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Let’s Talk Trash: Barrels of fun

This season in qathet Regional District (qRD), hundreds of barrels have been removed from inlets and beachfronts through provincial funding by Clean Coast Clean Waters and additional support from qRD

Remember Barrel of Monkeys? A major twist on that vintage game could be getting creative with 55 gallon plastic barrels.

It just so happens that many communities have a bewilderingly abundant supply of these, in particular those with heavy aquaculture industry along their shorelines. Repurposing barrels is the stuff of many a YouTube video and the breadth of projects possible inspires many to dive into the so-called junk pile to retrieve them.

Gardeners seek out plastic barrels knowing their many practical uses. With only a few tweaks, they make for rainwater catchment or grey water filtration systems that keep the water flowing guilt-free during the peak of summer.

Brewing up a potent liquid fertilizer is greatly facilitated with the right container – attach an aerator to bubble your compost tea and you’re in for a yard of well-fed veggies and flowers. Speaking of which, barrels can easily be converted into planter pots or raised garden beds to extend your growing area if you live in an apartment or have more concrete than sod.

Those with a bit more tool savvy can convert a barrel into a compost tumbler that facilitates breakdown of food scraps by mixing, aerating and capturing heat generated during the composting process. After getting your hands in the dirt, having an outdoor rinse sink made from halved barrels can be yet another fun backyard use.

Many of us are looking for ways to increase our capacity to grow food these days and hydroponic systems that recirculate water and capture the natural fertilizer from fish are being explored by some. Equipment costs can be considerable unless they are salvaged from the waste stream.

Priced new for around $100, salvaged plastic barrels can come to the wallet’s rescue and help make dreams for an abundant harvest come true.

Once you grow all that food, the challenge can be longer term storage. Enter the buried-plastic-barrel root cellar. After putting in the sweat equity of digging out the soil, you are rewarded with a rodent-resistant barrel for keeping things cool. Add some chicken wire around your barrels before backfilling to keep interested critters out.

Those raising animals will find a barrel of ideas for repurposing plastic drums. From chicken apartments to warming beds to animal feed troughs, there are many handy uses for these, sometimes free, resources in your community.

If you don’t have a green thumb, there are still plenty of upcycling ideas for plastic barrels, including go-carts that will get neighbours talking or a unique swing for the backyard. Others have created surprisingly cozy benches and chairs that are sure to last a good while.

Ambitious lake dwellers might be looking to create a floating dock or even a cabin. While putting plastic into marine environments needs to be done with awareness that they can eventually pollute if mismanaged, reusing barrels is a higher end use than recycling or landfilling.

This season in qathet Regional District (qRD), hundreds of barrels have been removed from inlets and beachfronts through provincial funding by Clean Coast Clean Waters and additional support from qRD.

For a limited time, qathet ART is facilitating creative diversion of items found and the public is being welcomed to pick up these handy assets for free to use in all manner of home projects. If this catches your creative mind, contact to learn how to arrange for pickup. These will not be stored indefinitely, and will soon be headed for plastics recycling through Ocean Legacy Foundation.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education program. For more information, email or go to

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