Cortes Island’s Jo Ann Green Award recognizes contributions to the community’s environmental well-being. This year’s award was given to Brian Pfeifle who runs the Cortes Island Recycling Centre with his team, Wendy Moore and Donna Naven.
Brian is quick to point out that it’s a team award – otherwise he would have been reluctant to accept it.
The Recycling Centre on Cortes is known for its organization, exceptional cleanliness, useful signage, helpful staff and the volunteer-run free store and adjacent “barn” that gives islanders the opportunity to up-cycle.
Brian’s favourite aspect of his work is seeing islanders’ reactions to their tax dollars being used so well. The team honours their grateful responses.
They send plastic recycling to Merlin New Westminster where it’s turned into pellets. Tin is sent to Ontario and the US for washing machines and stoves. Glass goes to Stone Pacific on Vancouver Island and is used for aggregate sandblasting. Styrofoam is dispatched to Vancouver and is used for picture framing and moulds. Paper and cardboard are sent to Asia to be recycled.
“We’ve got to stop using so much plastic. We have to change. We just have to. I’m kind of a vehicle to get in people’s faces about it.”
Brian is enthusiastically participating in a current provincial pilot program dealing with “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging.” Exceptions are white construction strapping, straws, squishy foam, and squeeze tubes such as toothpaste containers.
Sadly, recycling still eludes many. According to Brian, a professional audit – confirmed by personal observations – showed that only 30% of the contents in the 40-cubic-yard landfill bins belongs there. The rest is recyclable or compostable.
“When I took over in 2013, we were going through 107 bins a year,” Brian said. “As of last year, we’re up to 132. During the summer months, I can go through two recycling containers in two weeks. In the winter, it takes 3 months.”
Looking into a landfill container together, Brian and I see paper, cans, food waste, lots of plastic – such as containers and wrapping, and a flat screen TV. Once, Brian took the 1,600 TVs collected since 2010 to Campbell River on his day off. With approximately 400 driveways on Cortes, that is 4 TVs per household! Brian now asks that people take their old TVs to Campbell River themselves.
“We’ve got to stop using so much plastic. We have to change. We just have to. I’m kind of a vehicle to get in people’s faces about it,” he said. “But I’ve watched how this award has changed people’s view of me. Maybe now they think ‘He’s not just sitting there being grumpy. He’s trying to accomplish something for humanity.’”
Brian lives in a fifth wheel trailer with a small wood stove, battery powered LED lighting, and a small TV. “It’s like living in a boat; if you don’t need it, it ain’t in there. My life’s so simple.” Smiling he advised, “Buy your house, tune it up and go play in your garden.”
“I feel obligated to do my part,” Brian told me. “I believe we all should. You’ve got to lead by example.”
Isabel Steigemann was born and raised on Cortes Island. She actively participates in her community hoping to bring positive changes.
Sponsored by Friends of Cortes Island