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What to do with that old camper you can't sell

This worn out truck camper needs to be recycled rather than dumped in the bush.
September 11, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - People pay thousands of dollars to buy something bigger than a tent to sleep in when they go camping.

But, at a time when there is a public outcry against single-use plastic bags and other wasteful practices, there’s very little in the way of recycling for campers virtually anywhere in B.C.

Kane Blake is the man behind the non-profit Okanagan Forest Task Force that has cleaned up tonnes of garbage in the bush in the Central Okanagan since it launched in 2016. That includes campers dumped into ravines and motorhomes abandoned at the sides of roads. He says people need real alternatives before it will stop.

“What we ideally need is a wrecking yard specifically for truck campers, motor homes, RVs and boats,” Blake told iNFOnews.ca. “The landfill will take the fibreglass but they don’t really want to deal with the engine and the engine oils, things like that. With campers, the landfill won’t deal with the sani-tanks but will take certain parts but not other parts. Nobody is going to take the time to strip it all apart and take the metal to a metal recycler and the wood to the landfill. They just chuck them in the bush.”

Oliver Auto Recycling is one of the few – maybe the only – salvage yard that will take campers but for a fee and somewhat reluctantly.

A woman working there, who did not want her name published, said they will charge up to $1,000 for a truck camper and up to $3,000 for an RV – if they deem them acceptable.

“You have to go through a series of questions,” she said. “We don’t want any needles or blood. Nothing hazardous.”

The alternative in the Central Okanagan is the Glenmore Landfill but, as Blake said, it will take some work and can carry a significant cost.

Motors, chassis, fridges and electrical appliances have to be removed, as does any sewage waste.

“Our preference is that you demolish them and then bring them in,” Scott Hoekstra, the landfill’s solid waste supervisor said. “When we have to hit some of those bigger things (with heavy equipment) we actually have health and safety concerns because things break off and they fly. We don’t want to hit other vehicles and other equipment. We’ve had equipment windows break.”

That means making an appointment to dump the camper after 4 p.m. when there are fewer people using the dump. It also has to be moved right to the open face of the landfill, which is not feasible with a pick-up truck but renting a self-dumping trailer may work, Hoekstra said.

With it costing $95 a tonne to dump and the cost of renting a trailer or hiring a company to haul it away, that’s not a cheap option either.

So, if not the bush, the landfill or spending hundreds of dollars and driving it to Oliver, what is the solution?

That answer is a long ways off.

“We are advocating for these types of units to be part of the provincial recycling regulation where manufacturers will be responsible for the end of life for these units,” Cynthia Coates, the waste reduction facilitator for the Regional District of the Central Okanagan said.

That would be similar to fees charged on products like oil or batteries that help pay for their safe disposal.

She has no idea where such a request is on the provincial government’s priority list and, even if it was adopted tomorrow, it may only apply to new units and their end of life is many years away.

In the meantime, Blake is trying to organize another clean-up through the Okanagan Forest Task Force Facebook page.

Members have surveyed a few areas and found, for example, a couple of pickup truck loads of garbage and a truck camper along Beaver Lake Road.

Another said the Belgo Dam area is clean and Grizzly swamps is “spotless” but the Postill Lake Road is “becoming a lost cause” with seven abandoned pickup trucks and “garbage everywhere.” That's been a problem area for a long time, especially around an informal shooting range.

So, while camper disposal is a difficult enough task, it seems that the backcountry continues to be a dumping ground for many who can’t be bothered to pack out what they take in.

This abandoned RV has been on the James Lake Road for quite some time and is being slowly picked apart.
This abandoned RV has been on the James Lake Road for quite some time and is being slowly picked apart.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Okanagan Forest Task Force

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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