“Know Your Neighbour” is an ongoing series by Highline Magazine featuring quirky, lesser-known mountain characters that tend to fly under the radar, people who go against the grain, the unsung heroes. These are the stories of people that you will not find written in the history books of the Rockies, but who bring a unique energy to our mountain towns. Written by Corrie DiManno, with portraits by Canmore-based photographer, Georgie Silckerodt.
Pete Rochacewich is a dirty trash talker.
Affectionately known as Garbageman Pete, he relishes the opportunity to converse — especially with Canmore residents — about cardboard, cans and other crap. Originally from New Market, Ontario, Rochacewich got a job in public works for the Town of Canmore about a year ago. But he almost quit two weeks in after seeing the staggering amount of stuff a “green” small town throws away. He felt as if the planet was doomed: this is not what sustainability looks like!
Instead of putting in his notice, he got busy broadcasting all of Canmore’s dirty little secrets on his Facebook page. Now with 620 followers, Rochacewich has a platform to spread the gospel of garbage. His photo captions are a cry for change, like this one taken from his image of a pile of waste, overflowing from the back wall to the front doors of the Material Recycling Facility:
“I don’t understand how we can imagine that the planet has the potential to sustain this kind of consuming. I understand that consumerism produces jobs, but I’m tired of hearing it when this is what I see every day. Our system is backwards, upside down, inside out and ridiculous. Reduce, reuse, recycle, landfill — in that order. Please.”
While growing up, Rochacewich wanted to be a paleontologist but instead went to school to become a tool and die maker. However, when he’s on the sorting line at work (a conveyor on which the town’s plastic and metal recycling — and loads of other anonymous garbage, unfortunately — go to be separated) he’s still committed to conducting his own form of scientific research: the study of Canmore’s choices. The most disappointing of said choices, for Rochacewich, are exhibited in the volume of plastic bags and disposable coffee cups; disappointing not only because they are the most common, but also because they are the easiest to recycle properly.
He attributes this phenomenon to the “time is money” philosophy: “The faster people can get something done, the better. Time is more valuable than money, and it’s faster to just get rid of something than it is to take an extra minute to recycle it or to find someone who can use it.” A case in point is the brand new Italian stovetop coffeemaker Rochacewich plucked off the line, took home and has used to make Americanos every day since.
When he’s not educating Canmore about the consequences of their consumerism, he can be found rock climbing in Lake Louise.
Check out the trashiest page on Facebook and learn how to be a better recycler with tips from the inside at facebook.com/garbagemanpete.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Name: Peter Rochacewich, Pete, Garbageman Pete
Home Base: The short answer would be Newmarket, Ontario. The longer and much more true answer would be that I’m not entirely sure that I’ve found my home base yet. Somehow I feel like I’ll end up in Thunder Bay.
What to ask me about when you see me: GARBAGE! But seriously, you can ask me about quite literally anything – I really value a good conversation.
In one sentence, how would you describe yourself?
A three-toed sloth who has temporarily been trapped inside a garbage man’s body.
What are some of the struggles you find yourself facing in the Bow Valley?
Of course the cost of living here is a struggle. I know it’s the most common answer to this question, but it’s a very real issue. I have no idea where I’ll be living in November (who knows if I’ll even be able to find a place) and that can be daunting at times as well. Also, there’s the whole “local” thing. It’s tough to live in a place where you know you aren’t welcomed.
Who is someone you admire? Why?
My Uncle Alec. I visited him recently at his property in British Columbia where he lives off the grid. I find it very inspiring to see someone living the way he does. We live in a consumer driven world (for the time being) and visiting him gives me an idea of the culture I’d like to see the world shift towards. Whenever I see him, we have conversations that I actually value – which I find I don’t get a lot of here in the valley. I honestly find it more common to hear “what do you do?” rather than “how do you do?” here in Canmore – it’s all a bit depressing really.
What keeps you here in the Bow Valley?
Not a whole heck of a lot to be perfectly honest with you. I don’t see myself living here for very much longer (locals rejoice, someone is leaving!). For now, I suppose what keeps me here is the work and my friends.
What is one of your vices?
Climbing. I love it. I’ve rock climbed for a few years now, and it’s nice to have something that keeps me pushing myself. I’ve made amazing friends, travelled to beautiful places, and experienced new and exciting cultures because of it. It has definitely helped me to become a better person.
When are you most content?
I’m sitting in front of my wood stove, reading a book (likely the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the umpteenth time). I’m listening to the sparks crackle and sometimes catch a glimpse of them dancing from the corner of my eye. Time seems to be standing still. I just finished dinner – a fire roasted, freshly caught trout with a salad that I picked in the yard moments ago. I’m smiling, holding the hand of someone I love. There are no lights on, there is no TV, there is no iPad. There is no need.
Or I’m sitting at communitea drinking an Americano.
For musings and your weekly glimpse into garbage life, follow Garbageman Pete on Facebook.