Behind the Scenes: Meet Frank Bunyan, GIRO’s scrap metal expert

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, April 12 2016

Frank Bunyan likes a good find. The best one, to his memory, was when someone brought in a copper sign that read, “Frank’s Place.” It used to hang above his workbench, tucked away behind the places where people load their cardboard at the Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO) Depot. Bunyan, a likeable, handsome fellow in his mid-60s has been a volunteer at GIRO for 12 years. He started at the cash desk, but gradually made his way to the electronic and precious metal salvage area that is his home away from home.

Frank Bunyan at his workbench at GIRO. Jane Reddington photo.

Everything there is sorted by buckets and barrels, and Bunyan keeps track of it all, part of his meticulous nature that makes him a natural for being able to break down metal into its parts to repurpose. Most of the items are small. Two old gas lamps sit behind him, there are computer parts everywhere, and every kind of metal tap and copper piping you could imagine. 

“Frank’s been here a long time,” says Dean Clark, Recycling Manager at GIRO. “His efforts go a long way. It’s staggering to see how much wire we get. There are 14 different grades of metal and that’s just with copper. Frank’s very knowledgeable, he knows what’s got value and he’s self-taught. GIRO has made thousands over all the months of his efforts. He can dissect something into five different pieces [in minutes]. It just shows how efficient he can be.”

Bunyan is an Alberta native, who later spent 21 years in the Yukon before settling on Gabriola 16 years ago because his extended family lived here then. Working Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Bunyan sometimes comes in on Saturday but not in the summer because of the garage sales.

“There’s no way I’m going to miss the garage sales,” Bunyan says. “I’m like an old crow. I like shiny metal stuff.” Bunyan has scoliosis of the spine and osteoarthritis in his hips, knees, ankles and feet. He doesn’t drive, so one may often see him hitchhiking or taking the bus around the island. 

I got the impression that there’s not much that keeps Bunyan from his workbench. The soft-spoken volunteer likes that he can work at his own pace at GIRO and he’s handy with a drill. “I like it here. It gives me something to do and keeps me occupied. When I get sore I call it a day and go home early.” 

Bunyan shows me the difference between the metals by using a file. “It’s cheaper to recycle used aluminum than to mine it out of the ground.” Clearly, sorting metal is a passion for Bunyan that has remained with him for a long time. GIRO and indeed Gabriola are lucky to have him.

Behind the Scenes is an ongoing Sounder series, looking at individual volunteers on Gabriola who are making a difference on the island. 

The series is being launched this edition as part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week.

To nominate someone for a Behind the Scenes profile, please email jane@soundernews.com