Annet Viveen is hanging up her title as “the dump lady” after 27 years of working at the Elmira waste transfer station, one of four rural facilities being phased out by the Region of Waterloo.The transfer stations are slated to close on March 31, 2015, something Viveen sees as a poor decision, one that will force residents to haul their waste to the landfill site on Erb Street.
“I would like to see them open for the people,” Viveen said. “It’s not fair to have people drive all the way down to Waterloo.”
The Elmira transfer station used to be open five days a week, averaging some 300 users on a typical Saturday. She said she constantly has people asking why they’re not staying open.
For the last while she’s been commuting to Waterloo to work at their transfer station during the week. She said if she was younger she wouldn’t mind the drive, but it takes her 40 minutes on a good day, not to mention delays during the winter.
“I have had job offers already for the spring,” Viveen said. “I used to work in greenhouses and I’ve had people asking me to do their flowerbeds and I’m like ‘wait a minute.’ I’m not even retired yet.”
She’s likely to go with some part-time work doing gardening. She’s looking forward to having more time to play with her horses, but will miss the job.
“I’ve really enjoyed the people,” Viveen said. “I always think I’ve got to treat these customers like I would like to be treated. I will miss them but I’m going to see them. I’m not leaving the country.”
As someone who likes to keep busy, the transfer station has been good for Viveen. She’s enjoyed being able to be outside or inside and the ability to meet a variety of people. At the Waterloo site all she does is weigh people in and take their money, which is why retirement might just be the best thing for her.
One of her neighbours also retired this spring, so they’re planning on having a little party with their friends to celebrate.
“I have enjoyed it,” Viveen said. “I’ve met a lot of good people, learned a lot.”
In her time at the facility, she’s seen Elmira grow like a weed. There’s also been growth in some types of items dropped off at the transfer station. Kids, for instance, have an ever-growing amount of plastic toys that end up in the dump.
“I’m serious. You wouldn’t believe how kids are spoiled these days,” Viveen said. “And we’re still very wasteful. I see stuff going in and I just shake my head. I could almost furnish someone’s apartment, including pictures on the wall and everything with stuff that gets thrown out.”
Often it comes down to people wanting something new, or their children wanting new rather than hand-me-downs.
While recycling and composting have reduced the amounts, there’s still so much waste, she says.
Another issue with the pending closure of the rural stations, particularly for this area, is what the Mennonites will do with their garbage. The Old Order Mennonites aren’t about to drive down to Waterloo with it and curbside pickup doesn’t allow for everything, like scrap wood, for example.
It’s not just an issue for them, though, she suggests.
“Say they’re moving and they needed to get rid of that couch,” Viveen said. “Well their large item pickup isn’t for another three weeks and they can’t have it sitting on their yard. That’s not good for the environment, all those cars going in [to Waterloo].”
She said there are people who would gladly take lots of the chucked items because they don’t have stuff as nice as what’s going in the garbage. While the MCC Thrift Shop and Habitat for Humanity would accept some things people throw out, they’re often overwhelmed with donations, she noted.
There’s talk of a private operator taking over the facility, a move Viveen says people here would likely welcome. While costs might go up, people are willing to pay to keep the service, she said.
As for her retirement, Viveen is ready for some downtime. She’ll continue to shop in Elmira, where she hopes to see her regulars from the transfer station.
“It’s bittersweet,” Viveen said of her departure.