics, and dry was for recycling. I asked what to do with the garbage. After a weird look, I was told it depends — either wet or dry. Our dinner that night was a dehydrated pouch meal, and I know those multi-material pouches are not recyclable, so I don’t really understand how they could be included with the rest of the “dry” recycling. Perhaps a mixed waste processing facility is used to separate the recyclables from the other residual waste?
Like true Canadians, we stopped at a number of Tim Hortons along the way. The Canadian Maritimes have been early adopters of municipal composting, and I was amazed to see the Tim Hortons in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, had a bin for organics! I’ve never seen that in Ontario!
When we finally reached Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we stayed in a hotel. Our hotel room had a garbage can and recycling bin, but no mention of what was accepted. Breakfast was lovely, even more so because paper plates and bowls were used, with very clear signage to put them in a bin for composting. That was a first for me — a hotel that composts!
When in Prince Edward Island, of course we had to visit Green Gables Heritage Place and PEI National Park. Green Gables used rustic wooden barrels to collect recycling, organics and garbage. The waste sorting station at PEI National Park were very accessible and easy to find. Signage helped identify how to sort waste properly. Considering PEI has so many international visitors, I wonder if it would be more clear if photos of waste items were used on the signs as opposed to English and French words. And while egg cartons may be found in a camp ground, they’re not likely to be found on the beach — so including that information on the beach poster wasn’t helpful.
After two days on the island, we headed back to New Brunswick and camped at Mount Carleton Provincial Park. Besides being the province’s largest provincial park — and home to the province’s tallest mountain — it is now one of my favourite parks. It is simply beautiful and woodsy. Scattered throughout the campground were “shacks” for waste. There wasn’t any signage to tell you what to put into the bin inside the shack, and I’m guessing, based on the holed lid, the metal bin outside was for recycling beverage containers. The nearest park staff were about 10 km away, so driving back to ask them wasn’t really an option.
The next day took us to Quebec City, Quebec. We stayed in a lovely hotel (again, no signage about what was accepted in the room’s recycling and garbage bins), and toured the city. In the newer and old part of the city were stand-alone litter bins. Public space recycling is always extremely difficult — the fact is tourists are concentrated on looking at buildings and art and people, they aren’t focused on sorting waste properly. In the summer, Quebec City is bursting with international tourists, so language also presents a barrier to waste sorting. I suspect too, it would be difficult to find appropriate bins to blend into the old-world charm of the old city.
This was a great vacation. We met interesting people, hiked along waterfalls, beaches, forests and haunted woods. We saw moose, deer, foxes, hawks, and brook trout jumping up-stream. We did our best to “leave no trace” and to make good waste diversion choices throughout our trip.