24-hour vigil draws attention to the cost of throwaway culture

The follow article by James Smith appeared in the North Delta Reporter on April 20, 2017. The original article can be viewed on page 5 here. See here to learn more about the work that Rob is doing in North Delta. Photo credit: James Smith.

24-hour vigil draws attention to the cost of throwaway culture

As North Deltans lined their streets with detritus in anticipation of this year’s Spring Clean-up, one resident took it as a sort of call to arms.

Inspired by the waste he saw around him, Rob Copeman-Haynes decided to hold a 24 plus hour vigil at the North Delta Social Heart Plaza to raise awareness of the cost we’ve all paid for our disposable culture.

“It’s always bugged me… but what sparked it was on Tuesday evening I saw the truck coming around our cul-de-sac again and putting in all kinds of stuff that shouldn’t have been going to the garbage. It should have been recycled in some way, at least,” he said.

Copeman-Haynes was further motivated by the comments on a post about Spring Clean-up on the North Delta Community Corner Facebook page. He said around eighty per cent of the 300 or so comments were supportive of the event, but 10 per cent denigrated the people who go around and collect stuff they can reuse.

“Nowhere in that conversation could 1 hear, ‘Why do we have so much stuff, and why is the only thing we can do with it is throw it out?’” he said. We can make connections from there to why do we have disaffected youth, why do we have fewer jobs in Canada, why are the jobs making that stuff somewhere else, who’s making the money from those jobs being somewhere else, why is it that stuff is so cheap and breakable and irreparable, and why are there no repair jobs here?”

Copeman-Haynes held up a pair of boots he found at the side of the road during Spring Clean-up four or five years ago as an example of what’s been lost to our modern throwaway culture.

He took them to now-defunct Antonio Lorenzo Shoe Service at 84th Avenue and 112th Street and had the proprietor fix them up. Copeman-Haynes recalled Lorenzo bemoaning how he couldn’t find someone young to take over the business. These days, what Lorenzo did for a living is rapidly becoming a lost art.

“The truth is, there just isn’t enough work anymore,” he said, “He used to be able to do leather ballet slippers, leather hockey gloves, all that stuff that was repairable just 20 or 30 years ago. And now that’s all made of plastic, it all comes from China and it can’t be repaired, so it just gets chucked.

“This was the very last job that Lorenzo did before he closed up his shop. They used to be beautiful ski boots. You can see inside that they’re made in Canada, Eaton’s Canada, probably hand-made — on a machine anyway… And now repurposed as my street theatre shoes.

“And for me, they just represent everything that’s wrong with the way were doing our stuff now.”

Copeman-Haynes hopes his vigil will start a conversation and get people thinking about the impact our choices as consumers have on our local economies and our natural environment.

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