Top 10 blogs about recycling and waste

??????????????This blog launched in September 2011, and since then, we’ve published 236 posts about waste management! Who knew there’d be so much to say about waste?

These posts have explored our personal and collective connections to waste; they’ve touched on local, provincial, national and international issues.

That’s one of the interesting things about waste: everyone makes it. And everyone has an opinion, a feeling, about waste.

When it comes to waste, there really is a lot to talk about, to share, to learn.

Top 10 red 3d realistic paper speech bubble isolated on whiteHere’s the all time, top ten blog posts we’ve published:

  1. What’s the size of Texas, made of plastic, and floating in the Pacific Ocean?
  2. What does FSC stand for?
  3. Teaching children about recycling with fun activities
  4. 4 Songs that Put Waste to Music
  5. What Earth Day means to me
  6. 2013 Halton Waste Management Guide and Collection Calendar – how it’s made
  7. True or False: Batteries should not go in the garbage?
  8. Garbage Sky High on Mount Everest
  9. Four ways waste management is changing – and what this means for jobs
  10. A day in the life of a garbage bag


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Put waste in the right place

Have you used Halton Region’s popular Put Waste In Its Place database?

Simply type the name of an item and we’ll tell you how to recycle, compost or dispose of it properly.

Here’s a list of the top five most commonly searched items in our database:

shredded-paper1. Shredded paper 

Put shredded paper in your GreenCart. Mix it in with food waste, inside a BPI certified compostable bag. The paper will absorb moisture and help reduce odours.

If you have a lot of shredded paper, consider hiring a paper shredding company. Crime Stoppers of Halton also holds annual shredding events; there are two events in May 2014.

2. Sofa

Sofas are accepted as bulk waste, or can be dropped off at the Halton Waste Management Site (standard disposal fees apply).

3. Cardboard box

Cardboard boxes go in the Blue Box. Please flatten cardboard boxes and remove any plastic liners (like a cereal bag).

Glass_Bottles4. Glass jar

Glass jars go in the Blue Box. Please give glass jars a quick rinse first. Metal lids can go loose in the Blue Box too.

5. Mattress

Due to concerns about bed bugs, most charities cannot reuse mattresses. Mattresses are accepted as bulk waste, or can be dropped off at the Halton Waste Management Site (standard disposal fees apply).

If you’re ever unsure how to dispose of an item, remember: Halton Region is just a click away!

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Get your garden growing – Halton’s Compost Giveaway is coming soon

Each year during Compost Giveaway, Halton Region offers compost to Halton residents free of charge.


Remember your shovel, bags/bins and non-perishable food donations. Pull up to a pile of compost and start digging!

The spring Compost Giveaway is taking place Monday, May 5 to Saturday, May 10, 2014 at the Halton Waste Management Site.

During the event, tweet us @HaltonRecycles and use the event hashtag #HaltonCompost.

Residents can take up to the equivalent of 7 garbage bags of compost per household.

Remember to bring a shovel (residents must shovel and bag their own compost), and your own container (garbage bags, yard waste bags, reusable containers, or pick-up bed trailer).

During Compost Giveaway, Halton Region coordinates a food drive to support local food banks. Residents are encouraged to make a donation of non-perishable food items or cash.

When using compost in your garden, remember to mix compost with topsoil or another gardening fill. For best growing results, a 60/40 split (60% topsoil and 40% compost) is recommended.

The compost available is made from yard waste, not GreenCart material.

We hope to see you there!

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Coming soon: Special Waste Drop-off Days

Make it easy: separate your household hazardous waste and electronic waste inside your car. You'll be dropping off household hazardous waste first.

Separate your household hazardous waste and electronic waste inside your personal vehicle. You’ll drop off household hazardous waste first, then electronic waste.

To make the recycling of household hazardous waste and electronic waste more convenient to residents, Halton Region holds Special Waste Drop-off Days throughout the year.

During the event, tweet us @HaltonRecycles and use the event hashtag #HaltonDropOff.

The first Special Waste Drop-off Day in 2014 is coming up on Saturday, April 26 at the Robert C. Austin Operations Centre in Georgetown.

Visit Halton Region’s website for a list of acceptable household hazardous waste and electronic waste, dates, times and locations. Special Waste Drop-off Days are for Halton residents only. No commercial wastes are accepted.

We hope to see you there!

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“What Earth Day means to me” by Omar Hadi

Earth Day peopleOur home planet, Earth, is the only world known to us to contain life. We depend on it. We all walk on the surface of the Earth, we all breathe the air supplied by Earth, and so it should be our duty to show care by taking a stand. Things like littering and pollution should not be taken lightly. Carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing the pH levels in the oceans and, in essence, it is acidifying them. Did you know that 1% of Australia’s untapped geothermal power is enough to provide energy to the whole world for about 26,000 years! As a global community, we can eliminate problems step by step, but first we must all make an effort.

Earth’s complexity has increased dramatically, from bacteria to multi-cellular life, human civilization, and technology. Earth has never disappointed us.

Earth Day shows recognition for our planet, and provides us with a reminder on how to take a step further in protecting our planet. It promotes this idea and motivates many to acknowledge facts about pollution. Taking care of our planet shouldn’t be ephemeral. Even after Earth Day, we must make a continued effort because together we can make a dream a reality, together we can palliate the mistreatment our Earth has received.

Students recyclingAs inhabitants of this planet, it is our duty to help eradicate this problem. A small deed, such as picking up litter you spot on the sidewalk, can make a big difference. If we work together as one, we can achieve our goals to help the Earth. Get a pencil and paper, and write down at least three things you want to do as an individual to help our planet. Recycle the newspaper. If everyone did this, we could save more than 250 million trees annually!

Go Green! That is the new war cry of many considered global citizens, from food manufacturers to financial institutions, more and more people are taking on the responsibility of preserving our environment.

It makes me wonder, why do these problems concerning Earth even exist? Considering that Earth is the sole reason for our survival, the fact that the next generation and the generation after that will still live in the same world, shouldn’t these reasons be  enough for us to completely eradicate these issues?

If you share my opinion, then let Earth Day be your day to shine. Do something that really stands out. Encourage others, and be a role model to those younger than you. Together we can spread the message, but to help change the world for the better, you must start with yourself. Contemplate the future. What would you want it to be like? We can help make the future better, starting now. Never overlook a small thing you can do to help our home planet. As citizens of the world, each of us is responsible for the health of our planet. Our choices and our actions contribute to the well-being or deterioration of the environment. Yet, it’s our home, and it’s the only one we have. If we don’t care about our environment, who will? It’s all up to us.

We are the change. Together we can achieve anything. Together we change the world.

About this guest blogger:

Omar Hadi, Guest Blogger

Omar Hadi, Guest Blogger

Omar Hadi is a Grade 7 student at Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School. He has a humorous personality, and is interested in physics, literature, and architecture. He hopes to one day attend Harvard!

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“What Earth Day means to me” by Christina Stratford

What words come to mind when you think about Earth? Beautiful, luscious…our home.

Yet, there are only some places on our planet that look like what I have just described. If you want to make every place in the world look like this, then Earth Day is for you! On April 22, people from all around the world help out by doing little things in their community to improve the environment. According to Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day. Imagine how much garbage is picked up or how much electricity is saved. That is only one day!

Unfortunately, there are some who do not care or just think it is a waste of time and effort. Do those people really care what is going on in their world? Probably not. So there are haters in the world. Do not let that affect what you will do on Earth Day. When you do a small deed, like picking up garbage off the street, you really do help the environment. Imagine if every person picked up one piece of garbage each day. Think of how clean the Earth could be! By the looks of things, this planet is where your children will live and your children’s children. If we can do our part now, we will make a difference for them. This is your chance to show your community that you are passionate about respecting the Earth. If you can convince one person to join in, and that person convinces another and so on, we could make a huge impact in a good way.

Earth is the only planet we call home. If garbage continues to pile up, what are we going to do? This is our planet. This is our home. Consider Earth Day as an opportunity. Pick up that piece of garbage or turn out the lights when you leave a room. We are the only ones who can make the difference. It does not matter how big or small you are, we can make change possible.

Together we can make a difference.

About this guest blogger:

Christina Stratford, Guest Blogger

Christina Stratford, Guest Blogger

Christina Stratford is a Grade 7 student at Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School. She is interested in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She hopes to one day become a teacher!

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“What Earth Day means to me” by Sam Bisutti

EarthDay2014-MakeItCountApril 22, not only is it my birthday, but it is also the day of an environmental event taking place all over the world. It’s Earth Day, and that means many things to many different people. Let me explain what Earth day means to me, and some ideas on what you can do on Earth Day.

I believe that Earth Day is a day to appreciate the planet that we live on. It’s a day to do something involving the nature around you. One thing you could do is, go on a hike or go to an environmental event. For example, you could see a bird tagging or a presentation on what we need to do to protect this planet. You could simply watch a documentary like Planet Earth or The Inconvenient Truth. Do something that respects this wonderful planet. Perhaps try to find something you can do to improve it. This Earth day is on a Monday, and I’m busy on Mondays. So, if you’re busy like me, just do something the day before, or after.

showerOne thing I know for sure is that I definitely need to cut down on my shower time. So, that is what I will try to do this year. Just one little deed can make a difference. It may not be big, but if everyone on the entire planet did something, it would change the world. Think of it like an environmental New Year’s Resolution.There is always a way to improve. If you think you are doing everything perfectly, the chances are you’re probably wrong. So, learn something new, because you can make a difference!

I hope you all have a wonderful Earth Day.

About this guest blogger:

Sam Bisutti, Guest Blogger

Sam Bisutti, Guest Blogger

Hi, I’m Sam Bisutti. I’m currently in grade 7, and go to Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School in Burlington. I have enjoyed the outdoors, basketball and writing since I was little.

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Playing for the environment this World Theatre Day

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

Live theatre is thriving in Halton! From presenting theatres to community theatre groups, and high school drama clubs to college programs, theatre practioners and audience members have so many options to be thrilled and entertained.

Today, March 27 is World Theatre Day. Let’s look at some ways theatre practioners and companies can embrace environmentally friendly behaviours.

A laundry detergent masked used in Halton Region's school education program.

A laundry detergent masked used in Halton Region’s waste diversion education program.

Theatre has a long tradition of reusing

Think about it — William Shakespeare’s plays are over 400 years old, and they’re still being produced today. Even plays written over 2,400 years ago by Sophocles and Aristophanes are still being performed!

Some theatres will remount a production from one season to a next. Sets, props, costumes, even lighting and sound designs, will go into storage to be reused the following season.

Again, many theatres have great recycling practices.

Sets, props and costumes are often modified to be used in a totally brand new production. They’re disassembled, re-painted, re-sewn, or re-dyed, and made into something brand new.

Theatre has a long practice of taking items and using them in ways that weren’t originally intended by the manufacturer — this is often how designers create the most innovative and memorable sets. Remember that paints, solvents, stains and other chemical products contain hazardous materials. Theatre Ontario’s To Act In Safety program provides great resources of these aspects of hazardous waste handling for theatre companies.

The theatre’s “front of house” is another place where recycling is important. Paper programs can be collected following a performance to be recycled. Ensure all recycling bins in the lobby are properly labelled. During intermission, concession staff can remind audience members to “place empty plastic bottles in the Blue Box.”

By practicing the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — the theatre community can play a part in conserving resources and protecting the environment.

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Egg-cellent information about recycling

Sunny-side, over easy, scrambled or hard-boiled — who doesn’t love an egg?

Remember, egg shells go in the GreenCart.

See how the paper egg carton is bumpy? That means it's paper that's been recycled many time already. The paper fibres are too small to recycle into anything new. But it will compost really nicely.

See how the paper egg carton is bumpy? That shows it’s paper that’s been recycled many time already. The paper fibres are now too small to recycle again. But those small paper fibres will compost really nicely. So put paper egg cartons in the GreenCart.

Paper egg cartons go in the GreenCart.

Clear plastic egg cartons go in the Blue Box.

Styrofoam egg cartons go in the garbage.

Why not buy fresh eggs at a local farm and reuse an old egg carton?

Empty egg substitute cartons go in the Blue Box. Remember the plastic cap is garbage, but you can leave the plastic spout in the carton.

So get cracking and be an egg-cellent recycler!

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School lunch programs and the packaging waste they create

When I was in elementary school, we’d have hot dog days once every few months. Parents would get together and steam hot dogs in the staff room. The hot dogs came wrapped in a paper napkin, and we had a choice of white or chocolate milk.

Fast forward to today, and elementary students have many more paid-lunch options.

Many schools now have weekly pizza or pita days. There are hot lunch providers like Kidssentials or The Lunch Lady, healthy snack programs like Halton Food For Thought, and milk programs too.

These options provide fundraising revenue for schools, and healthy meals and snacks for students.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton's Blue Box program.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton’s Blue Box program.

But they also result in a lot of packaging waste. Cartons, containers, cutlery, baggies, wrappers and uneaten food — this greatly contributes to the amount of waste a school has to manage.

Luckily, a lot of this waste can be recycled and composted:

  • Blue Box recyclingplastic take-out containers, plastic cups, plastic deli trays, plastic milk bottles, plastic smoothie bottles, plastic water bottles, aluminum foil, aluminum trays, milk cartons, pizza boxes
  • GreenCart compostingpaper napkins, paper plates, paper take-out containers, paper pita wrappers, paper pizza trays, pizza box liners, wood cutlery, food waste

Unfortunately, some of the waste has to be sent to landfill:

  • Garbage: plastic film, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, plastic pizza box “savers,” plastic bottle caps, “compostable” plastic cutlery, “compostable” plastic cups, paper/foil composite lids, Styrofoam, wrappers

The easiest solution to reducing the garbage is for schools to mandate what packaging can be used by food providers. For example, schools can request that food providers not use Styrofoam.

School administrators and parent council members can learn more about creating a healthy school nutrition environment.

School lunch programs provide students with nutritious foods that help children and youth excel. With some thought, the waste created by these programs can be effectively managed, helping to better protect our environment.

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Children’s car seats and the 3Rs

Sleeping on the GoHere at Halton Region, we often get asked if children’s car seats can be recycled or reused. This is one item that it is very difficult to apply the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

The first R, reduce, cannot be avoided as regulations in Canada require children to be buckled up in the appropriate car seat.

The second R, reuse, is not recommended for several reasons. First of all, children’s car seats sold in Canada have an expiry or useful life date. Over time the materials used to make the car seat could weaken or become damaged from use. Also, a used car seat may not meet the current safety regulations and standards.  This puts you at risk of not being in compliance with current regulations and of your child being injured. As well, it is important to know the history of a car seat if you are not the original owner. If the seat has been in a car crash it may not be safe to use, even if the child was not in the seat at the time.

Carseat-accidentFinally the third R, recycle, has many barriers. Children’s car seats are made from several different materials and parts. It requires much manual labour to disassemble the seats and there are not many markets available to recycle the materials into new items.

At this time, I have only been able to find one company in Canada, located in Calgary, Alberta, that disassembles car seats and sends the separated materials for recycling. The company, Kidseat Recyclers, charges $10 a car seat to make the recycling operation economically possible. They require that all straps and material be removed from the seat before dropping it off. They send the plastic and metal for recycling. They do list a few companies on their website where customers can send the straps and material to be reused.

The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where Halton Region sends the Blue Box material for recycling is not equipped to handle an item as large as a car seat. MRFs have been designed to process packaging and paper material.

In Halton, children’s car seats can be disposed in your regular garbage if they fit in a garbage bag or can. If not, the car seat can be disposed as bulk waste on your scheduled bulk waste collection day. It is recommended to remove or cut the straps off the seat, remove the padding if possible and place in a separate garbage bag, so that it cannot be picked up off the curb and reused.

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An ode to Nana’s couch

My grandmother recently passed away. She lived a very long life, filled with much love and adventure.

In the past fifteen years or so, she moved from her large single-family home into a seniors’ retirement building, then twice more into smaller, assisted-living facilities.

Each move was a challenge, especially when it came to her belongings. Furniture had to be minimized; collectibles thinned.

After my grandmother passed, we had to clean out her final apartment. We knew which pieces of furniture or nick-knacks her children and grandchildren wanted to take. We knew we wanted to donate her clothes. We knew her bed would have to be thrown away — understandably, most reuse centres are unwilling to accept beds due to potential concerns about bed bugs.

couchNow, my grandmother did have a couch. It was yellow and gold, and covered in images of large pheasants. For most of my life, it sat in her formal living room. It continued with her to each of her apartments. And now it was time to get rid of it.

After 30 odd years of use, moves, encounters with walkers, wheelchairs and wanderers, this couch was slightly worn on the arms, the cushions sagged a bit, and the yellow and gold weren’t as vibrant as they once were.

We took the couch to a reuse centre, hoping to donate it. They were unwilling to take it, saying that the wear and tear would make it unsellable.

And so we had to throw away my grandmother’s couch.

My dad and I lifted that yellow and gold couch over the rails of the waste drop-off centre and heaved the couch into the large garbage dumpster below.

To me, seeing the couch at the bottom of the garbage dumpster was one of the most lump-in-your-throat experiences associated with my grandmother’s passing.

couch2It wasn’t my favourite couch. I didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about it. It wasn’t the orange floral couch we watched movies from. It was formal and stately; not my personal style at all.

But seeing it tossed away was simply sad.

My grandmother cared a lot about the appearance of her belongings. I suspect she would have been appalled to learn her couch was considered garbage.

As we drove away from my grandmother’s old couch, I was reminded of that old phrase “you come into the world with nothing, and you leave with nothing.”

So very true. We spend a lifetime amassing stuff — furniture, clothing, books, odds and ends. But in the end, it all has to go somewhere. Someone will have to move it, store it, reuse it, dispose of it.

Clutter expert Peter Walsh says, “We believe if we let go of the object, we’ll lose the memory.” He goes on to point out, “That person wants you to be happy before they want you to hold on to all of this stuff.”

My grandmother is not a yellow and gold couch. My grandmother was an adventurer, a storyteller. My memories of her mean so much more to me than an old, discarded couch. And those memories are something I won’t ever throw away.

If you’re going through a similar situation, here are some great tips and resources:

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Waste Management in Canada: Ontario

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Hurry Up And Wait

2013 was an interesting year for waste management in Ontario. There were big announcements, plenty of discussion, lots of planning, but ultimately, it became a year of “hurry up and wait.” 

New waste management legislation could impact Ontario's Blue Box, household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and tire recycling programs.

New waste management legislation could impact Ontario’s Blue Box, household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and tire recycling programs.

In spring 2013, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment introduced Bill 91, the proposed Waste Reduction Act, which could greatly change waste management programs in Ontario.

This was followed by three months of consultation and the bill returned to the Legislature for second reading discussion in late September. It has been there ever since.

As we start a new year we can look forward to more work on the Bill 91 file. If it does get to the committee stage, the work has only just begun, with possible amendments to be discussed and negotiated.

If an election is called in the spring, as expected, and the bill dies on the order paper, the work to improve our current system carries on.

Perhaps sensing that changes are potentially afoot, four industry stewardship plans were proposed to Waste Diversion Ontario. These plans could potentially change the way designated wastes like beverage containers (generated outside the home), paints, batteries, and fertilizers are managed in Ontario.

As to be expected, there was a lot of interest in these plans, and ultimately the deadline for these plans to be approved/disapproved had to be extended into 2014.

In Ontario, municipalities fund 50% or more of household Blue Box costs, with the manufacturers of papers and packaging funding the rest. Each year, municipalities and manufacturers (called stewards) meet to negotiate the relevant costs. In 2013, negotiations broke down, and now the process is going to arbitration. So, the funding support for Ontario’s Blue Box program in 2014 is unknown at this time.

MWA logoAnd still, under all these legislative and planning pressures, Ontario municipalities continue to make great strides by recycling, composting and diverting waste from landfill. Many municipalities are working on enhancing waste diversion in multi-residential buildings, and composting programs continue to grow across the province.

This coming year will undoubtedly be equally interesting, as we’ll see what happens to Bill 91, the proposed industry stewardship plans, and the results of Blue Box funding arbitration, and how these could impact waste management in Ontario.

About this guest blogger:

Ben Bennett, Guest Blogger

Ben Bennett, Guest Blogger

Ben Bennett is the Executive Director of the Municipal Waste Association, a network of Ontario municipal waste management professionals, based in Guelph. He has been involved in municipal waste management for 25 years.

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Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Upper Credit Humane Society Thrift Shop

Part of a series about the charitable reuse centres operating in Halton Region.

Waste audits have shown 7% of the materials found in Halton’s residential garbage stream are textile materials that could be salvaged through reuse centres. This number may not seem like a lot, but if each of the more than 180,000 households in Halton were to reduce their garbage by 7%, it could significantly extend the lifespan of our landfill!

The Upper Credit Humane Society Thrift Shop, which is operated by the Upper Credit Humane Society, is a not-for-profit organization in Georgetown dedicated to supporting the initiatives of its Humane Society by raising funds and awareness.

I had the opportunity to meet with Wendy Jones, who is one of the lead volunteers at the thrift shop, to discuss the operations at the thrift shop and how it benefits the humane society.

LP: Tell me a bit about the Upper Credit Humane Society.

WJ:  The Upper Credit Humane Society is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to providing medical treatment and loving care to pets while they are in search of a new home. Animals that arrive at the shelter are either strays or surrendered. It is our policy to ensure animals are in the best health they can be prior to being offered for adoption. We ensure all pets are spayed/neutered, have all of their shots, and are micro-chiped. It is an unfortunate reality that some pets arrive at the humane society requiring much more attention. We ensure that any illnesses are fixed and surgeries are completed prior to adoption.

Our facility is quite small; we have room for 12 dogs, as well as two cat rooms, and an intake room where we assess our newcomers.

The Humane Society runs solely off of funds raised through various donations, fundraisers and events, and profits earned from the Thrift Shop.

LP: How many animals would you say come through the shelter annually? How many are adopted each year?

355 animals found homes in 2013 through the Upper Credit Humane Society!

355 animals found homes in 2013 through the Upper Credit Humane Society!

WJ: In 2013, 355 pets were adopted from the Upper Credit Humane Society! Our adoption process is quite thorough. Residents who are interested in adopting a pet fill out an application and undergo an interview process. They then have a ‘meet and greet’ with the pet they are interested in adopting. We ask that the whole family comes to the meet and greet, and any other household pets come as well. It is sad, but many of these animals have undergone a great deal of stress and pain prior to arriving at our shelter, so we are very thorough with prospective families to ensure that they and the pet in question are a good match for each other.

LP: When did the reuse program start?

WJ: The reuse program began seven years ago in an effort to raise funds to help maintain and operate the Upper Credit Humane Society. Originally, the reuse centre operated out of the shelter in Erin but moved to our current location in Georgetown shortly after, as we needed more room for the animals.

The reuse program has received an overwhelming amount of support from the community. The reuse centre is run solely by volunteers, who have put a great deal of work into ensuring the shop runs smoothly.

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

WJ: We accept books, games, puzzles, clothes, household items, pottery, and even furniture! Our store is rather small, but if we can fit donated items that are in good condition, then we fit it. If residents are ever curious about whether we accept certain items for donation, they can always call us prior to coming by.

LP: Do you ever receive materials that the Thrift Shop doesn’t need? If so, what happens with those materials?

WJ: Yes, we do sometimes receive materials that we cannot resell, but we do our best to ensure that it can be reused. We forward any items that we cannot accept to other local reuse centres who do accept them. We ensure that very little goes to waste.

LP: How are the materials processed when donated?

WJ: When donations are brought to the Upper Credit Humane Society, everything is weighed and recorded, then sorted, appraised, and brought out into the store. We occasionally receive specialty items. These items are placed into our auction which residents have the opportunity to bid on. It is a great way to showcase some of the gems that come into our store, and a fun way to engage our shoppers!

LP: How does the reuse program benefit the humane society?

WJ: All of the proceeds from the thrift shop aid in covering the operating expenses of the Upper Credit Humane Society. The funds help cover utility bills, staff wages at the shelter, and animal control. The proceeds also help keep the animals fed and healthy. This may involve specialty diets, micro-chipping, or surgeries. The reuse program plays a large factor in the successful operation of our humane society.

Stop by the Upper Credit Humane Society for some great finds and to support a wonderful cause!

Stop by the Upper Credit Humane Society Thrift Shop for some great finds and to support a wonderful cause!

LP: How can residents get involved or help?

WJ: Donations are always greatly appreciated — they are the foundation of our shop! Residents can also support our initiatives by shopping at the thrift shop.

A great way for residents to get involved is to volunteer! We are always looking for friendly people to join our team here at the thrift shop, and at the humane society itself. There are a lot of opportunities; we are always looking for helping hands.

We have a number of events that we host to raise awareness and support for our efforts at the humane society.

Residents can find more information about our programs and initiatives by visiting our website or Facebook page

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Waste Management in Canada: Manitoba

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Keeping up with the Joneses

Manitoba is an interesting creature. Winnipeg is at least 10 hours from another major city (Calgary) and at least a day’s drive from Vancouver or Toronto. Secluded and cold. But Winnipeggers are a hearty bunch.

Being so isolated, we are often a bit behind other large cities and do not have access to recycling markets. Manitoba recycles just over half of all beverage containers, and that number is steadily growing with increased recycling receptacles being distributed all over the province. Manitoba already has many facilities to recycle electronics, batteries, and toxic chemicals. However, there are a lot of items that aren’t accepted for recycling at all or in many locations. Styrofoam is difficult for any province or municipality to recycle, and is one of those items that needs to be replaced with an alternative that can be composted (mushroom packaging?) or its use discontinued.

GreenActionCentreThere is great room for growth in actual recycling. Often recycling is seen as taking one item and down cycling it into another, which will then just be thrown out (plastic bottles to toothbrushes, for example). More emphasis needs to be placed on waste reduction before recycling. Green Action Centre works with municipal and provincial governments to affect policy change that matters. We have advocated for a curb-side organic waste pick up program in the City of Winnipeg and more recently, we were involved in Bio Solid Waste Management consultations.

Green Action Centre offers a Master Composter Program

Green Action Centre also focuses on changing consumer behaviours. Reducing the amount of waste by informing consumers about their options, the strength of their voice and the benefits of voting with their dollars is an important priority for us. Reaching young Manitobans in Northern Communities is also a goal we have for 2014. Often waste generation can be tied into better food choices, and that can be a challenge in remote Northern Communities.

Manitoba’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program currently being developed adheres to the “polluter pays” principle by shifting the waste management burden from taxpayers to producers and consumers. Winnipeg’s landfill is also implementing 4 R depots to increase diversion rates of household waste. Residents can drop off material that they no longer have a use for, isn’t accepted at existing recycling facilities but could be recycled, reused, composted, or resold.

About this guest blogger:

Amanda Kinden, Guest Blogger

Amanda Kinden, Guest Blogger

Amanda Kinden graduated from University of Winnipeg with an Environmental Studies/Geography degree and holds a business diploma from Red River College.  She is the Living Green Living Well Coordinator at Green Action Centre. Amanda loves cooking and filling the bellies of her co-workers with delicious baked goods.

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Online shopping — is it good for the environment?

shopping enter keyOnline shopping has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, as retailers of all sorts move toward making it more convenient for consumers to shop. What doesn’t sound appealing about shopping in your pajamas, out of the comfort of your own home, any time of day? You get to avoid getting ready, driving to the malls, searching for a parking spot, the crowds, standing in line, etc. Sounds good — right?

You can virtually buy anything you want online, from groceries and clothing to electronics and furniture. You name it — it can be delivered to your front door. So as the world embraces online shopping we should consider this activity’s impact on the environment.

By not driving your car to the store to make your purchase, you are reducing air pollution. However the delivery of the item to your home will generate emissions, especially if items are being shipped from long distances. There are also air pollution emissions if you need to return an item to the online retailer.

Online shopping can result in a lot of packaging waste. Consumers end up with cardboard boxes of varying sizes, plastic bubble wrap, Styrofoam and other packaging waste.

Mail packagingTry to be a savvy recycler, not just a savvy shopper. Cardboard boxes, paper, cards, catalogues, all go in the Blue Box. It is also important to collapse, bundle and tie your cardboard boxes into bundles 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot. This size makes it easier for the collector to safely place inside the recycling truck.

Remember bubble wrap and Styrofoam goes in the garbage. Some local retailers take back Styrofoam peanuts.

Whether you decide to shop online or in store, remember to reduce, reuse and recycle!

About this guest blogger:

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

I’m Sanida Aljic and I’m a Waste Management Works Clerk for Halton Region. I provide customer service support to residents. I’ve been exposed to all areas of waste management including collection operations, planning and landfill operations. My curiosity is tested daily, as I learn something new, exciting and interesting here every day. So, remember to separate your waste, because waste is more than just waste.

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Waste Management in Canada: Yukon Territory

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Zero Waste Starts Now

Raven Recycling is the premier recycling centre in the Yukon. We are a non-profit social enterprise and all the money we make goes back into education and recycling activities.

RavenRecyclingBefore 1989, there was no organized recycling in the Yukon, so a group of volunteers got together as a recycling committee and three years later, the Raven Recycling Society was formed and things really got going. Over the years we’ve taken on more staff and expanded our operations. Raven is not just a recycle center; we also educate people about recycling as well, through tours, presentations and a monthly newsletter.

One of the most common questions we are asked about is the transport issue. Being so far north, we have to ship all our recycling down south. They ask, “Isn’t it more wasteful of energy to ship everything for recycling, than to just make new product?” The simple answer is “no it isn’t.” Even with the long distances we have to contend with, it’s still up to 94% more energy efficient to recycle than to make it from scratch.

We do work with the municipal and territorial governments regarding waste management, but unlike other parts of the country, the collection and processing of recycling is currently not taxpayer funded.

There is no city-wide Blue Box program in the capital of Whitehorse. We rely on people to bring their recycling to a depot; however businesses in Whitehorse pay to have paper and cardboard picked up for recycling. Beverage containers have refunds payable at the depot, like other provinces, so there is an incentive for people to come here and drop off all their recycling at the same time. Recent upgrades to our collection system have enabled us to make it even easier for people to recycle as we ask for less sorting. Making recycling easier is one of the ways we try to increase the recycling rate.

Raven Recycling's "Smurf"

Raven Recycling’s “Smurf”

The past year has been an exciting one for us. After celebrating our 20th anniversary and the 2012 arrival of our small MRF (material recovery facility) or “Smurf” as we call it, we have now added another string to our bow by accepting Styrofoam for recycling for the first time.

2013 also saw us partner with government departments, the City of Whitehorse and various organizations to form Zero Waste Yukon. Our aim is to have zero waste in the Yukon by 2040. Whitehorse is aiming to have 50% waste diversion by 2015. One of the ways to reach those targets is the City’s new controlled waste classification on cardboard which will mean higher fees to put it in the landfill. We’re doing our part by helping to increasing our cardboard collection throughout the city.

Zero Waste is a challenge, but by working together with our partners, we are certain we can achieve it by 2040. A Zero Waste Yukon will not only be better for us, but will be something for the rest of Canada to aim for once they see it can be done.

About this guest blogger:

Danny Lewis, Guest Blogger

Danny Lewis, Guest Blogger

Danny Lewis, Raven’s Education Coordinator, has been working with Raven Recycling for 7 years. Prior to this position he worked as an owner/operator of another recycling company in Whitehorse for 11 years. He has a background in Early Childhood Education and has been working with foster children and special needs adults since a child. He has traveled the globe and, after experiencing the waste creation and disposal methods of many cultures around the world, he decided to try and help educate people on the importance of reducing their waste footprint and learning not only to recycle what they have,  but produce less in the first place. He admits that he is not a shining example of recycling behaviour and knows he has a long way to go on being a Zero Waste citizen of this planet. Still, he strives towards improving his lifestyle and surroundings through recycling, while showing others that it is possible, and how it can be done.

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Travelogue – South Korea

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting South Korea. Whenever I visit a foreign country, I can’t help but notice their waste bins; it’s a side-effect of working in the industry. While my friends take pictures of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, I’m looking at the recycling and garbage bins around it.

Disposal Station at Costco

Waste disposal station at Costco in South Korea

My first waste disposal encounter, in Korea, was at a Costco. A familiar place to Canadians, except for the many fish, dried fish, and onions available to purchase, but that’s a whole different story. I was surprised and intrigued by the way Costco’s cafeteria sorted its waste. First, food was placed on reusable plastic plates with reusable utensils, and paper cups. After devouring delicious pizza, I approached the disposal station. I was amazed by all the compartments: food waste went in one, liquid in another, and paper cups and plastic each had their own compartment too. Around the corner there were garbage cans for garbage. The sorting practices at the Costco in South Korea left me impressed and excited for what else I would find.

Disposal Station in McDonalds

Waste disposal Station at McDonald’s in South Korea

McDonalds and other fast food restaurants had similar waste sorting systems, where waste was sorted into more categories than just garbage and recyclables.

One evening I went to see The Hobbit at the local movie theatre and ordered popcorn. In Korea there are three flavours of movie theatre popcorn: butter, cheese and sweet. Naturally I had to try cheese and sweet. Upon exiting the theatre, two employees stood collecting waste and sorting leftover pop, popcorn, cups, and bottles away from garbage. You simply hand the waste to staff or place it on the counter and they sort it properly.

While I had learned a lot about waste disposal in restaurants, I still wanted to investigate home waste management practices. The lifestyle in South Korea is much different than here in Canada, with a very high percentage of the population living in apartments and multi-residential buildings. It was very rare to see a single-family home and even rarer to see a home with a yard. Due to an extremely high population, space is a hot commodity.

But during my visit, I did not see a single dumpster! Instead I learned garbage is on a pay-per-use bag system. Residents purchase their grocery store bags, which can then be used for disposal, but there are also bags available for purchase too. Garbage bags are placed out between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m., with lamp posts and signs being common piling areas.

Similar to Halton Region, residents in South Korea sort their waste into three categories: food waste, recyclables and garbage. Recycling must be separated from garbage, but they don’t have Blue Boxes in South Korea. Instead, residents are to place recyclables in a reusable clear vinyl bag. Residents place their reusable bag of recyclables at a lamp post or sign, and then collect the empty bag the next day.

Recyclables and waste waiting to be collected

Recyclables and waste waiting to be collected

In Deagu (a city of 4 million people), food waste is placed in a small bucket and placed out to the curb any day but Sunday. In Halton, our food waste is turned into compost. In Deagu food waste is used to feed livestock. Because of this, items such as meat, bones, shells, and pits cannot be placed with food waste. Other Korean municipalities have different collection systems. In Seoul, you pay by weight for food waste. Machines that look like ATMs are found in neighborhoods. You simply swipe your card, place your food waste on the scale, and are billed accordingly. This new system is aimed at reducing food waste by 40%.

Initially you might think requiring residents to pay for food waste disposal would cause residents to place it in garbage bags. However, heavy enforcement seems to prevent this. For example if you don’t sort your waste properly, your neighbour can call in and report you. If recyclables or food waste is found in the garbage bag, the “offender” can be fined. Half the fine then goes to the neighbour who called in!

Throughout my stay, I came to realize that South Korea places a heavy emphasis on proper waste disposal. At every restaurant you must sort food waste, recyclables and garbage. Is this something that should be promoted more in Canada?

In 2009, South Korea’s residents recycled 61% of waste and 85% of industrial waste. To compare, in Ontario, 37% of residential waste is diverted and only 13% of industrial waste is diverted.

What have you learned from other countries as you’ve travelled?

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Waste Management in Canada: Saskatchewan

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Saskatchewan — two shuffles forward, one shuffle back

Change takes time. Putting new programs in place, getting everyone to (sort of) agree, approving regulatory changes, always takes longer than impatient people like me think it should.

The SARCAN processing centre in Saskatoon for beverage containers.

The SARCAN processing centre in Saskatoon for beverage containers.

But slow progress is not the same as no progress. After several years in development, Saskatchewan’s provincial regulations on household paper and packaging were passed in February. A new program is expected to be implemented in January 2015 that will result in industry covering up to 75% of municipal net costs of recycling residential packaging and printed paper. This will help out municipalities, especially in smaller communities who had cut or reduced recycling programs because they couldn’t afford to continue.

Another victory — following some of the other provinces, we have added antifreeze, antifreeze containers and diesel exhaust fluid containers to the used oil materials recycling program starting January 2014. It’s good to have a solution for antifreeze, it’s such toxic product. The other Saskatchewan recycling programs (for scrap tires, electronics, paint, beverage containers) continue to be tweaked behind the scenes, making them a bit more effective, a bit more efficient, it’s progress.

A flurry of activity around recycling agricultural plastics (grain bags, twine, net wrap, silage wrap) seems to have cooled off. Quite a few of the little duckies are lined up: a pilot program established last year has been overwhelmed with grain bags after this fall’s bumper crop; draft regulations have been prepared; industry created a plan for how a provincial program might work, but … not everyone’s happy just yet, so things have stalled for a while. Count this one as a shuffle back.

Sasketchwan Waste Reduction CouncilShuffling forward is work on a program for household hazardous wastes (HHW). The province funded a consultation in the fall of 2013 and draft regulations are being prepared. The plan is for an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program, funded and managed by industry, similar to our current programs for scrap tires, electronics, paint and used oil. We’re looking forward to a solution for HHW since the only consumers with options are those lucky enough to live in one of the few municipalities willing to shoulder the expense of providing a recycling/disposal solution for them (and even those options are often only once a year).

Looking ahead, there are many areas yet to tackle: more electrical and electronic products, construction and demolition materials, organic waste … shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

About this guest blogger:

Joanne Fedyk, Guest Blogger

Joanne Fedyk, Guest Blogger

Joanne Fedyk has been the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council for 22 years. The SWRC promotes waste reduction for all sectors: business, government, organizations and the general public. It keeps a database of recycling programs for the whole province, provides composting education, and organizes events for the recycling industry. Joanne’s educational background is in Home Economics, she holds a M.Sc. in Family Economics from the U of S.

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Will you be my green Valentine?

Tree huggerIt may feel like we’ve just gotten through the holiday season and now it is already time to start thinking about yet another holiday — Valentine’s Day.

While Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love, it can result in a lot of unnecessary waste.

Instead of buying cut flowers or greeting cards that get thrown away after a few days, poor quality stuffed animals, or unhealthy treats, set a new trend in your relationship by going green this Valentine’s Day.

Put wilted cut flowers in the GreenCart. Keep the vase for reuse.

Put wilted cut flowers in the GreenCart. Keep the vase for reuse.

Woo your sweetheart this year with a gift that keeps on growing. Don’t settle for cut roses that were transported hundreds of miles to get to your florist or grocer. Buy a potted plant they can enjoy a lot longer. If they love cooking, you could even buy potted  basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, or sage. If you do buy cut flowers, put them in the GreenCart once they’ve wilted. Plastic wrap goes in the garbage.

Send an e-card instead of buying a card. Sending an e-card will save you some green by going green as well. Or if you must buy a card, try to look for cards made from recycled paper. And remember to place old greeting cards in the Blue Box for recycling. Homemade cards made from construction paper (even with white glue or tempra paint) go in the GreenCart. If they have glitter or tape, they need to go in the garbage.

Why not sweeten your relationship with some organic and ethically made chocolates? Look for fair trade chocolate which is a more sustainable option. Empty chocolate cardboard boxes and rigid plastic trays go in the Blue Box. Uneaten chocolate goes in the GreenCart. Foil and plastic wrappers go in the garbage.

Picture frame made from wood hockey sticks

Picture frame made from wood hockey sticks

Give your loved one a piece of memory. Frame your favourite picture of the two of you in a recycled wood frame. Halton residents can drop off old wood hockey sticks at the Halton Waste Management Site, which are recycled into amazing picture frames.

Jewelry is a traditional Valentine’s Day gift, so try to find a beautiful piece made from upcycled materials.

Why not wrap your gifts in your partner’s favourite page from the local newspaper? This will cut down on waste and well as money. Remember that wrapping paper goes in the garbage. Newspaper goes in the Blue Box. Check out other creative ways you can wrap up your gifts.

Green heart with environmental iconsYou could try some of these environmentally friendly ideas:

This Valentine’s Day, show that special someone how much you love them. And remember to show our environment some love too!

About this guest blogger:

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

I’m Sanida Aljic and I’m a Waste Management Works Clerk for Halton Region. I provide customer service support to residents. I’ve been exposed to all areas of waste management including collection operations, planning and landfill operations. My curiosity is tested daily, as I learn something new, exciting and interesting here every day. So, remember to separate your waste, because waste is more than just waste.

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Waste Management in Canada: New Brunswick

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Recycle NB’s New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled

New Year’s resolutions. We all make them and seldom keep them but sometimes we manage to follow through.

Last year Recycle NB vowed to implement an oil and glycol recycling program by January 1. Well it’s done! No surprise that we are ringing the bells and recycling our halleluiahs over this achievement. Just knowing that New Brunswick has added its second Extended Producer Responsibility Program gives us goose bumps.

NB-oilcontainerInstead of every brand owner setting up a recycling program, there will be one common program for the province. By having one program for the whole industry, there will be cost savings, a level playing field for industry, and province-wide recycling depots for consumers. What’s not to like about that?

In New Brunswick, SOGHUOMA will manage the new recycling program on behalf of the oil and glycol brand owners. Since the government designated oil and glycol under the Clean Environment Act, we have worked with industry to develop a program that meets the needs of New Brunswickers. Now that it is up and running, we hope everyone will make use of it to recycle these products.

Recycle_NBThis program is another step in making sure that all waste materials in New Brunswick are managed in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. Recycling these products will contribute to the sustainability of our environment and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills.

Recycle NB has a great partnership with SOGHUOMA and the Department of Environment and Local Government. We worked together every step of the way to make this program a success for New Brunswickers. As with any new program, we faced a few challenges; but we are not afraid of challenges. We know there is always a way to work them out so New Brunswickers across the province can recycle designated materials.

At Recycle NB, we are MOVING BEYOND WASTE. Our mission is to manage waste reduction programs for designated materials and provide environmental stewardship for New Brunswick. With the oil and glycol recycling program, we just got a little closer to our goal of a waste-free New Brunswick!

Who knows what this year will bring. Maybe another successful resolution!

About this guest blogger:

Patricia Hyland, Guest Blogger

Patricia Hyland, Guest Blogger

Patricia Hyland is responsible for communications and marketing for Recycle NB. Prior to joining Recycle NB, Hyland was a director of program quality and a director of communications in the government of New Brunswick. She retired from government in 2012. In addition to her work in government communications, she worked as a television journalist, and in senior communications management positions in major hospital corporations.

Recycle NB a tenu sa résolution pour la nouvelle année!

Qui ne prend pas de résolutions du Jour de l’An… sauf que nous les suivons rarement! Mais, il arrive parfois que nous les tenions.

L’an dernier, Recycle NB s’était engagé à mettre en œuvre un programme de récupération de l’huile et du glycol pour le 1er janvier. Mission accomplie! Vous comprendrez que nous avions envie de le crier sur les toits pour souligner cette réalisation. Le seul fait de savoir que le Nouveau-Brunswick a ajouté un deuxième programme de responsabilité élargie des producteurs nous donne la chair de poule.

Au lieu d’exiger que chaque propriétaire de marque établisse son propre programme de récupération, il y aura un seul programme commun pour toute la province. En ayant un seul programme commun pour l’ensemble de l’industrie, cela permet d’économiser et d’assurer des règles du jeu équitables pour l’industrie et des points de récupération partout dans la province pour les consommateurs. On ne peut qu’être d’accord, non?

Au Nouveau-Brunswick, SOGHUOMA gérera le nouveau programme de recyclage au nom des propriétaires de marque de produits de l’huile et du glycol. Comme le gouvernement a désigné l’huile et le glycol comme des matières visées par la Loi sur l’assainissement de l’environnement, nous avons travaillé avec l’industrie pour mettre au point un programme qui répond aux besoins des gens du Nouveau-Brunswick. Maintenant que le programme est fonctionnel, nous espérons que les gens s’en serviront pour recycler ces produits.

Ce programme est un pas de plus pour assurer une gestion durable et respectueuse de l’environnement de tous les déchets au Nouveau-Brunswick. Le recyclage de ces produits contribuera à assurer la durabilité de notre environnement et à réduire la quantité de déchets qui se retrouve dans nos lieux d’enfouissement sanitaire.

Recycle NB a un partenariat qui fonctionne très bien avec SOGHUOMA et le ministère de l’Environnement et des Gouvernements locaux. Nous avons déployé tous les efforts pour faire de ce programme un succès pour les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick. Comme pour tout nouveau programme, nous avons dû faire face à quelques défis; mais ce ne sont pas les défis qui nous font peur. Nous savons qu’il y a toujours moyen de les surmonter afin que les gens partout au Nouveau-Brunswick puissent recycler les matières désignées.

À Recycle NB, nous allons AU-DELÀ DES DÉCHETS. Notre mission est de gérer les programmes de réduction de déchets pour les matières désignées et d’assurer une gérance environnementale au Nouveau-Brunswick. Grâce au programme de récupération de l’huile et du glycol, nous nous rapprochons encore un peu plus de notre objectif : un Nouveau-Brunswick sans déchets!

Qui sait ce que cette nouvelle année va apporter. Peut-être une autre résolution tenue?

À propos de ce blogueur invité:

Patricia Hyland est chargée des communications et du marketing à Recycle NB. Avant de se joindre à l’organisme, Mme Hyland a été directrice de la qualité des programmes et directrice des communications au gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick. Elle a quitté le gouvernement en 2012. Outre son travail de communications au gouvernement, elle a travaillé à titre de journaliste à la télévision et occupé des postes de haute direction en communications dans des régies hospitalières.

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LEGO – an opportunity to reuse

LEGOMovieLet’s face it — everyone loves LEGO!

Kids love it. Adults love it. Heck, I’m in my mid 30s, and I still get a new LEGO set each Christmas!

From Ninjago to LEGO Friends, from the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre to the upcoming The LEGO Movie, these building blocks and their increasingly popular minifigures continue to foster creativity, problem solving and fun.

Here at Halton Region, we are occasionally asked how to dispose of unwanted LEGO.

While it is made of plastic, unwanted LEGO can’t go in the Blue Box. Remember, the Blue Box accepts rigid plastic packaging, not plastic products. But we don’t want to see LEGO in the garbage, either.

The best option is to reuse it by passing unwanted LEGO on to someone else. That’s one of the amazing things about LEGO — regardless of whether it is brand new or thirty years old — the pieces are still compatible, they all fit together.

You can also donate unwanted LEGO in good condition to your local branch of the Burlington Public Library, Halton Hills Public Library, Milton Public Library and the Central Branch of the Oakville Public Library. Libraries use LEGO as part of their community programming.

LEGOTrashChomperDid you know LEGO has sets where you can make a recycling truck and garbage truck? And in The LEGO Movie, we’ll even see a Trash Chomper!

So here’s a LEGO challenge — email us or tweet us a photo of your recycling truck LEGO creation! We’d love to see them!

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Waste Management in Canada: Northwest Territories

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Dump Tuesdays

Think of me, fellow recyclers, on Tuesdays. May your kind thoughts and heartfelt solidarity warm the Hot Paws in the inner linings of my gloves as I muster up the courage to venture yet again to the outdoor compost facility in -30 C weather.

Despite the blistering cold chafing at that spot of exposed skin between my eyebrows, I don’t necessarily dread “Dump Tuesdays” in Yellowknife. As I tend to the windrows of decomposing food scraps, I have actually come to be very fond of these moments of meditation out in the Yellowknife Compost Facility.

YellowknifeCompostWe’ve spent the past three years learning the ropes through a composting pilot project that focused on a few key businesses and multi-dwelling apartments. Where most Canadian municipalities implement organics collection pilots that prioritize single-family households, we courageously decided to first work with the big waste generators. In our particular case, this strategy has been successful and our work was recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as they awarded us with the Sustainable Communities Award for Waste in 2013.

Recently, the City of Yellowknife has approved the expansion of our Centralized Compost Program to include residential collection of organics. This means that Yellowknife is about to embark on a mission to divert the annual 9,000 tonnes of organic material from our waste stream. This commitment puts the city in the right direction towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also will provide quality compost to residents and municipal projects in a part of the country where topsoil is hard to come by. Also, we’re actively extending the life of our landfill; a feat that has economic, environmental and social benefits.

Guest blogger Chris Vaughn explains Yellowknife’s composting process. Photo by Lyndsay Herman, Northern News Service.

On Tuesdays, as I rush to the outdoor facility to investigate the new delivery of food scraps before everything freezes over, I often ask myself, “Why do I like doing this? Why am I smiling as I trudge through half-eaten food to remove plastic bags and the occasional pop-soda can?”

Here is one of the many reasons why am committed to organics recycling.

Composting, a stream of organics recycling, is location-specific, which physically ties the process to a limited circumference. This differs from other recycling processes, where materials are shipped away to be used or discarded. The enforced circumference of organics recycling has people at its centre and calls for greater stewardship and communal responsibility over the management of food waste. We don’t have the “luxury” of shipping spoiled food to the south or elsewhere for others to deal with it. This is our responsibility and we need to collectively deal with it here and now.

It’s this sense of accountability that makes me proud to work in the field of organics recycling and that makes me even more proud of the continual efforts that the Northerners, from small communities and hamlets to the capital, continually show as they divert organic waste from the landfill.

So here’s to Dump Tuesdays!

About this guest blogger:

Chris Vaughn, Guest Blogger

Chris Vaughn, Guest Blogger

Chris Vaughn (affectionately known as Vaughn) is Ecology North’s Waste Reduction Manager. He is to the go-to person on the team when it comes to the Yellowknife Centralized Compost Program and is ready and able to support the community with their food waste woes. Vaughn has several years under his belt working with non-profits around social issues. He has also supported urban agriculture projects in Mali and done research and planning for food sovereignty initiatives in Dakar, Senegal. Hailing from Montreal, he has a B. Eng in Bioresource Engineering from McGill University and is currently completing his graduate level studies in Community Economic Development through Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs. Vaughn spends his quiet time playing the blues violin and memorizing Sesame Street songs with his son, Thelo.

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Waste Management in Canada: Prince Edward Island

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

A Year of Celebration

PEI-wastebinsOn Prince Edward Island, 2014 is a year of celebration.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the initial launch of Waste Watch for our province.

In the early 1990s, PEI’s largest community landfill was nearing capacity, and a committee was struck to select a location to replace it. This committee determined that it was time for our Island to ‘rethink’ the way waste was handled. In 1994, Waste Watch, the “made-in-PEI” answer to waste diversion was developed.  The program is based on a single premise — the source separation of the waste we create. It is a provincially regulated source-separation system which is mandatory for homes, businesses, and visitors.

IWMC logoUnlike other programs across the country, waste on PEI is managed on a provincial basis. It is administered by Island Waste Management Corporation (IWMC), a provincial crown corporation, which operates exclusively on the revenue received from users. No financial assistance is received from provincial or municipal levels of government.

Our Waste Watch Program has proven very successful, and through the efforts of Islanders has achieved some of the highest landfill diversion rates of any North American waste management system. Since the 1990s, we’ve been continuously learning. Over the past 20 years many changes have been implemented as technology has evolved and markets established for recyclables and other materials.

Mandatory sorting is the common thread across all sectors on the Island, and both the residential and commercial sectors are subject to the same sorting principles for recyclables, compostables and residual wastes. In addition to these streams, IWMC has established programs for hazardous wastes, white goods, electronics, metals, tires, cell phones, fluorescent bulbs, medications sharps and batteries.

IWMC's central composting facility

IWMC’s central compost facility

Our small population of about 140,000 poses unique challenges that may not be experienced by our sister provinces. Finding sustainable markets for smaller volumes, especially within close proximity to PEI, can be quite a task. Add to this the challenge of securing local storage place until we’ve collected sufficient inventory for shipment. In addition, it is difficult to secure up-front capital costs for new diversion programs when the volume of any given material type is low compared to other jurisdictions.  As an example, we are currently exploring diversion methods for the recycling of Styrofoam. To ship this product off Island without pre-processing is cost prohibitive, while the estimated volume generated by Islanders does not justify the purchase of specialized processing equipment.

IWMC provides collection services to households and has six geographically-located drop-off facilities where homeowners can drop off materials not collected at curb. The industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector, on the other hand, must either contract to have their material removed or self haul to an appropriate facility themselves. Homeowners are billed annually as a line item on their property tax bills, while commercial customers pay based on weight and material type.

Because our success hinges on proper sorting, considerable effort is given to ensure sorting levels are acceptable. This is accomplished in two succinct programs: monitoring of all incoming material by staff at our facilities, and inspection by collection drivers at homes and businesses. Material that is unacceptable is simply not taken. Information is left behind informing the customer why it was rejected. To ensure compliance at our final disposal facilities, all loads are inspected. Material that is not sorted properly is rejected on site, and the collection driver or customer has the option of removing it and resorting, or paying an additional disposal fee surcharge.

We here on PEI absolutely cherish our little green province with its gentle rolling hills, pastures, and pristine beaches. Our aim is to keep it green, clean, and beautiful. We are proud of our Waste Watch Program and thrilled with the participation efforts of Islanders and visitors. By working together, we know we can protect this amazing environment for our children, grandchildren, and future generations.

It is our commitment to continue to build on our 20-year success, to seek, explore and develop new programs and practices in an effort to divert even more. We believe we have so many reasons to celebrate in 2014.

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Gerry Moore

Gerry Moore, guest blogger

Gerry Moore was born in Charlottetown, PEI and received his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Prince Edward Island.  After graduation, Gerry worked for Irving Oil and its affiliated companies for several years before moving to a position with Prince Edward Island Business Development Inc. where he was responsible for attracting new businesses to PEI. In 2004 Gerry accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer with Island Waste Management Corporation. He resides in Charlottetown and is heavily involved in minor hockey, baseball, and soccer as a coach and manager. Gerry has also served as a volunteer firefighter and town councilor.

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Coffee discs and cups – what convenience means to waste management

canada_coffeeCanadians love their coffee!

According to one study, 65% of Canadians drink coffee daily, and 51% of coffee drinkers drink their coffee at home. Preparing your coffee at home is good for the environment because there’s no disposable cup that needs to be thrown away after visiting a coffee shop.

However, we’re now experiencing a change in the way people make coffee at home.

In the recent past, people used French-presses or “drip” coffee machines to make their morning cup of joe. When using these methods, the leftover coffee grinds and used paper filters can go in the GreenCart for composting.

But now we’re seeing the rising popularity of “disc” and “cup” coffee systems. Pop the pre-packaged disc or cup into the machine, and presto, you’ve got coffee. What could be more simple?

While these systems may be easy and convenient, from a waste management perspective, they are quite wasteful. For every coffee you drink, you now have a disc or cup that needs to be thrown away.

But where do you throw them out?

Plastic cup in the Blue Box, paper filter and coffee grinds in the GreenCart, and seal in the garbage.

Plastic cup in the Blue Box, paper filter and coffee grinds in the GreenCart, and seal in the garbage.

Well, you actually have to take those discs and cups apart! The empty plastic disc or cup goes into the Blue Box. The grinds go in the GreenCart. If the filter is paper, it goes in the GreenCart, but if the filter is mesh or plastic, it goes in the garbage. The foil seal — which can be tricky to remove — goes in the garbage.

We’re also starting to see discs and cups that are made from “compostable” plastics. However, these cause even more problems — they can’t be recycled and they can’t be composted. They need to go in the garbage.

The good news is, we’re also seeing some manufacturers introducing reusable cups that can be used, washed and used again. This is a great development! Remember, when it comes to the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — reuse is better than recycling.

So next time you make yourself a coffee, ask yourself “I am doing my part to minimize waste?”

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Waste Management in Canada: Alberta

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Alberta Poised to Embrace Extended Producer Responsibility

After many years with few developments on the waste policy front at the provincial level, Alberta is now poised to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations that will bring this province more in line with developments in this area across the country. Many of us in the industry fondly remember the glory days of progressive Alberta waste policy. We were the second province to introduce beverage container deposit regulations (after only British Columbia), as well as the first province to introduce an electronics stewardship program, following successful introduction of stewardship programs for tires and used oil materials. However, recent years saw us fall well behind most jurisdictions in Canada on the stewardship/EPR front.

A busy recycling facility in Alberta, Canada

A busy recycling facility in Alberta, Canada

Well, that may be changing. Regulatory changes proposed by the Alberta government, and open for consultation through the fall of 2013, are poised to bring EPR to Alberta. The proposed changes cover a range of programs, starting with a bit of regulatory clean-up that would consolidate existing recycling regulations, add additional materials to electronics and used oil programs, as well as remove limiting elements that currently include recycling fees within the regulations, essentially preventing existing stewardship bodies from controlling the revenue portion of their budgets.

These changes to the existing regulatory structure will improve the effectiveness of existing recycling stewardship programs, but the most exciting proposed development is the enabling of EPR within regulation, as well as the designation of packaging, printed paper, and household hazardous waste (HHW) as the first materials to be addressed through EPR. If adopted, this move will provide much-needed support to municipal programs that are burdened with the management costs for these materials. With packaging and printed materials comprising a very significant portion of the waste stream, this offers an important piece to addressing the waste management puzzle.

canada-alberta-RCAIt is hoped through initiatives like these, Alberta can start to address its dubious position as the most wasteful province in the country. The most recent Statistics Canada information shows Alberta sitting at over 1,000 kg of waste disposed per capita, as compared to a national average of 729 kg per capita. As one of the wealthiest provinces in the country, we really need to pull up our socks and address this wasteful reputation.

Here’s hoping the current Alberta government sees fit to embrace these new proposed regulations, and enables a more progressive and effective waste management regime in Alberta.

About this guest blogger:

Christina Seidel, Guest Blogger

Christina Seidel, Guest Blogger

Christina Seidel holds a Masters degree in Environmental Design (Environmental Science), as well as a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering, and is currently undertaking her PhD in Engineering Management, with a thesis topic of Assessing Recycling Options using Life-Cycle Assessment. She operates sonnevera international corp., a waste reduction consulting firm, and is the current Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Alberta. Christina loves rural life, choosing to live on a farm near Bluffton, Alberta, where her and her family raise Warmblood horses, and enjoy many other outdoor activities.

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Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Burlington Reuse Centre

Part of a series about the charitable reuse centres operating in Halton Region.

Waste audits have shown 7% of the materials found in Halton’s residential garbage stream are textile materials that could be salvaged through reuse centres. This number may not seem like a lot, but if each of the more than 180,000 households in Halton were to reduce their garbage by 7%, it could significantly extend the lifespan of our landfill!

The Reuse Centre, which is operated by the Burlington Reuse Environmental Group, is dedicated to waste diversion through its successful operations.

I had the opportunity to meet with Isabel Cummings and Yboyka Lavayen to discuss how the Reuse Centre operates, and in turn how it benefits the local community.

LP: Tell me a bit about the Reuse Centre.

IC: The Reuse Centre will be in operation for 21 years as of December 2013. We are a group of people dedicated to diverting materials from the landfill, and have done a great job so far! Last year alone, we diverted 272,155 kg (600,000 lbs) of materials! Our facility is 21,000 square feet, and we carry everything from bathroom sinks to vanities to glassware. The Reuse Centre started as an environmental movement, but has grown to be recognized as an outlet for collectors and budget-friendly shoppers to find great buys. Prior to 1997, our facility was half the size, but we simply outgrew the old building as a result of generous donations from the residents of Halton Region.

The Treasure Trove, where one of a kind donated items that have been appraised are auctioned off on a weekly basis.

The Treasure Trove, where one of a kind donated items that have been appraised are auctioned off on a weekly basis.

YL: The Reuse Centre is really a secret treasure here in Burlington. The Reuse Centre receives some really wonderful items that we resell at an affordable price. One section of the Reuse Centre that we are particularly proud of is the “Treasure Trove.” This is an area of the store dedicated to one-of-a-kind donations. We have the items appraised and hold weekly auctions for those interested!

LP: In what ways does the Reuse Centre give back to the local community?

IC: We have a passion to be involved with the community, and do our best to help out when we can. We have provided funds for a scholarship awarded to Sheridan College students entering the Environmental program in the past, and also sponsor the Halton EcoFest in Oakville. We donate reuse items to local charities that need materials, and allow theatres to borrow items to use as props, free of charge.

The Reuse Centre also works closely with high school students looking to gain volunteer hours. The students learn about responsibility, customer service, and the importance of giving back to the community.

Wherever there is a need in the community, if we can assist, we jump in.

LP: When did the reuse program start?

IC: The Reuse Centre was founded nearly 21 years ago by the Conserver Society, whose mission is to “promote solutions for a sustainable environment through education, community action, advocacy, and collaboration.” The group had taken a trip to the landfill, and saw so many materials that were in good condition and of value being thrown away. The group thought “there has to be a better way.”

The group went to the City of Burlington, Halton Region, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to request sponsorship for a reuse centre to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative for residents to dispose of materials that were still in working condition. Now, nearly 21 years later, we are diverting a significant amount of material (as we mentioned earlier) and are providing a cost-effective alternative for residents looking to purchase affordable, good quality textiles and household items.

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

YL: We accept a wide range of items: clothing, books, sports equipment, furniture, white goods, tiles, toilets, cupboard doors, bathtubs, electronics, lawn care items — anything that can be reused!

LP: How are the materials processed?

The extensive selection of books available at the Burlington Reuse Centre.

The extensive selection of books available at the Burlington Reuse Centre.

IC: All of the material donated to the centre is weighed upon arrival, logged, and then sorted. Volunteers inspect all of the materials to ensure everything is in good condition — we even test all electronics to make sure that they are in working condition (residents can also test before purchasing, if they would like)! If anything is not in tip-top shape, volunteers will repair items to the best of their ability. We are very lucky — residents who make donations care, and donate materials that are in good condition. If residents have something they want to donate, they can contact….

LP: Do you ever receive materials that the Reuse Centre doesn’t need? If so, what happens with those materials?

IC: Unfortunately, some use our facility as an opportunity to avoid landfill disposal fees and dispose of items that we cannot accept at our Reuse Centre, such as mattresses, tires, or household hazardous waste. Sadly, this happens on a regular basis, and it costs us several hundred dollars a month to remove this material and dispose of it in a proper manner. We sell all of our products at a very affordable rate.  To put this into context, it would require us selling a lot of $0.25 pins to obtain the funds required to remove the unacceptable material from our property.

LP: In what ways can residents get involved or contribute to the Reuse Centre?

YL: Spread the word that the Reuse Centre exists and provides great quality, cost-effective goods! Our facility is on North Service Road, and is well worth the trip. Residents can like us on Facebook to get updates about new and exciting items received at the Reuse Centre! 

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2014 Halton Waste Management Guide and Collection Calendar – how it’s made

Starting tomorrow, residents of Halton Region will start to receive their 2014 Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar.

This popular guide — the largest public document produced by Halton — provides you with your waste collection schedule, and information about Blue BoxGreenCart and other waste diversion programs.

Doing "press approvals" of the new 2014 Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar

Doing “press approvals” of the new 2014 Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar

Did you know, the calendar takes about six months to produce? Plus, there are four different versions of the calendar — one for each of the Local Municipalities: Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville. Combined, that’s over 130 pages that need to be written, edited, designed, and proofed!

Halton Region’s Waste Management Services’ program planning team writes the initial text. It receives input from Waste Management Services’ collections and landfill teams, as well as Access Halton and Policy Integration & Communications.

Once approved, Halton’s Creative Services team incorporates the text into the design of the calendar pages. A lot of effort is made to ensure the calendar is easily readable and aesthetically pleasing. Recently, Halton Region’s visual identity underwent a refresh, so you’ll see a new font and design principles incorporated into your calendar.

The final version of the calendar is approved by the entire team, including the Commissioner of Public Works and Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr.

Once finalized, the finished calendar is electronically sent to the printer for proofs, approval, and finally production. It takes 40 continuous hours to print all four calendars, plus an additional 30 hours for bindery and transportation!

The calendars are printed over the Christmas holidays. You’ll recall a major ice storm hit southern Ontario in late December 2013. The ice storm played havoc to the power of our printer, The Lowe-Martin Group, also making staff levels a challenge. Luckily, the printer was able to use their sister facility in Ottawa to keep your calendar on schedule.

For 2014, a total of 168,500 calendars were printed. The vast majority are delivered as unaddressed admail by Canada Post. If you have a “no junk mail” notice on your mail box, unfortunately, you won’t receive a calendar. Some parts of rural Halton Hills and rural Milton receive their calendar as addressed admail. The remaining calendars are distributed to new subdivisions.

The calendars are printed on FSC certified paper that contains 100% post consumer fibre (that means it’s been recycled from papers collected in municipal Blue Box programs). The Lowe-Martin Group, is Carbon-Zero Certified and is powered by Bullfrog Power. Through Environment Canada’s EcoLogo program, their printing process is certified under Environmental Choice Program for Lithographic Printing Services. In 2013, Lowe-Martin won the Gold Award for Most Environmentally Friendly Printer in Canada.

Please give your new Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar a read. That way you’ll know all about acceptable materials, proper set-out and other collection requirements.

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It started with a pickle bottle and a can

1970s pop canI was doing my dishes before meeting with a women’s conversation group. Beside the sink, there was a bottle and a can. I thought, “My children’s future: the glass in this bottle will never turn back to beach sand, and there isn’t a tin mine in North America to replace the can.”

I found a phone number for a local steel company to learn  whether they would accept a truck full of cans: “Yes, if they’re crushed.” I called a local glass company to see if they would accept used glass for recycling. Their response: “Only if it’s separated by colour.” A paper mill was also eager for newsprint.

It was 1970 — a time of environmental concern. Rachel Carson’s best-selling book Silent Spring had just been released, helping to bring awareness to environmental issues. The City of Burlington had declared Environment Week, as requested by students of teacher Don Carter; Don also challenged community groups to do environmental projects in their neighbourhoods.

I suggested to the women in my conversation group that we could experiment to see if Burlington residents would participate in recycling pickups. We surveyed 258 households, with encouraging results. We mobilized our husbands, selected a driveway for sorting, and borrowed a truck. For two Saturdays, we picked up bagged recyclables and delivered them to industries.

Suddenly, we had media attention — everything we did generated more citizen participation.

As Citizens’ Committee for Pollution Control (CCPC), we established neighbourhood depots where citizens could deposit recyclables. We continued to raise awareness of our initiatives by producing newsletters (up to 1,600 copies), as well as holding public meetings  with Elliot Dalton of the Glass Container Council, then with MP George Kerr. Soon we had 1,000 participants and 21 neighbourhood depots feeding into the Recycling Centre donated by the City. Riding off this success, the Burlington Waste Reclamation Pilot Study of 1971-1972 was launched to assess waste generation and public interest in a source separation program..

CCPC had grown so big and varied that we needed three co-ordinators, and joked that we needed a coordinator to coordinate them!

CCPC was the first group in Ontario (possibly Canada) to do city-wide, multi-material, long-term recycling; we continued until 1983. We never tried to make our program a commercial operation, believing from the start that solid waste was a municipal responsibility. However, we proved every day for 13 years that the general public was ready to participate in recycling domestic source separated materials. Politicians were concerned about landfill issues, but worried about sociologists’ predictions that citizens would never cooperate sufficiently with recycling. However, the Pilot Study and CCPC data proved otherwise.

In 1981, the Province of Ontario provided funding for municipal experiments with curbside recycling; contracted Blue Box recycling became the norm. The United Nations recognized Ontario’s Blue Box program with an environmental award of merit.

To commemorate the success of CCPC, a group called Recycling Revisited has formed and is scanning all CCPC documents, reconnecting with former participants and participating in a documentary with TV Cogeco. We are also planning a reunion event, developing a book, and presenting the story of CCPC’s 1,000 participants working for 13 years to make recycling history. We are involved in outreach with today’s environmental networks, and aim to inspire further citizen action in the current environmental situation.

From the simple message of the bottle and the can, Burlington residents led the way in recycling history!

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Roberta McGregor

Guest blogger, Roberta McGregor

Roberta McGregor is a retired Mohawk College Professor with an M.A in Anthropology. She founded Citizens’ Committee for Pollution Control in 1970, which was a city-wide, multi-material recycling operation, a decade before any Ontario municipality hired a contractor for curbside recycling of home-separated materials. Her current organization is Recycling Revisited.

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Recycling in the age of Hercules

Hercules may look chilly, but don't worry -- after completing his first labour, he'll upcycle the Nemean Lion into a fashionable cloak.

Hercules may look chilly, but don’t worry — after completing his first labour, he’ll upcycle the Nemean Lion into a fashionable cloak.

I admit I’m a sucker for TV shows and movies that depict ancient Greece and Rome — Spartacus, I, Claudius, RomeTroy, Immortals, Clash of the Titans, Gladiator — they’re right up my alley.

This year, I’ll be lining up at the movies to see Pompeii, a sequel to 300, and two different versions of the Hercules myth — Hercules starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and The Legend of Hercules starring Kellan Lutz, which opens this week.

If you solely judged ancient Greece and Rome based on these forms of popular entertainment, you might think ancient life was exclusively about war, gladiators and corrupt emperors.

But there was definitely much more to ancient classical societies than that. In fact, many of our current waste management practices actually originate from these earlier eras.

In 3,000 BCE — so over 5,000 years ago — archaeology shows us the Minoan people of Knossos, Crete, created rudimentary dumps, where waste was placed into pits and covered with earth.

Around 500 BCE, the Greek city-state of Athens opened a municipal landfill site. This is considered one of the first recorded municipal landfills in history. Athenian officials dictated that waste must be transported at least one mile beyond the city gates.

In 320 BCE, Athens passed a law forbidding residents from throwing waste into the streets. Even back then, littering was a big issue!

Monte Testaccio is a huge waste mount in Rome measuring 20,000 square metres (220,000 sq ft). It’s filled primarily with broken amphorae (jars).

Archaeological research tells us a lot about how Pompeii poorly managed its waste just prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. In the upcoming movie, will we see Kit Harington pick up some litter while trying to outrun flowing lava?

In the 1st century CE, a dump outside of Jerusalem was named Sheol. This dump often caught on fire. In the Torah, Bible and Quran, “Sheol” is one of the names of hell!

Besides building aqueducts and sewer systems, those industrious Romans started formal waste collection in 200 CE. Teams of two would walk along city streets, picking up waste and placing it into a wagon for disposal. In fact, street levels actually rose because there was so much garbage and rubble on the streets.

Studies show that ancient Romans even recycled! In Britain, Roman table glassware from the 3rd and 4th centuries CE were found to be recycled from older glassware. The reason for doing so wasn’t environmental — there simply wasn’t a lot of new glass being shipped to this distant land, so Roman residents had to get creative!

By exploring the past, we can better appreciate the advances that have been made in terms of effectively managing waste. We all have a part to play.

And if you visit the movies this weekend, remember to pick up after yourself! Bring your waste home: the paper popcorn bag and waxed paper cup go in the GreenCart, the plastic lid of the cup goes in the Blue Box, and the straw and candy wrappers go in the garbage. Hercules will be watching!

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Winter is Coming… and the waste collection crews are too…

Like the fantasy author George RR Martin has been warning us for some time “Winter is coming.” But even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, or living in the Kingdoms of Westeros, there’s no denying a major snowfall is here!

You can feel the chill in the air, and those warm summer mornings of running your Blue Box to the curb in your boxer shorts are over. We need to be prepared for the long winter ahead! So take a minute to consider these suggestions for making winter waste collection a little easier for yourself and the collection crews.

These Blue Boxes might prove to be a challenge collecting.

These Blue Boxes will prove a challenge to collect.

Snow banks can create a number of challenges for the collection crews and home-owners. Please don’t place your waste material on top of snow banks. Ideally, place your material a foot or two back from the road surface at the end of your driveway and off the sidewalk where it’s clearly visible from the street. You may need to clear a space next to the end of your driveway if your driveway entrance is narrow. The crews cannot be climbing snow banks to retrieve items for safety reasons, and they may inadvertently miss your material if it’s hidden from view.

The other problem with snow is it has a tendency to melt. That snow bank you’ve perched your Blue Box on at 7 a.m. might not be frozen by noon! This can lead to toppled waste containers and litter during the day.

Can you spot the garbage bag? No luck? Hint: it's a white bag on first driveway

Can you spot the garbage bag? No luck? Hint: it’s a white bag on first driveway

Oh, and don’t forget about the snow plow! The plow operator will do their best to avoid bins in the street, but in a game of chicken with the plow, your GreenCart will lose every time. If the weather is very severe, or a major storm forecast, you may want to consider holding your material until the next pick-up date. If unsure, check our website for any potential collection delays due to weather or follow us on Twitter.

Along with the snow, the cold temperatures can present some challenges. If you’re finding items freezing inside your GreenCart, try lining it with some newspaper or place items in a paper bag or a BPI certified bag. Put items with a high moisture content in a cereal or cracker box. Worse case, you’ll get some newspaper stuck in your bin and not last week’s leftovers coming back for a third time.

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is right around the corner. Please remember to check your collection schedule to ensure you don’t forget your correct collection day. This year, Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday, so if your collection day is normally Wednesday to Friday, you will have a one day delay. Remember: Boxing Day is a working day for the crews. The same schedule applies for New Year’s week with the holiday on the Wednesday.

Hopefully all this talk of snow and ice hasn’t brought you down. Just remember to look on the bright side, winter only lasts for a few months in southern Ontario, it could be worse; we could live in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and be in for a 10-year winter.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about my last piece of advice would be to pick up a copy of The Game of Thrones or watch the HBO television series. It will keep you entertained on those cold winter evenings.

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Recycling in Downton Abbey

January 5, 2014 marks the return of Downton Abbey in North America, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. I came late to this television masterpiece, having binge-viewed the first three seasons over the past few weeks.

Telling the story of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the early 1900s (now in the 1920s), this riveting TV show is part historical record and part sudsy soap opera.

From a historical point of view, we’ve witnessed the sinking of the Titanic, the distrust of electricity, the introduction of the telephone, and the devastation of the First World War.

We’ve seen the servants stoke fires, clean floors and prepare luncheons, but we haven’t seen how Mrs. Hughes would have managed the household’s waste.

The early 1900s in England was an era of economic prosperity, urbanization, and increasing population. Regardless of socio-economic class — every person generated waste. In fact, “Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city in 1900 … saw its household waste output rise by over 11% between 1900 and 1915…”

So, how did Edwardian society manage their waste?

First, Mrs. Patmore would have ensured there was minimal food waste. Most leftovers would be reused in hearty breakfasts; but it’s possible some leftovers may have been sent to a nearby farm as pig slop. Today, there’s growing concern about edible food waste and a re-emerging trend to eat leftovers!

In the early 1900s, disposable items and packaging didn’t exist to the same extent they do now, so most other solid wastes would have been burned, and the ashes placed in an ash pit.

A gas powered collection vehicle operated by Westminster Wharfage, Great Britain.

A gas-powered collection vehicle operated by Westminster Wharfage, Great Britain. From “Centenary History Of Waste And Waste Managers In London And South East England.”

In urban areas like London, household ash was placed in metal dustbins, which were emptied regularly by a municipal collector called the “dustman.” The ash would have then been used in road construction or in brick-making. At that time, most municipal waste collection was provided by horse-drawn vehicles, but motorized vehicles were starting to make inroads.

Also prevalent in the early 1900s was the “rag and bone man.” These recyclers went door-to-door collecting rags to be recycled into carpet underlay or mattress stuffing, and bones to be used as fertilizer.

It wouldn’t be until 1928 that the UK’s Ministry of Health reported on the environmental concerns of uncontrolled waste disposal.

Much too has been made of the clothing worn by the Crawley family. We’ve seen fashions change from Edwardian to Flapper. We’ve seen evening gowns, stunning wedding dresses, military and servant uniforms, and poor Daisy with one plain dress.

In keeping with the era, the servants like Mr. Molesley, are depicted repairing clothing to extend their use. What an idea — repairing clothes instead of throwing them away!

Maggie Smith (2010) wearing a dress originally worn by Uma Thurman (2000). From Recycled Movie Costumes.

The television producers have a challenge managing all those costumes. The costumes can’t be easily bought off a rack, and to physically make each and every costume — when some are only seen on-screen for a few minutes — would be a complete waste of resources. So the show’s costume designers rent many of the costumes. In fact, there’s a website devoted to spotting recycled costumes across movies and television shows! It’s interesting that in modern times, men will rent tuxedos or suits for weddings and galas, but women will buy dresses that are only worn once!

So as Season 4 of Downton Abbey gets under way, will we see Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes or perhaps one of the footmen or maids roll out some dustbins on their waste collection day?

Imagine what Lady Violet would say if she saw a row of recycling bins lined up in front of Downton Abbey!

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Happy holidays from HaltonRecycles


HaltonRecycles, and the entire Halton Region Waste Management Services division, wish you and your family a most happy holiday!

Enjoy this Christmas recycling poem!

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A Christmas card conundrum

I admit it: I’m addicted to paper. Books, newspaper, writing paper, computer paper, flyers, brochures — I love it all.

My love of paper is especially heightened during the holidays, as I love mailing (and receiving) Christmas cards.

But this year, thoughts of Christmas cards are keeping me up at night.

You see, I’ve been actively trying to reduce my paper habit. I no longer subscribe to the newspaper, instead reading news online. I have paperless billing and paperless pay stubs. I use a tablet when taking notes in meetings. I’m using reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper.

Christmas cards

Some estimate that nearly 300,000 trees need to be harvested each year to produce the over 1.5 billion Christmas cards purchased each year. But think about it: most Christmas cards end up being thrown away after a couple of weeks.

So how does the mailing of Christmas cards fit into my personal paper reduction goal?

I’ve reached the decision: this year, I’m not mailing Christmas cards.

Hopefully, relatives will be understanding of my paper reduction goal, especially after receiving a mailed card from me for fifteen years.

Instead, I’m sending e-cards to the majority of my relatives. I do want to ensure the e-card is tailored to each specific person on my list (no mass broadcasts). And perhaps I’ll actually call my older relatives who don’t have email.

Luckily, my Christmas card conundrum has been partially solved by the recent news that Canada Post will be ending door-to-door delivery of mail within the next five years (switching to community mailboxes), and that the cost of postage is going up significantly.

I think many people will use this news as a trigger to reduce their own mailed Christmas cards, and decrease the expectation of receiving Christmas cards in the mail.

So have a very happy holiday, everyone!

And if you receive actual Christmas cards in the mail, remember the card and envelope go in the Blue Box for recycling.

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All we want for Christmas… are environmentally friendly presents

With Christmas just around the corner, the award-winning HaltonRecycles team has visions of sugar plums, dancing in their heads.

The team has put together their environmentally friendly wish list for Santa.

“I’m hoping Santa brings me a new road bike this year, but I don’t think Santa has that kind of budget,” said Amy. “Instead this upcycled saddle bag is great! It’s made out of a decommissioned fire hose! How neat is that!”

“I’m hoping for clothing by Ten Tree. For every item purchased, ten trees are planted. The organization has a number of initiatives worldwide — from forest regeneration projects in the Philippines to soil cover and restoration in Haiti to aid in crop growth. The clothing is trendy, and supports a cause that I am very passionate about!” stated Lindsay.

“Who doesn’t love food? Especially food that is local, organic and responsibly grown. I’m hoping for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership this year,” said Mel. “CSA farms offer fresh, high quality vegetables or fruit with some farmers offering eggs, poultry, meat, herbs and honey. Each farm is different, but all offer fresh, healthy alternatives to produce picked too early and shipped for hundreds, even thousands of miles before making it to your local grocery store. Members receive produce from the farms’ bounty on a regular basis.”

Ben stated: “I’m one of those guys who loves gadgets. I also love the outdoors too. So what better than an extreme solar power charger; cause there’s nothing worse than having your iPod battery die while ice fishing. Trust me.”

“Since I’m a bit of a book-worm I would love to receive a Kobo gift card for my e-reader,” said Andrea. “There are always pros and cons to an e-reader: for example you don’t have to worry about storing your book collection, however you can’t share books with others as easily. Don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy the look, feel and smell of a real book every now and then, but an e-reader is a great way to reduce the environmental footprint of paper printing, while still supporting authors.”

“I love music, and would love an environmentally friendly present like a drum set made from wine barrels,” explained Walter.

“This year, I have asked for snowboarding passes to some of my favourite ski resorts in Ontario. I can go after work to Glen Eden in Milton, Ontario or carpool on the weekend with some friends to Blue Mountain,” explained Allison. “Snowboarding is one of my favourite sports — you get to enjoy the great Canadian outdoors & stay active during the winter months. What more could a girl ask for!”

“I love going to the gym, but finding environmentally friendly gym clothes can be a challenge,” stated John. “So I was excited to find this shirt and shorts because they are made from recycled fibres. And I love the shirt’s reduce, reuse, recycle message.”

“I have never been one for wanting more, I am a practical girl after all. For instance this year during my Grey Cup party, my crock pot gave way after 15 years of good service,” Stacey stated. “I am not afraid to say ‘yes, wrap up a new one for me under the tree! Crock pots are a great way to use up all the leftovers in our fridge for a delicious family meal. And part of the old crock pot can be recycled through Halton’s metal and appliance collection program.”

Said Nicole: “I have enough stuff, but with three little kids couple time is definitely at a premium. I would love a nice dinner out with my husband to a nearby winery that emphasizes locally sourced ingredients, such as Vineland Estates Winery. An offer of babysitting services for the evening would make it a beautiful gift.”

Shirley kept her wish list nice and simple: “I really enjoy hiking on the local trails, so I would appreciate receiving an annual pass to Conservation Halton.”

Hopefully we’ll see some of these gifts (not wrapped in wrapping paper of course) under the tree (natural of course).

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Christmas: A time to renew the life of the Earth

NativityOne of the great holiday traditions at Christmas time is gathering with family and friends to set up a Christmas Manger scene in our homes and churches. I remember as a child taking great care in placing the figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, magi and the baby Jesus in just the right places. Also there were various animals to place; sheep, ox, cows and camels. Once it all came together one could not help but to be a little moved by the warmth of that scene and what its meaning is.

Legend of St Francis, Sermon to the Birds, upper Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

For Christians the birth of Jesus is not only about bringing salvation to humankind but also about renewing the face of the earth. It is appropriate that our Christmas manger scenes include animals to signify that Jesus came to renew the entire creation and to bring about greater harmony between God, human beings and the whole created order. Perhaps it is not surprising that St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, is credited for establishing the tradition of the Christmas crèche in 1223. St. Francis had a great love for all creation and even wrote the beautiful “Canticle of the Sun” where he praises God for “brother sun and sister moon.” In this famous canticle, Francis encourages all creation to delight in God’s works as revealed in nature. His love of nature and the desire to see the whole created order exist in harmony not only encourages us to be thankful for the beauty of nature but also to love and care for it responsibly.

I believe that the Christian church is starting to take this responsibility more seriously. This year at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada a new baptismal promise was added to the traditional baptismal covenant. Now all those being baptized into the church will be asked the following question: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth?” The candidate is encouraged to answer, “I will, with God’s help.”

During this Christmas season when we see a manger scene we can be reminded of the wonder of a child who came among us to make the whole creation new. Perhaps the greatest gift that we can give to God, ourselves and to each other is a commitment to “strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth!” Let us do so with God’s help!

About this guest blogger:

Guest Blogger, Rev. Canon Rob Fead

Guest Blogger, Rev. Canon Rob Fead

The Rev. Canon Rob Fead has been a parish priest for twenty years after graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1993 from St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. Rob is the Rector of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Oakville. The parish is actively involved in greening initiatives and was a recent recipient of a Greening Sacred Spaces Award.

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

When I was a child I eagerly anticipated going to get a Christmas tree. I can vividly remember trekking through the snow and endless rows trying to find the perfect one. When we finally found it, the joy of yelling “timber” and standing clear as the gigantic tree fell to the ground was thrilling. After, we would “help” drag it through the snow and back to the car. While my dad tied it to the roof, us kids would have cookies and orange drink or apple cider in the barn.

For me, the trek to get a Christmas tree also meant a trip to my grandparents’ house, as they, along with my aunt, started a Christmas tree farm in the 1980s.

ChristmasTreeFarm-SeedlingWhen I was 10, my family moved to the country and started our own Christmas tree farm. I learned first-hand all the work that goes into a growing a tree. I planted thousands of seedlings in the spring, trimmed and watered through the summer, and spent countless hours mowing between the rows. To this day, I still help out at the farm. The seedlings we plant are about a foot high and are already three years old; it takes another eight years on the farm before the tree is big enough to be cut down and taken home.

To me, the debate of natural versus artificial tree is easy. The winner is natural every time. However working in the waste management industry, I wanted to investigate the environmental implications of each option. I have tried to set aside my bias for this investigation and answer this tough question:

What has less of an environmental impact: artificial trees or natural trees?

On the artificial side, you have a tree that you can reuse year after year. That’s not the case with a natural tree, it’s a one hit wonder. However in Halton you can place your natural tree out to the curb for collection. Natural trees are brought to Halton Waste Management Site where it is chipped and turned into mulch for use in landscaping. Your loved Christmas tree can keep on giving all year round as mulch.

ChristmasTreeFarm-GrownA common concern associated with natural trees lies in removing part of the natural ecosystem. This is the greatest negative implication of natural Christmas trees. Yet I know on our farm if we didn’t grow trees, the land would either remain fallow or produce hay. Our trees are grown specifically for Christmas and are happily producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide the whole time they are growing. We replace each stump the following summer by grinding it up and planting a new tree. While chopping down a tree is never good for the environment, especially the micro-ecosystem that lives there, these trees are grown for this purpose.

Artificial trees are produced using PVC, a type of plastic and are often manufactured in China then shipped to North America. At the end of their life, they are not recyclable since they are made up of multiple materials including, PVC, metal and electrical wire. Unfortunately, artificial trees must be landfilled.

Still I wouldn’t rely on my opinion alone. I came across a study done by Ellipsos, a consulting company in Montreal, and backed by the David Suzuki Foundation. The study compares the environmental implications of purchasing a natural tree versus an artificial tree which is assumed to last six years. It concludes:

“A Life Cycle Assessment was performed to guide the environmentally conscious consumers on their choice of Christmas tree. The natural tree is a better option than the artificial tree, in particular with respect to impacts on climate change and resource depletion. The natural tree, however, is not a perfect solution as it results in important impacts on ecosystem quality. Clients who prefer using the artificial tree can reduce their impacts on all categories by increasing the life span of their tree, ideally over 20 years.”

Therefore both a natural tree and an artificial tree have environmental implications. However a natural tree is best unless you’re keeping the artificial for 20 years or more.

So how about trying a natural Christmas tree this year? Find a local Christmas tree farm and make an adventure out of it. Let us know how it went in the comments below.  Don’t forget to check your collection calendar for your curbside Christmas tree collection days in January. Remember to remove all decorations and plastic bags before placing at the curb.

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Wrap it up in environmentally friendly ways!

The holiday season is officially here! Festive music, tempting treats, colourful decorations and gift giving! Although a most wonderful time of the year, generous gift giving can create a lot of waste.

You may be surprised to learn that gift wrap must be placed in the garbage after use. Even though it may look and feel like regular paper, wrapping paper contains various materials such as dyes, foil, glitter, adhesive and coatings that negatively impact our ability to recycle it.

So let’s explore some creative alternatives to disposable gift wrap that are more environmentally friendly.


This gift is wrapped in newspaper, which can go in the Blue Box for recycling.

First off, if you receive a gift with wrapping paper, the best thing to do is try to unwrap it carefully and save the wrap to reuse as many times as you can before it has to go into the garbage. The same goes for tissue paper and gift bags. Reuse, reuse, reuse! Then when they are at the end of their usable life, tissue paper can be placed in the GreenCart, while old gift bags must go in the garbage.

There are so many other items around the house that can be reused into gift wrap. Try out old newspapers, comic books, sheet music, magazines, last year’s calendars, outdated maps or maybe children’s artwork or pages from colouring books to wrap gifts in. Grandparents and relatives will love it! You can also make your own gift bags from these items as well.

Tupperware or other containers and dishes are another handy way to give a gift. Check out your local reuse store for any of these items. If you’re doing a lot of seasonal baking and planning on giving food related gifts, why not place them in a cooking dish or decorative container with a lid. That way, the container can be reused after the gift is enjoyed.

Gift Jar (iStock14818780)


You may find some items that would normally go into your Blue Box can make creative gift wrap ideas. Make sure any items you use are well cleaned and free from cracks or sharp edges! For example, recycling clean, used aluminum foil can add a shiny allure to your gift. If you have empty glass pasta sauce or pickle jars, peel the labels off and wash the inside and the lid thoroughly. You can then decorate the outside of the jar with paint, ribbon or tissue paper for a great gift container. Plus, there are so many great homemade gift ideas that come in a jar!

Gift within a Gift

Using different fabric items for wrapping gifts is a great way to wrap those odd-shaped or large items that are hard to cover with paper. You can use pillow cases, tea towels, clothes, bath towels or scarves. If you do not want to buy new, and are giving a gift to someone in your own home, use a pillowcase you already have. Tie it up with some ribbon and then put it back in the linen closet when you’re finished! In Japan you can learn the art of Furoshiki cloth wrapping. Why not try your hand at a few of these wraps for your gift giving this year! Finally, you can use fabric gift bags. You can make or purchase these bags, and again, they can be reused year after year.

Whether it’s reusable or recyclable, there are many eco-friendly ways to wrap up gifts. Choosing alternatives to traditional wrapping paper and bags can save you money and reduce waste. Also, make sure you save whatever you receive this season to use for that next round of gift giving!

That’s a wrap!

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Chanukah and the Environment

Jewish family celebrating HanukkahIn the darkest days of December, the Jewish community will be celebrating our annual holiday of Chanukah.  This ancient ritual dates back close to 2,500 years ago when the Greek-Syrians took over the holy land of Israel from the Jewish people. They set laws over the Jewish people restricting them from praying to God, celebrating Jewish holidays, performing Jewish customs or even studying our holy texts.

In response the Jewish people revolted, led by Judah Maccabee, and defeated the mightier Greek army.  When they recovered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they saw their holy candelabra lights had been extinguished and not enough oil to relight the lights. However a great miracle happened, the lights were relit and lasted a full eight days longer than they should have, until more oil could be produced and brought in. Today we therefore light candles for eight nights, starting with one the first night and adding one each night, to add light and holiness to our lives.

As we think about light and thanking God for miracles of the past, we can take these lessons forward to today’s celebration of this holiday, and the other holidays of this December season.

  1.  Light – the candle lights of Chanukah are wonderful for the environment. While we can’t use candlelight for everything, we can take a look at how we consume light and electricity in our homes. Remember to turn off lights when not using them. Replace all your light bulbs with either CFL or LED bulbs that use a fraction of the electricity and last for years longer than traditional bulbs.
  2. Waste – as this is the time of gift giving in the Jewish community, one for each night, might we consider how we wrap the gifts to avoid waste, and save the parts like ribbons and gift bags for future use. Perhaps using a website like which is way to give gifts without waste and sends half of the money to a worthy charity of your choice.
  3. Miracles – at this season of remembering miracles, let’s take a moment to recognize the value of all the earth provides for us. We have the luxury of turning on electricity when we need it, we have food at an easy reach wherever we go and plenty of water. The earth itself is a miracle from God that we must cherish, respect and keep in good shape for future generations.

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Rabbi Stephen Wise

Guest blogger, Rabbi Stephen Wise

Rabbi Stephen Wise has been the spiritual leader of Shaarei-Beth El Congregation (SBE) of Oakville for seven years. Prior to moving here, Rabbi Wise served pulpits in Boca Raton, FL, New York, NY and Boston, MA. He is currently the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton and serves on the Multi-Faith Support Team for the Halton Regional Police. He is the author of the recently published book Israel: Repairing the World on how Israel is leading the way in green technology and environmental awareness. SBE will be engaging in an audit of our building under the auspices of Greening Sacred Spaces Halton.

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Green is the new Black Friday

Shopping (iStock13642110)

‘Tis the season — for shopping! For many North Americans, the day after the American Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, more commonly known as “Black Friday.” The day’s name originated in the 1960s and it marked the point at which retailers began to turn a profit, or be in the “black”; this year Black Friday is November 29, 2013.

But what does this day mean for the regular shopping enthusiast — SALES, and loads of them! Over the past several years, retailers have pushed the limits, opening at midnight and staying open for 24 or 48 hours straight, with crowds lining up by the hundreds to save a few bucks on the latest tech gadget. Sounds fun doesn’t it?

I am all for supporting the economy, so what if this year we decided to stay on this side of the border and have a Black Green Friday? Go out and support our Canadian economy!

I enjoy shopping, and I’ll be the first to admit that I shop for “wants” over the “needs” all the time. But I know that my environmental footprint can be much smaller if I stay local and make smart eco-conscious shopping decisions.

Here are some shopping basics to help make your “Green Friday” a successful one:

  1. Prepare to be hungry and thirsty. Pack healthy snacks and beverages in reusable containers. This way, you’ll not only avoid the long lines at food courts, but you’ll avoid all the waste that comes with them.
  2. Pack your bags. Bring your reusable bags — say “no thank you” with a smile when turning down a plastic bag — you are saving landfill space!
  3. Carpool or take public transit. It will make finding a parking spot that much easier, and you will reduce your fuel consumption.
  4. Shop around. Go for quality over quantity. If 12 pairs of low quality socks that will get holes in a few months are cheaper than three pairs that will last years, buy the three pairs! You will reduce your waste in the long term.
  5. Remove packaging at checkout. Look for items that don’t have a lot of packaging on them. Ask the retailer if they will recycle the packaging for you.
  6. Support local. Read the labels, see where the items you are buying are coming from and think of the environmental impact of getting that item from point A to point B.
  7. Email your receipts. Some retailers will give you the option to have a receipt printed, or to have it emailed to you. Emailing the receipt not only reduces paper use but also can help you stay organized with all your money management.

We all love a good bargain and it’s not practical to say we shouldn’t buy any items if they aren’t made local. But shopping local helps our economy. Do some shopping in Halton’s many downtown shopping districts — support local retailers and businesses. A new Premium Outlet just opened in Halton Region; the first of its kind in Canada. It added 800 jobs to the community. A lot of retail stores in Canada have also embraced Black Friday sales right in our own backyards.

Grab those reusable bags and have a successful Green Friday!

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Celebrating GIS Day

On my way to work in the GIS section at Halton Regional Centre, I realized that I needed to stop at the nearest gas station — before my car ran out of fuel! — so I picked up my hand-held GPS and plugged in the information. I started to think about how handy it was to have all this information in the palm of my hand, and ready at a moment’s notice. It reminded me of why I chose a career in GIS.

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. GIS is more than just map making: it’s a method to capture, store, check, and display data to related positions on the Earth’s surface. Many kinds of data can be shown on the same map, so that patterns and relationships can be easily understood.

GIS is used in various ways within the workplace. In fact, Halton Region uses GIS in many different departments. These include:

  • Health Department
  • Social and Community Services
  • Paramedic Services
  • Public Works
    • Design and Construction
    • Planning
    • Infrastructure Management
    • Waste Management Services
  • Emergency Operations Centre
  • Police Services
If a water main breaks, GIS data helps Halton Region staff identify pipes and valves, so staff can help resolve the issue

If a water main breaks, GIS data helps Halton Region staff identify pipes and valves, so staff can help resolve the issue

GIS has a greater impact upon your life than you realize. For instance, do you know what happens when you flush the toilet? Do you know where your tap water comes from? Do you know how your roads are maintained?

The Public Works department at Halton Region uses GIS to plan, construct, and maintain all water and sewer-related infrastructure, as well as road-related projects. The GIS system provides critical data to operators in times of crisis, such as when a water main breaks, or when a sewer main backs up. Without access to this type of centralized data, it would be difficult to resolve problems efficiently and in a timely manner.

Each January, Halton residents receive their Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar. The collection area boundary maps inside the collection calendar are created using GIS, based on the waste collection and boundary data provided by Waste Management Services. These maps inform residents when they can expect their waste to be picked up.

Online Calendar Tool

Additionally, Halton’s award winning Online Waste Collection Calendar Tool is generated using GIS data. These are some other ways in which GIS can unknowingly touch your life.

In recent years, there have been some advances in GIS and GPS technology. One of the benefits of this means that GPS technology is now used in compactors and bulldozers at the Halton Waste Management Site. The landfill GPS system provides visual feedback that depicts the real-time level of compaction, and stores the information in the GIS database. This ensures the correct level of compaction is achieved, and it improves the efficiency and safety of the landfill site. It is a remarkable use of GPS techonology in our commuity.  For more information on this read a recent blog post about the landfill GPS system.

GIS Day 2013Those are just a few examples of how GIS technology affects our everyday lives. Over the last decade, the GIS industry has grown rapidly, and will continue to expand as new uses for it continue to be developed. GIS is our future!

And remember to celebrate GIS Day on November 20!

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Shelley Watt

Guest blogger,
Shelley Watt

Hi, I’m Shelley Watt, and I’ve been in the GIS section within Halton Region Public Works since 2006. My group maintains all data related to water and sewer infrastructure. The work we do directly impacts System Operations staff, and other groups within Public Works. GIS gives us the ability to be map creators, as well as data analyzers; a healthy balance of right and left brain thinking!

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Can we ban plastic?

“Why don’t we ban plastic?”

I’m asked this question regularly when delivering waste diversion workshops to schools, community groups and businesses.

Plastic is seen as a big issue, from taking up space in our Blue Boxes, to causing worldwide situations like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sea turtles eating plastic bags, or plastic micro-beads in the Great Lakes.

Banning plastic would be a very challenging notion, requiring cooperation of countries around the world. Ontario, and Canada for that matter, doesn’t necessarily have the economic clout to demand such a change.

And what plastic would you ban? Plastic packaging or plastic products?

If you stop to think about it — we rely on plastics a lot in our everyday lives. You wake up and turn off your alarm clock (which is cased in a plastic shell). You brush your teeth with a plastic tooth brush. You wash your hair with shampoo from a plastic bottle. You eat cereal from a plastic bag. Your milk may have come in plastic bags. You drive to school or work in a vehicle with many plastic parts. You sit on chairs with plastic parts. You use plastic pens. Your computer is made out of plastic. You stop for a coffee; the coffee cup lid is plastic. If you buy strawberries in November in Canada, they’ll have to come from far away, which means using a plastic clamshell container to make them easy to transport.

Which of these plastic items would you ban? Remember, at some point, they all become a waste that needs to be managed somehow.

Some people also state “we should make sure all plastic is compostable.”

But that in itself can actually cause even more challenges.

You see, “regular” plastic is made from petroleum (oil). Plastic bottles, for example, are recycled into polyester like polar fleece, carpeting and reusable bags. If we don’t have plastic bottles to recycle, petroleum would still need to be extracted from the earth to make polyester materials.

"Compostable" plastic cups made from corn go in the garbage.

“Compostable” plastic cups made from corn go in the garbage.

“Compostable” plastics are usually made from corn, instead of petroleum. But it begs the question: is growing corn — a food source — for the sole purpose of making plastic, the best use of that food, especially considering we have so many starving people around the world?

“Compostable” plastic can’t be recycled with “regular” plastic, because they have different melt rates. And we’ve found that “compostable” plastic doesn’t actually break down in municipal composting facilities. For most municipalities, including Halton, “compostable” plastics (commonly used for certain cups) and cutlery, are garbage. They then end up in a landfill, where they’ll sit for hundreds or thousands of years.

Plastic is practically unavoidable. UK’s Royal Society estimated global plastic production from 2000 to 2010 would equal worldwide plastic production of the previous century!

We need to think about the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle:

  • Reduce our use of plastic whenever possible. This means bringing a reusable bag instead of getting disposable plastic bags when shopping. Even use reusable bags when buying produce! Don’t buy “compostable” plastic products or packaging, which end up in your garbage.
  • Reuse whenever it is safe to do so.
  • Recycle all rigid plastic packaging in your Blue Box. Don’t put these materials in the garbage, and ensure they don’t end up as litter.

For more inspiration, read about how this family of five created a “plastic free zone” in their home.

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Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Wastewise

Part of a series about the charitable reuse centres operating in Halton Region.

Waste audits have shown that 7% of the materials found in Halton’s residential garbage stream are textile materials that could be salvaged through reuse centres. This number may not seem like a lot, but if each of the more than 180,000 households in Halton were to reduce their garbage by 7%, it could significantly extend the lifespan of our landfill!

Wastewise is dedicated to waste diversion through its successful operations.

I had the opportunity to meet with Debbie Smart to discuss how Wastewise operates, and how it benefits the local community.

LP: Tell me a bit about Wastewise.

Wastewise 1DS: Wastewise is a local charity that is dedicated to promoting the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste generated in Halton Hills through the operations of a reuse centre. Our focus is to divert materials from the landfill, and in turn support our community. Our location is one of the few locations in Halton Hills where residents can drop off of textiles, paper, scrap metal and electronic waste in one convenient stop.

Our thrift store is unconventional, to say the least. We attract people who are ready for a search, and know that they will find something great. Wastewise is very much a part of the community here in Georgetown and it is not unusual for us the see neighbours stop and chat or new friendships form while people are shopping and recycling.   We are known in the community as a central location to responsibly dispose of salvageable textiles, e-waste and other recyclable material so we recognize a lot of our customers as they are frequent visitors. This has helped us build a strong relationship with our customers, and our thrift store allows many members of the community to obtain good quality materials at an affordable cost.

In the past, our focus has been solely on waste management, recently though we have expanded our patent to encompass environmental sustainability. We are realizing that in order to make a change in waste reduction and management, we need to look at the bigger picture.

LP: In what ways does Wastewise give back to the local community?

DS: We have been very involved with the local community since we began our operations in 1991, and are involved in a number of great initiatives! Financially, we support each of the three high schools here in Halton Hills by providing a $1,000 scholarship to a graduate pursuing environmental study. In 2011 we gave $5,000 to POWER Halton, and $5000.00 to GDHS to help support the E.A.R.T.H. programme.  Recently we have collaborated with the Town of Halton Hills to provide funds to start a public space recycling program which you will find in all local parks and recreation areas. We support community involvement among our youth by offering volunteer opportunities for the required 40 hours and by supporting green clubs at various schools, and in one instance we provided funds to reward the students with a pizza party for their hard work.

We provide many organizations in the community with textiles as well such as blankets and pillows for the Humane Society. We work closely with the Holy Cross Helps Program, the local fire department when they require materials for controlled burns, and provide affordable classroom materials for teachers and daycares. We also provide reduced rates for international farmers to bring textiles home for their loved ones.

LP: When did the reuse program start?

DS: Wastewise was started in 1991 by a group of local residents in response to a proposal for a landfill development in Halton Hills. The group, known as FOAD (Furiously Opposed Acton Dump) realized they cannot just say ‘we don’t want this’ and not take any action to prove a landfill is not required. FOAD realized that the community could do something with our waste other than send it to landfill. At the time, there was no place in Halton Hills to bring good, usable items. Basing their idea of Urban Ore, FOAD proposed the idea of a donation and reuse centre, received funding from the government, and Wastewise was opened.

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

Wastewise 2 Book Directory

This directory helps customers find books for sale.

DS: We accept all sorts of items! We accept almost all reusable household goods for donation – books, puzzles, board games, kitchenware, small appliances, collectables, paintings, and textiles which includes purses, shoes, boots, pillows, linens and of course clothing.  . Residents can also drop off electronic waste (TVs, monitors, printers, phones, etc.) to have them safely recycled.

If there is anything that we cannot accept, we redirect residents to locations that we know can take those items for responsible disposal.

LP: How are the materials processed?

DS: Residents who donate materials bring them to the facility, and they are sorted in the back section of our warehouse. Most of our sorting is done by a great group of volunteers. All of the items are organized into various categories. We regularly receive items that we know will interest our varied customer base and generate more revenue to sustain the centre, these items may be assessed by knowledgeable persons and placed in the Wastewise silent auction.

LP: Do you ever receive materials that Wastewise doesn’t need? If so, what happens with those materials?

DS: We do our best to stop items we do not need from entering the facility, but it is inevitable that stuff gets dropped off that we cannot accept. As an example, the other day, two mattresses were left outside our doors. In that case, I had to load the mattresses into my personal vehicle, bring them to the transfer station, and pay the fee for disposal. While zero waste is an amazing goal, we realize at a thrift shop, that is not a reality for us. We do have a garbage bin that we put non-recyclable material in such as broken glass and plastic.  This bin is picked up once a week, and we incur a cost to have that garbage material collected.

We know that it costs money to be in this business and dispose of waste responsibly (reuse, recycling, and garbage materials), but we do our best to keep waste low. Even when residents come in, we try and promote waste reduction (for example, promote reusable coffee cups and water bottles versus disposable alternatives).

LP: In what ways can residents get involved or contribute to Wastewise?

The game section at Wastewise

The game section at Wastewise.

DS: If residents want to get involved, we are always looking for volunteers! Our volunteers help sort donated items such as books and clothing, test electronics, and can ensure our facility is operating effectively.  In addition interested residents may apply to become a board member.

Residents can also contribute to Wastewise by donating or shopping here! We receive so many great items, and residents leave with affordable, unique finds. We like to say “Stop here first. If we don’t have what you need, we will help you find it!”

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Update on Ontario’s Waste Reduction Act

New waste management legislation will impact Ontario's Blue Box, household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and tire recycling programs.

New waste management legislation will impact Ontario’s Blue Box, household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and tire recycling programs.

Earlier this summer, HaltonRecycles wrote about the new waste management legislation introduced to the Ontario Legislature on June 6, 2013: Bill 91, the Waste Reduction Act and Waste Reduction Strategy. The proposed Act will help to establish a new system for the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste and will replace the current Waste Diversion Act (WDA), established in 2002.

The WDA regulates that producers, manufacturers and retailers are to partially or fully establish or fund waste management programs for their products sold in Ontario. As a result, municipalities receive funding from these producers and manufacturers for the programs designated under the WDA. These programs include the Blue Box, electronics, tires and some household hazardous waste.

Producer responsibility should result in the following outcomes:

  • prevent waste generation
  • reduce use of toxic materials
  • increase recycling
  • enhance markets for recycling materials.

Many stakeholders, including municipalities, had been encouraging the Province to review the WDA and come forward with changes to address key operational issues with the current Act.

Bill 91 is intended to bring important changes:

  • An improved system of transferring the cost of waste diversion to individual producers of designated products and packaging, and not on the tax payers
  • It will establish a Waste Reduction Authority with the ability to enforce compliance with the Act
  • The role of municipalities as waste diversion service providers is recognized and reasonable costs are to be compensated
  • Greater emphasis will be placed on increasing industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) diversion rates
  • There will be an opportunity to identify new and different materials for producer responsibility
  • Retailers will not be able to charge a separate “eco fee” at the point of sale

To assist with the transition from the Waste Diversion Act to the Waste Reduction Act, a Waste Reduction Strategy (WRS) has been proposed. The WRS identifies how and when the transition would occur.

Waste Reduction Act Consultation

The proposed Act and Strategy were placed on the Environmental Bill of Rights for a 90 day comment period which closed on September 4, 2013. Halton Region staff participated in several sessions during that time and submitted comments in a joint submission of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario, and Municipal Waste Association as well as individually as Halton Region staff.

Halton’s submission contained the following key recommendations:

  • Halton has a vested interest and role in delivering successful waste diversion programs to conserve the lifespan of the landfill at the Halton Waste Management Site
  • Halton Region has implemented a Solid Waste Management Strategy that is periodically reviewed and updated with a current waste diversion goal of 65%
  • Halton places a priority on delivering cost effective programs and should receive fair and reasonable compensation that is determined in a transparent and effective process
  • Payment to municipalities needs to be a simple process
  • The Authority will require adequate resources to effectively deliver its mandate
  • Standards and targets must be established for recycling material capture, processing, geographic distribution of collection services, convenient access to recycling services, and promotion and education. 

Bill 91 had a second reading on September 24 and is currently under Debate in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Halton Region will continue to work with the Province, municipal associations and producers to support the implementation of the proposed Act and Strategy that corresponds with Halton’s environmental, service delivery and economic goals.

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Five person family — one bag of garbage

SetoutI was out walking with my kids the evening before our waste collection day and my 6 year old commented that a neighbour down the street had A LOT of garbage.

It’s funny what kids notice!

I decided against speculating what was in their garbage and instead talked with my kids about what goes in the Blue Box and GreenCart, and the importance of respecting the environment.

I notice that homes with multiple bags of garbage at the curb usually do not have a GreenCart.

I have a big family by today’s standards — two adults, three small kids (1, 4 and 6) and a cat.  Each week we produce two Blue Boxes, one GreenCart, and one partial bag of garbage (so one garbage can, every other week). We are not an anomaly by any stretch, as most of my neighbours seem to follow a similar pattern (some with more recycling perhaps — we just don’t consume that much disposable packaging). There’s one thing us “one-baggers” have in common: we always place out a Blue Box and GreenCart.

That’s the secret — we always recycle and compost!

Being that I work in the waste management industry, it is expected that I embrace waste reduction — but it really isn’t hard. I have been recycling since I was a kid (teaching my parents when the Blue Box was first introduced over 25 years ago). I make choices when I shop, choosing items with less packaging and packaging that’s recyclable. I also explain to my kids why I am choosing one product over another.

Now it is just habit — a good one!

My kids are starting to get it — they know their yogurt container gets a quick rinse before they put it in the Blue Box and any food they don’t finish goes in the GreenCart to be turned into dirt (compost). I think it helps that they have the same programs in their school.

We’ve also organized our home to make sorting waste easier — see if something inspires you to make a change in your home:

Kitchen  – A sorting system for recycling, organics and garbage is a must.  For many kitchens the easiest place would be under the sink, but there are other solutions (simple, inexpensive waste bins, a sliding waste drawer, a multi-compartment waste can, etc.).  Find something that works for your space. The main gathering place for waste is in my kitchen. I recognized long ago that I needed a collection container for recycling under my sink. I settled on simple white waste bins under one half of my sink and I placed my Kitchen Catcher in front.  Since most of our kitchen waste is organics and recycling we only needed a small garbage container. When the bins are full, we empty them into the Blue Box or GreenCart which we keep in the garage.

Bathroom – Having a way of collecting organics (usually facial tissues) along with garbage in the bathroom is helpful. In the bathroom, I put a paper bag in the waste basket to collect facial tissues (that I often just dump into the GreenCart and reuse) and any garbage item just fits in the waste basket beside the paper bag (really not hard or time consuming). I don’t have a lot of recycling in my bathroom and just bring empty shampoo bottles and toothpaste boxes to the kitchen. 

Laundry Room – We have a small container to collect lint and tissues which we empty into the GreenCart each week.

Bedrooms – I do not have waste bins in the bedroom, although as my kids grow I may have to re-evaluate and place a recycling bin in their rooms for paper.

If every household can recycle and compost in each room of their home, they’ll have a lot less garbage. What are some tips that your family uses to reduce waste?

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Waste less this Halloween

Candy wrappers (iStock21641531)As old Hallow’s eve draws near, costume ideas and sugary treats are on a lot of people’s minds.

It is a fun and festive fall celebration, and one that can also create a large amount of waste with disposable candy wrappers and single-use decorations and costumes. In October 2011, Canadians bought 356 million dollars worth of candy. That adds up to a lot of wrappers being thrown away.

This Halloween it is important to understand how to sort out waste properly into the Blue Box, GreenCart, yard waste or garbage. It may seem overwhelming or not worth the effort, but do not fear!

Here are a few tips on how to handle your waste this Halloween and still have a spooktacular time!

Trick or Treating

When sending your little princesses and super heroes out trick or treating this Halloween, select a reusable treat collection bag. To reduce waste going to the landfill, try not to purchase disposable plastic bags and use something you have around the house already: old pillow cases! You can let your kids decorate their own pillow case and keep it for reuse year after year. No waste to sort there! Plus, pillow cases hold far more candy than any disposable plastic bag!

Costumes are another area where we can waste less during Halloween. Reusable costumes are best: swap with a friend or family member, or visit a reuse centre in Halton Region to see if they have a costume you’re looking for. When you are done with the costume, don’t throw it out! Donate it back to a reuse centre, give it to a friend or save it for another family member in the years to come. Try to avoid purchasing plastic single-use costumes that will end up in the landfill.

Once the hard work is done and the candy is collected, those wrappers start to pile up. If a tasty treat has come in a box (like Smarties), put the empty cardboard box in the Blue Box. Most candy and chocolate wrappers contain materials such as foil and plastic and will need to be placed in the garbage. As an alternative to the garbage bag, you may want to collect these types of wrappers and create something unique out of them.

Halloween Parties and Decorations

If you are hosting a haunted house or costume party this Halloween, it is important to properly sort out any waste. Keep Blue Boxes and GreenCarts easily accessible around your party room for guests to use. If choosing to use disposable plates or cutlery, opt for paper plates and wooden cutlery which can be placed into the GreenCart. Plastic plates or cups are recyclable in your Blue Box. Plastic cutlery is garbage. Rinse all items and ensure they are clean and free of grease, liquid or food.

A creative way to reduce Halloween party waste is to make edible decorations that can be eaten or placed in the GreenCart. I personally love these creepy shrunken apple heads in apple cider or placed around a room as décor!

Pumpkins, gourds, leaves, twigs and corn husks are all commonly used décor items at this time of year. To get the most of out of your pumpkin, use any carved out flesh to do some baking or plant the seeds to start growing your pumpkin for next fall! If you don’t want to reuse your pumpkin or gourds, all of these items can be placed out for yard waste collection when you are done with them. For wasteless décor options, visit a local reuse centre and purchase items that can be reused, or you can borrow décor items from a friend or make your own!

By making the most of reusable costumes and décor, as well as properly sorting items into your Blue Box, GreenCart, and yard waste, it’s easy to waste less this year on Halloween!

How do you plan on greening your Halloween?

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School librarians promote reduce, reuse, recycle

Books have the power to educate, entertain and enthrall. They can cause personal reflection, a change of thought, and a call to action.

In recognition of Waste Reduction Week in Canada and the need to protect our environment, teacher-librarians, library technicians and board staff from the Halton District School Board offer their suggestions for great books about reducing, reusing and recycling.

Kindergarten books

Teacher-Librarian Nicole Hamel at Alexander’s Public School recommended Michael Recycle and Michael Recycle Meets Litterbug Doug by Ellie Bethel. “These books tell the adventures of a young superhero whose power allows him to teach others about recycling, especially Litterbug Doug. After cleaning up a town, the people declare: ‘To Michael Recycle! The green-caped crusader, our super-green hero, the planet’s new saviour!'”

“I recommend Mr. King’s Things by Genevieve Cote,” said Lynn Wisniewski, the Manager of Instructional Media for the Halton District School Board. “This is a picture book that is sure to entertain and educate our youngest students about the impacts of garbage. The book’s main character, Mr. King, likes to have new things; all of his old stuff gets tossed into the local pond. The pond monster frightens Mr. King into thinking of new ways to deal with his old belongings sending a clear message about the importance of recycling and reusing.”

Primary (grades 1 to 3) books

“I recommend Now We Know About Recycling written by Dr. Mike Goldsmith. This non-fiction book written for primary students gives an overview of why recycling helps the environment, what to do with old toys and clothes and how to reduce the amount that we throw away. The book is filled with photographs and talking points that lead to great discussions on the topic,” said Teacher-Librarian Tracy Bernier of Ryerson Public School.

Mark Cann, the Teacher-Librarian at Florence Meares Public School suggested The Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by David Roberts. “In this book, we are introduced to Steve who uses his creativity and ingenuity to apply the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. Along with friends in the neighbourhood, Steve takes to diving into local dumpsters and reuses found items in amazing ways. When Steve hurts himself, the neighbourhood rallies and comes to Steve’s aid. The Dumpster Diver teaches us the importance of community, helping those in need and will have readers of all ages looking at trash in new and inspiring ways. As Steve says, ‘Junk is good.'”

“I recommend The Busy Beaver written by Nicholas Oldland. This picture book is about an industrious but careless beaver who, in his quest to be characteristically busy, devastates the forest and the habitat that it provides for his animal friends” said Teacher-Librarian Krista Clarke of Rolling Meadows Public School. “After a falling tree knocks some sense into him, he sees the error of his ways and works to restore the forest and his relationship with the other animals.  This charming story teaches children how to treat others and their environment with respect and kindness.”

Nicole Hamel of Alexander’s Public School recommended The Trouble with Dragons by Debbie Gliori. “When dragons cut down too many trees, blow out too much hot air and do other environmental damage, the future looks grim, but other animals advise them on how to mend their ways and save the planet.”

Junior (grades 4 to 6) books

“I recommend reading National Geographic Kids Human Footprint:  everything you will eat, use, wear, buy and throw out in your lifetime by Ellen Kirk. This is a fun book to get kids interested in our impact on the earth,” explained Linda Price, the Library Technician at John W. Boich Public School. “Each two page spread focuses on a different topic with photographs that illustrate the actual number of items each person uses in a lifetime. For example, the section on staying clean tells us how many bars of soap, bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes each of us will use in a lifetime. Other topics covered include: candy bars, soda, clothing, cars, and diapers. Different text sizes and fonts highlight related facts and suggest ways we can help reduce our human footprint.”

Intermediate (grades 7 to 8) books

“My book suggestion for intermediate students is Garbage and Recycling edited by Cynthia A. Bily. This book is great for waste management-related projects because it reveals both sides of the garbage and recycling issue. Students can find out if recycling is effective, how much garbage is created, and how they can reduce the generation of plastic waste,” said Lynn Wisniewski of the Halton District School Board.

Secondary (grades 9 to 12) books

Teacher-Librarian Mary Collett of Oakville Trafalgar High School recommended The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet one Simple Step at a Time by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigan. “This reader-friendly book contains hundreds of small choices you can make to have a big impact on the health of our planet written by popular celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell and Justin Timberlake.”

“I also recommend Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making by Micaela Preston. This book takes the practical approach to creating a green and healthy home with an emphasis on sustainable living. It contains lots of helpful tips for DIY projects, buying smart, and healthy tasty recipes,” shared Mary Collett.

The Little Book of Environmental Principles by Dr. Patrick Hook, takes 160 of the more complicated environmental principles, arranges them in alphabetical order for easy reference, and explains them in simple accessible language. It also features helpful diagrams and illustrations to help the reader understand the concepts covered,” stated Mary Collett.

Teacher-Librarian Sandra Rogers from Garth Webb Secondary School recommended Save the Humans written by Rob Stewart, creator of Sharkwater and Revolution. “In this book, Stewart not only relates his campaign to bring awareness to the environmental plight of all humans, but also relates how he overcame many obstacles in the making of Sharkwater. Part memoir, part guide for action, Stewart touches upon topics such as pollution, waste management and environmental stewardship. Engaging and entertaining, this book appeals to students in Grades 9-12.”

Whatever your grade, or whatever your age, a great book can inspire you to reduce waste, conserve resources, and recycle and compost more.

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It’s Waste Reduction Week in Canada – how are you reducing waste?

cartoon image of a stick figure named Atlas holding up a partial image of a globeDesigners and labels get Fashion Weeks in cities around the world. The entire movie industry gets two weeks in Toronto every September. But they have nothing on the most important five days on my calendar: Waste Reduction Week in Canada.

From October 21 to 27, 2013, Canadians are invited to join the waste reduction movement. Whether an individual, business, government, or school, we can all do our part and make a difference.

We can start by thinking about small every day actions. You’ve probably heard this one a million times, and you’ll probably hear it a million more times, as well as right now: by switching from a single-use coffee cup to a reusable cup every day, you make a huge mark by leaving a considerably smaller ecological footprint. Specifically, if you switch from a single-use to a reusable cup, that prevents almost 10 kg of material from being generated annually.

Recycling has come a long way. For example, in Halton you can compost paper coffee cups in your GreenCart, and recycle plastic cups in your Blue Box. However, of the 3Rs, reduce and reuse, trump recycling on days that end with ‘y’.

For those that like to think bigger — why not organize a team of volunteers in the office to lead a bunch of easy and effective initiatives: organize a lunch and learn about lamp recycling to kick-off your Waste Reduction Week activities; or even start an office recycling program.

And for organizations that want to go really large, be sure to check out 3RCertified and Take Back the Light.

No matter the size or scale of an initiative, every little bit helps. Sure, it’s a cliché, but if it wasn’t true, then it wouldn’t be a cliché. Reduce your consumption. Be proactive. Demonstrate your commitment to the environment from October 21 to 27 and proclaim it Waste Reduction Week.

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Catherine Leighton

Guest blogger, Catherine Leighton

Catherine Leighton is the Program Manager for Waste Reduction Week in Canada and Waste-Free Lunch Challenge. She works for Recycling Council of Ontario.

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Are you throwing away edible food?

My personal journey with food waste started in October 2011, when I heard Dr. Ralph Martin, Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production from the University of Guelph, deliver a keynote speech about how we are going to feed ourselves in the future.

Among the insights, Dr. Martin provided compelling evidence that we as Canadians are throwing out 40% of all the food we produce. Every year $27.7 billion worth of edible food is wasted. And more bad news — we householders are responsible for 51% of it! That’s 183 kg per person!

Well, not me, thought I!

Sure we pretty much fill our GreenCart each week but it’s with inedible stuff. We don’t waste good food at our house. I can’t — it’s bred in my bones not to waste.  My mother trained me to be frugal. What’s more, I’m informed, given my professional work as a market researcher in solid waste diversion and in rebuilding our local food system. I know how to shop and prize local and organic food. And, I know how to cook — in our house we place high priority on cooking and sharing great food. We must be among the minority, I imagined, who simply don’t waste food that can be safely eaten.

I was in a state of denial.

Then I decided to put my GreenCart waste on trial — what were we filling it with? Understand this was a theoretical exercise only…but the closer I looked, the more I saw. Did we overbuy? Did potentially tasty leftovers get ‘lost’ in the fridge? (I have long preferred smaller fridges, not the humungous monsters that are common.) Did we get tired of eating that big pot of — you fill in the blank? Guilty on all three counts. As the old saying goes, “I looked at the problem and the problem was me.”

Suffice to say, we now shop more carefully with an eye to our schedules and a more realistic estimation of our needs. We make an effort to use everything that’s edible. That means freezing, dehydrating or and canning more things. We make more stocks, soups and stew with wilted produce and leftovers. We’re learning to reduce our food waste ‘footprint.’ It’s a continual work in progress and — it can be fun! Now I hope that I am better aligning my practice with my principles.

Try it yourself.

See how you fare and save money too — up to $28 per household each week. That’s the guestimated value of food the average Canadian household of 2.1 members wastes by throwing out perfectly edible food each week.

We can save money and reduce waste by shopping smarter and eating all our edible food!

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger Helene St. Jacques

Guest blogger Hélène St. Jacques

Hélène St. Jacques is President of Informa Market Research. Prior to starting Informa, she was a research director at three major advertising agencies in Canada and Australia. Hélène is engaged in volunteer activities with a particular focus on food/health and community economic development. She serves as chair of Toronto Food Policy Council and is a long term past board member of FoodShare Toronto. Hélène  has a B.A. (University of Waterloo) and a M. Ed. (University of Toronto).

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When you look at a can of cranberries, what do you see?

Cranberry SauceWhen you look at a can of cranberries, what do you see?

Do you see a delicious side dish to your Thanksgiving turkey?

Or do you also see the seeds that grew the cranberries? What about the farmers who planted, nurtured and harvested the cranberries? Or the sunlight, soil and water that helped the cranberries grow? What about the workers who mined the steel to make the can, or the recycler who smelted an old steel can to make a new one? What about the trees that provided the paper label, or the recycler who pulped old papers to make a new label?

The meal you enjoy at Thanksgiving is more than what was prepared by those working in your kitchen. Natural resources, technology and hundreds of people, will have helped provide your food from seed to field to plate.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks not only for family and friends, and a tasty meal, but also for the countless resources and people who made your meal possible.

And when it comes time to “throw away” that empty can of cranberries, remember too, the resources and time that went into making it. Don’t throw it in the garbage where it’s going to sit in a landfill for hundreds or thousands of years. Put that empty can in your Blue Box to be recycled, helping to conserve resources and energy.

Wishing you a thankful Thanksgiving!

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