Crows and seagulls at the Cottonwood landfill in 1985.

Crows and seagulls at the Cottonwood landfill in 1985.

Looking Back: Please, do not feed the pigs

Novel approach to garbage collection problem proposed in Gazette editorial.

Concerns about garbage collection and disposal are not new.

However, in 1939, a rather novel approach to the problem was proposed in an editorial in the Gazette that would collect garbage and convert it to bacon.

The article points out that inland communities are specially aggravated with garbage as they are unable to dump it straight into the sea or grind it up and discharge it into a nearby river.

One assumes that the Fraser River was thankfully not considered useful for this purpose due to its tidal nature.

The community is then left with costly processing or unsightly dumps.

This had been the situation in Maple Ridge for some time and a clamour had begun for a centralized plan for household garbage pickup and disposal.

A small city in Indiana was then highlighted for its brilliant plan to deal with its garbage. The plan involved a fleet of trucks –loaded with steam cleaned garbage cans – and a large herd of hungry hogs.

The trucks drop off a clean can as they pick up a full one at each household and when all on the truck are full, the truck drives to a hog farm, where the refuse is simply dumped in with the hogs.

The hog farmer becomes the garbage contractor, who can sell his fattened hogs on the market.

That this plan was ever considered remotely feasible says some interesting things about garbage in 1939. It appears to have consisted almost entirely of the organic materials we are only now returning to separating from other waste.

You could not feed glass, metal or plastic to hogs, though probably a small amount of paper would simply provide roughage. Re-using and recycling took care of most packaging and the endless stream of modern consumer goods simply didn’t exist.

Speaking of packaging, the museum is collecting packaged food, but not for any exhibit purposes. As a way of paying back to the community that has supported us so well over the years, we are participating in a Canada-wide program called “Giving Tuesday”.

The pre-Christmas period is a time when charities, companies and individuals can join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about those among us who struggle to make ends meet.

From now until we close for the Christmas season, you can get free entry to the Maple Ridge Museum or Haney House Museum for a minimum of two canned goods.

The food will be donated, along with a cash contribution, to the Friends in Need Food Bank when we close on Dec. 18.

Be sure to visit the library over Christmas and see the displays on “Winter Sports” and “Christmas Lights”.

The displays will be up for the whole month of December.

Remember that in addition to the visiting Holiday Train, we have our own special trains on the lower level of the Maple Ridge Museum.  The Dewdney Alouette Railway Society will hold its Christmas Open House on Sunday, Dec.  28, from 1 to 4 p.m.


– Val Patenaude is director at Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.