Keep your GreenCart clean

It’s that time of year again; summer has ended.

For some of us, our GreenCarts have seen better days. The summer’s heat speeds up the decomposition of food waste in our GreenCart (which can cause odours), and can make our GreenCart a desirable home for insects.

Regularly cleaning your GreenCart will help reduce creepy crawlers and odours.

You can rinse your GreenCart and Kitchen Catcher with a hose.

You can rinse your GreenCart and Kitchen Catcher with a hose.

Even if you don’t have time for a thorough cleaning each week, an occasional rinse will make a big difference. Use a hose or water from a rain barrel to give your GreenCart a rinse. If you have a spray nozzle, use it.

For a more thorough cleaning, use a natural cleaning product like baking soda, vinegar, or a natural detergent and a rag to scrub the GreenCart.

Baking soda and vinegar deter fruit flies and help with odour; they are great to spray even when your GreenCart has material in it. Empty the water on to your garden or lawn.

You can follow a similar process for your Kitchen Catcher, but it is dishwasher safe, so you can always wash it along with your dishes.

As a basement renter, I do not have a hose, rain barrel, or dishwasher at my disposal. But I have come up with my own way of cleaning my GreenCart. I use my Kitchen Catcher as a bucket and fill it up with water. I pour water from my Kitchen Catcher in my GreenCart to give it a good rinse. Next, I sprinkle in my baking soda, soak my rag and get scrubbing. Once I have finished scrubbing both my GreenCart and Kitchen Catcher I drop the remaining water in my GreenCart for a final rinse, dump it out on the garden and voila — my GreenCart and Kitchen Catcher are smelling and looking great.

But let’s face it — not all of us love to clean, including me. So the best way to keep your GreenCart clean is prevention.

You can line your Kitchen Catcher or GreenCart with paper towel, newspaper, paper food waste bags, or a BPI certified compostable bag.

Since lining your cart is not required, here are some other tips to keep your GreenCart looking and smelling great:

  • Wrap food waste in newspaper or soiled paper towels or place in a cardboard box like a cracker or cereal box.
  • Store meat, poultry, fish and bones in the freezer until your collection day. Wrap meat and bones in paper and add additional layers of paper to your GreenCart. Use a paper milk carton (without a plastic spout) to collect fats and oils.
  • Clean out your fridge the day before GreenCart collection, that way material is not sitting for a long period of time
  • Avoid insects and other pests by sprinkling a handful of salt, garden lime, baking soda or powdered ginger in the GreenCart or Kitchen Catcher.

Using your GreenCart is a simple way to reduce your garbage. By keeping your Kitchen Catcher and GreenCart clean, you’ll be more likely to use it even more.

What are your tips for keeping your GreenCart clean?

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Municipalities work together and encourage you to “recycle more”

Traditionally, Blue Box recycling programs in Ontario have varied from municipality to municipality. That’s now starting to change, with many municipalities accepting the same sort of materials, especially when it comes to rigid plastic packaging.

Seven "golden horseshoe" municipalities in Ontario are encouraging residents to "recycle more"

Seven municipalities in Ontario are encouraging residents to “recycle more”

Representing nearly 7 million people, Ontario’s “golden horseshoe” municipalities — Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Peel, Toronto and York — have launched a joint communications campaign called “Recycle More” to encourage all residents to recycle even more rigid plastic packaging.

Supported by industry partners Stewardship Ontario and Continuous Improvement Fund, “Recycle More” includes print ads in local and national newspapers, radio ads, billboards, in-store advertising, and online advertising.

An example of the Recycle more print advertisement

An example of a “Recycle More” print advertisement

“Plastic containers are an ever-growing and changing part of our waste stream,” stated Mike Birett of the Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF). “Municipalities across Ontario have been working together and with the CIF for over five years to find ways to recycle these packaging materials. It’s really exciting to be a part of this joint effort to deliver a consistent and simple “recycle more” message to residents.”

“It may seem like a small detail — working with other cities and regions to promote recycling, but I think we’ll see a huge impact because of the consistent message,” said Dennis Guy of the City of Hamilton. “Residents who work and play throughout the GTA will see the same message wherever they go.”

“Municipalities provide exceptional Blue Box recycling services to residents in Ontario, and residents across the province look to their municipality for information about acceptable Blue Box materials,” explained John Watson of Halton Region. “This campaign enables municipalities to encourage even more residents to recycle, while demonstrating the important role municipalities play in leading Ontario’s waste diversion programs.”

“We are very pleased to work with so many municipalities in the pursuit of collecting more recyclables and keeping them out of landfill,” said Sherry Arcaro of Stewardship Ontario. “While the development of the campaign has had its challenging moments, our shared vision of increasing recycling participation, ensured we created a campaign that will hopefully result in more acceptable items finding their way into the Blue Box.”

So wherever you live, work or play, remember to recycle more plastic packaging. Your efforts really make a difference! 

Please let us know if you’ve seen any of the “Recycle More” print ads, online ads, in-store ads or billboards, or whether you’ve heard this ad on the radio:

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Plastic shopping bags: friend or foe?

I try my best to bring reusable shopping bags with me when I go to a store. However, I have to admit there have been occasions when I have forgotten them at home or in the car and am offered a plastic shopping bag instead.  Somehow there always seems to be more plastic bags kicking around the house than I know what to do with; maybe you feel the same way? Do you ever wonder what to do with all those bags?

Rather than automatically placing plastic shopping bags in the garbage, plastic bags can be recycled, reused and repurposed, turning a potentially disposable item into a great resource!

Recycle

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association has a list of retail locations that take back plastic shopping bags for recycling.

Reuse

There are many ways to reuse plastic shopping bags:

  • Save a few in your car or bag for the next spontaneous shopping trip.
  • Wrap delicate household items — like holiday ornaments — in plastic shopping bags before putting them into storage.
  • Place shoes or dirty clothes inside a plastic bag while travelling
  • Use them as pet waste bags.
  • If you’re mailing a fragile package, wrap the item in plastic bags instead of buying bubble wrap or foam.
  • Donate them to local food banks, used book stores, thrift stores and libraries so they don’t have to buy their own.

Check out these other ideas to reuse plastic bags.

Repurpose

This jump rope is made from plastic bags!

If you are feeling crafty, there are some other options for repurposing bags. Did you know? Plastic shopping bags can be made into fabric and “plarn” (a ball of plastic bag strips used as yarn for knitting or crocheting) to jump ropes and shoes! It seems the possibilities are endless!

So next time you are wondering what to do with the plastic shopping bags you have in your house, take a minute before throwing it in the garbage and try to think of a way to reuse or repurpose the bag. Get creative!

Are there any neat ways you reuse or recycle your plastic bags?

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Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Canadian Diabetes Association

Part of a new 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 !

Diabetes Foundation - Clothesline LogoMany of us have heard about the Canadian Diabetes Association, and may have a broad idea of some of the great work they do, including its national  Clothesline Program.

I sat down with Dean Evans, Operations Manager of the Canadian Diabetes Association Clothesline Program in Hamilton, as well as Lucy Florio, Public Programs and Services Coordinator, to discuss how the Clothesline program helps fund the great initiatives of the Canadian Diabetes Association.

LP: Tell me a bit about the Canadian Diabetes Association.

LF: The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) was founded in 1953 by Dr. Charles Best. Dr. Charles Best was a partner of Dr. Banting, and together they discovered insulin.  Dr. Best’s vision was to help people with diabetes lead a healthy life until a cure is found. This community-based program advocates for people with diabetes, and provides a number of great programs and services for both adults and children living with diabetes.

In 2013, it seems that every person in Canada has been affected by diabetes — whether through personal diagnosis or that of a friend or loved one. What is great about the Association is that everyone working here understands the disease through personal experience — we have both seen the challenges and struggles of the disease, and it gives us the motivation to come to work and drive change to help those living with diabetes in our community.

LP: Aside from the leading research that is conducted through the Canadian Diabetes Association, in what ways does the CDA support the local community?

LF: CDA advocates for people with diabetes and helps support 3 million Canadians living with diabetes. We have a number of public education initiatives throughout, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, and Brantford, with over 1,000 people attending our presentations annually. Through our resource centres, residents have access to free education material that covers issues such as diabetes risk reduction, cholesterol, and making diabetic-friendly choices while dining out. It is so important to the CDA that we educate as many people as we can to help them lead healthy lives.

One of our biggest community programs that we run is our D-Camp. We are proud to be the only national program to offer a camp that caters to the needs of children and youth living with diabetes. It can be challenging for children to meet others their age who understand the struggles of testing blood glucose levels, counting carbs, or priming a needle for injection. This camp not only allows children and youth living with diabetes to engage in exciting outdoor activities, but it also allows them to feel empowered when coping with their diagnosis.

LP: Can you tell me about the Diabetes Clothesline program? When did it start?

CLOTHESLINE(R) - Clothesline® gives chance to win getawayDE: The Diabetes Clothesline program started nationwide in 1985. We have bins across Canada for residents to drop off donations. Residents can also call to arrange for free household pickups.

Over the past 28 years, the program has diverted more than 46 million kilograms from landfills in Canada! This has saved 8.2 million trees and 15,000 000 kg of C02 emissions.

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

DE: We accept clothing, linens, shoes, toys, books, small appliances, kitchenware, and small electronics.

LP: How are the materials processed?

DE: The Diabetes Clothesline program partners exclusively with Value Village to sell all of the materials donated.

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

DE: Yes, unfortunately we sometimes do receive materials that cannot be reused through the Clothesline program. We do our best to communicate with residents through advertisements about the materials that we accept; however sometimes unacceptable materials are left at our donation bins. In these cases, we have to remove the materials, which can be a hefty cost for us. It is sad because this removal takes money away from our community programs.

LP: How does the Diabetes Clothesline program benefit the Canadian Diabetes Association?

DE: 100% of the net proceeds go directly to support the research, education, camp, and advocacy initiatives of the Canadian Diabetes Association — so the Clothesline program makes a tremendous difference in the work that we can do for the community.

LP: In what ways can residents get involved or contribute to Canadian Diabetes Association?

LF: Residents who are looking to donate any of the materials that we accept through the Diabetes Clothesline program, can drop materials off at one of our red donation bins or call 1-800-505-5525 to schedule a free at home pick-up.

Residents can also visit our website to learn more about this disease, as well as our contributions to leading research which will hopefully find a cure. We have countless volunteer opportunities for those who are looking to get involved. For more information, please call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464)

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Trees and recycling – connect to National Tree Day

Trees and recycling have a long history together. With National Tree Day coming up on September 25, 2013, let’s have a look at how trees, paper and recycling are connected.

In Canada, we are fortunate to have a vast supply of natural resources in trees and forests. Around the 1840s, after it was discovered how to make paper from wood fibers, the Canadian pulp and paper industry began.

In the early 1900s, due to a fear of deforestation, American manufacturers developed a way to remove ink from old newspapers and turn the newspapers into cardboard and pasteboard. This was the first effort to recycle paper made from wood.

For almost 100 years now, we have had the ability to recycle paper and it is widely known that recycling paper helps to reduce the amount of material going into our landfills while conserving Canada’s precious natural resources!

Bales of paper ready to be recycled.

Bales of paper ready to go to a paper mill to be recycled.

Acceptable paper placed in your Blue Box is sorted into different categories at the materials recovery facility, baled and sent to a paper mill. Once the paper products reach the mill, it must be pulped to prepare the fibers for recycling. Most recycling mills use a de-inking process in order to remove the inks and contaminants such as labels, glue, plastic windows, paper clips and other materials. When this is completed, the clean, usable paper fibers are sent to the pulping machine to be made into new paper products, while the excess materials are skimmed off and recycled, burned for fuel, or landfilled.

makeyourownpaper

Students made this recycled paper at Crescent Nursery School, Oakville.

Recycling paper can actually be done at home as well. Try this recipe from the Recycling Council of Ontario and make your very own recycled paper!

So what are the benefits of recycling paper and what does recycling have to do with National Tree Day? Paper industry representatives have estimated that one tonne of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees. That same tonne of recycled paper can also save 3 cubic meters of landfill space, which is increasingly important as many local landfills near their capacity. Other benefits of recycling paper include that it produces 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution than making paper from virgin wood pulp. Do you get a newspaper delivered to your house every day?  Just one pound of newspaper can be recycled to make 6 cereal boxes, 6 egg cartons or 2,000 sheets of writing paper.

It’s clear that recycling paper saves resources. Most people understand trees are important to conserve, but do you know how much trees actually do?

Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife. Root systems help to reduce water run-off and soil erosion which helps keep local waterways clean. Something we tend to forget is that trees can improve urban areas, where most of us live and work. Through windbreak, trees can reduce residential heating costs by up to 10-15%. They also filter the air by producing oxygen and absorbing carbon monoxide and other pollutants. As well, a healthy tree can reduce air borne dust particles by as much as 7,000 particles per litre of air, acting like a free standing air conditioner and purifier.

The connection between recycling and trees is beneficial.  Paper recycling helps preserve trees and forest resources so that we can enjoy all the benefits they provide to us and the environment.

In Halton, we are lucky to have access to many trees and forests, from local parks and wood lots, Conservation Halton and Credit Valley Conservation parks, to Halton Region’s forest tracts.

Grade 6 and 7 students can also take part in the Halton Forest Festival; there’s also a public day on October 19, 2013 — everyone’s invited to hike through the forest and learn a little about what makes trees so important and special.

National Tree Day  takes place on September 25, during National Forest Week, and is a great chance for all Canadians to celebrate trees. Find an event to attend in your neighbourhood or register for your own and connect with nature!

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Meal planning = less stress and less waste!

Smiling family cooking togetherNow that summer’s over, I am back to work and the kids are back in school.

I am faced with my new reality of less time and more commitments.  Gone are the days of deciding what to feed my family based on what I was craving that day — which is how many of my days went while I was staying home with my family for the last year.

While I planned ahead for the basics and had a few meals in mind prior to my weekly grocery shopping trip, the reality was that I had more time to cook meals in between maintaining the home, playing with the kids and making it to their various lessons.  That‘s now over.  Now I have to add in my full-time job and all that goes with it.  Life has just gotten really busy.

Meal planning isn’t new to me, but I’m a bit out of practice.  With a little bit of effort I will be back on track.

I find meal planning helps to save money and time, lessen my stress, and also ensures I am feeding my family a balanced diet. Just as important, planning ahead reduces leftovers and wasted food.  My goal is to feed my family, not the GreenCart!

Here are some simple tips to making meal planning easier:

  1. Make a list of meals that your family enjoys and include your family in the discussion.
    Include a list for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks.  If you find that your list is a little lacking in content, try adding in a few meals that you haven’t tried in a while or recipes from a magazine or website.  I tend to keep this list around for when I run out of ideas and I add new meal ideas as they come up. 
  2. Make a plan for the week.
    I find it difficult to plan more than a week in advance because each week is different, and I generally only plan for the weekdays — you need to have some spontaneity in life. I look at my week, see our commitments, look at what is on sale and try to pick meals that are quick and build on each other.  I sometimes feel that it is like a giant puzzle. I hate feeding the GreenCart, so I try to use ingredients for multiple meals and use the leftovers from one meal in another or use them for lunch the next day.
  3. Involve your family.
    I have small kids, and although they are pretty good eaters, they do not all like everything I put in front of them (although ketchup apparently makes almost anything taste better — sigh). I find it reduces my stress levels to make sure there is something on their plates they will eat (we tend to eat a lot of broccoli — it could be worse). I also refuse to make separate meals.
     
  4. Make your grocery list according to your meals.
    I find making a list helps me to save money and create less waste. I go through each meal and figure out what I need, check what I have on hand (including stuff I may have frozen for future use such as sauce, meats and veggies). I make sure I have all the basics, a “just in case meal” and only buy what’s on my list. A list also helps me to ensure I am feeding my family a healthy diet and resisting those impulse purchases. 
  5. Follow your plan!
    This is easier said than done sometimes. There will always be days when things don’t go as planned — that is where “my just in case meal” that can be prepared in 15 minutes comes in handy (mine tends to be pasta of some sort). 

I have found there are some things that make it easier to follow the plan:

  • Have frozen veggies in the freezer.
  • Find short cuts like making meals or part of meals ahead of time and freeze them (but be mindful of actually using the frozen food before it becomes a GreenCart sacrifice).
  • Don’t go too far outside your family’s comfort zone during the week.  I tend to do that more on weekends.
  • Include kids in the experience!

For more great tips and tricks about healthy meal planning, go to www.eatrightontario.ca.

What tips do you have to help plan family meals that minimize stress and food waste?

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WasteAid – working to improve waste management in developing countries

An example of the need for WasteAid. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Community Fund.

An example of the need for WasteAid. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Community Fund.

Imagine waking up in the morning. Instead of making breakfast, you head out into the streets, scavenging through litter and accumulated waste to find food and clothing for your family. You then head to the local dump where you pick through the waste looking for any discarded items that you can reuse or sell.

This is the harsh reality for millions of people around the world.

A recent study indicates there are over 3 billion people worldwide without access to basic waste management services. This figure is projected to grow to over 5 billion by the year 2050!

Despite this, there are only a handful of specialized waste management organizations working in the development and humanitarian sectors.

There is an enormous need for a waste management industry that not only minimizes negative social and environmental impacts, but facilitates employment and business opportunities that can be found in waste.

For a number of years, I have considered the most efficient way to connect the waste management industry in developed nations with developing countries, and how to connect to key development and humanitarian organizations that already exist around the world.

And so, WasteAid was launched.

WasteAid aims to provide technical expertise to communities in developing countries so that community members can develop waste management practices that are socially, environmentally and economically responsible. Through pilot projects, WasteAid will develop best practices that can adopted by other communities experiencing similar challenges. In time, we would also like to develop the ability to deliver environmental advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged communities.

In a few short months, we have established a board made up of exceptional professionals from Canada, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom. Our Council of Reference is growing in numbers, and we have had a number of people and businesses already committing their time and expertise to help establish WasteAid and its programs. This fall, WasteAid will be promoting its projects at various waste management conferences in North America and Europe.

Currently, WasteAid is being incorporated in Canada. We will then incorporate elsewhere to provide us with a broader, international presence.

We are looking for supporters as we incorporate and move towards implementing projects. With your help, we can get WasteAid off the ground. An annual membership includes two newsletters, the opportunity to help us decide which projects are best suited to our help, and the opportunity to be included in a “members only” community. One hundred percent of your donation will be used to start making an impact among some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

So next time you are travelling internationally and you see excessive litter, stockpiles of unwanted waste, and scavenging for basic necessities, ask yourself: does it have to be this way?

With concentrated effort and your support, WasteAid aims to empower communities to manage waste, thereby improving the environment and their lives.

About this guest blogger:

Simon Penney, Guest Blogger

Simon Penney, Guest Blogger

Simon Penney worked initially for the Government of Guernsey in public health and went on to be awarded a Masters of Science in Wastes Management from the University of Sunderland UK as well as becoming professionally qualified as a Chartered Waste Manager (similar to a P. Eng). He has worked for nearly 20 years at local, regional, national and international level in environmental management. He has worked in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe and has travelled to South America. He is currently leading efforts to establish a new international charity to assist poor communities to deal with the impacts of poorly managed wastes. Simon worked in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.  He has been a  fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society in the UK, a Chartered Environmentalist (member of the Chartered Society for the Environment) and he is a Director for the Yukon and BC chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA).

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Movie Review: Trash Dance

Is waste collection an art?

To help make the case, in 2009, Allison Orr of Forklift Danceworks embedded herself with the City of Austin‘s solid waste management department, learning about waste collection procedures, trucks and equipment, and befriending the workers. Using these experiences, she choreographed a 40-minute dance performance using 16 trucks and 24 performers (the waste collectors), which was staged for one night on an abandoned airport runway to thousands of audience members.

This unlikely scenario is the basis of the documentary Trash Dance, which is a fascinating exploration of the creative process and waste management practices. More importantly, Trash Dance brings to life the people who collect waste — telling their stories, and demonstrating their professionalism and pride in their work.

As Don Anderson, a bulk waste collector, states at the start of the film: “This lady’s crazy. How are we going to make trucks dance? Trucks don’t dance.”

It is for this reason that Trash Dance is not only captivating, but also endearing. In just over an hour, you see that trucks and their operators, can indeed dance.

Performers and choreographer take a bow

Trash Dance is heartbreaking, poignant, and exhilarating. In one scene, one worker admits his daughter will one day think her dad’s job as a waste collector is embarrassing. In another, a worker explains the need for a second job to make ends meet. The workers are real and honest and charismatic.

From an artistic viewpoint, it is fascinating to watch Allison choreograph non-dancers and large trucks, while struggling not only with her own artistic doubts, but with concerns imposed by management and the general public.

From a waste management perspective, it’s amazing to see just how automated waste collection is in Austin (compared to Halton where most collection is manual), how the street litter bins are collected, and how most collection takes place during the night.

Some of the most memorable moments of Trash Dance are when workers who initially laugh-off the performance as a “crazy idea,” find ways to meaningfully express themselves, conveying a passion and pride in their work through dance movement.

Don rehearses on crane truck

As Don states: “We’re not just these dirty people that pick up garbage. There’s some grace to what we do. You have to be skilled. You have to know what you’re doing. We all are professionals.”

And when you watch Don as he sits atop his crane truck, listening deeply to a classical score, making his truck dance — you can see the skill, you can see the professionalism. You can see the grace.

Trash Dance makes waste collection art.

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Halton Region’s $2 Garbage Tag Program

By recycling and composting more, you’ll have less garbage.

In Halton Region, you may place out three garbage bags/cans or less at the curb every other week. More than three garbage bags/cans require a “garbage tag,” up to a total of six garbage bags/cans maximum (three untagged, three tagged).

If you require garbage tags, you can begin using the $2 garbage tags on September 9, 2013.

Garbage tags can be purchased online or at select retail locations and municipal buildings.

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Happy New Year! It’s back to school

Today, students, teachers, custodians and administrators of the Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Provincial Schools BranchConseil scolaire Viamonde, and Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud start a new school year.

Back to School (iStock13836097)Halton Region has great partnerships with the publicly-funded schools in Halton. IN fact, all publicly-funded schools in Halton participate in Blue Box and GreenCart programs, which reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfill. In addition, many schools implement boomerang or waste-free lunches to further minimize waste. In 2011, the Halton District School Board reduced its garbage by 100 tonnes!

Did you know? Halton Region was the first municipality in Ontario to have all its publicly-funded schools participate in the GreenCart program! Halton’s GreenCart school program was recognized by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education & Communication with an Award of Excellence in Environmental Education.

Schools can order promotional materials like posters and stickers to remind students and teachers what’s accepted in Blue Boxes, GreenCarts and garbage. An informal committee of teachers, custodians and school board officials helped to design the new acceptable materials posters.

P1000248To help educate students and staff about recycling and composting, Halton Region provides in-school waste diversion workshops. Since 2006, Halton has delivered over 1,200 educational workshops to over 150,000 students! Halton’s school education program has been recognized by the Recycling Council of Ontario with a Gold Ontario Waste Minimization Award.

Many schools extend their environmental education programs and participate in tours of the Halton Waste Management Site. Students are always amazed to see where their garbage goes.

We love to learn from students and teachers too! Elementary students, secondary students and teachers have written guest posts for this blog about ways they are working to protect our environment. We’d love to hear from your school too!

We hope this school year is fantastic and… green.

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Summer fades into autumn

As summer fades in autumn, I’m reminded how the change of season also changes my family’s waste management practices.

Around the house, it’s time to locate our reusable lunch bag, thermos, containers and cutlery in preparation for packing waste-free lunches for school. Last season’s clothes are tried on again. Those that don’t  fit anyone are donated to a local reuse centre.

We clean out the garage of empty camping propane cylinders, leftover paints and unfinished fertilizers, and drop them off at Halton Region’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot.

The stakes supporting our green beans are actually sunflower stalks that we dried over the winter.

For our garden, this is the time of last harvests. This year, our cauliflower, green beans and raspberries did amazingly well, while our tomatoes and blueberries struggled a bit. We’re roasting sunflower seeds from the garden, and will later cut down some of the sunflower stalks, dry them in the garage over the winter, and use them as gardening stakes next spring.

There are more leaves to rake and put out for yard waste collection. Outdoor decorations turn from flowers to decorative cornstalks and straw bales (which can also be composted).

It’s also the time of year to visit The Ex and Halton’s three fall fairs: Acton, Georgetown and Milton. I honestly love checking out the “best in show” vegetables and baked goods, and enjoy the crafts made from recycled items. I also wonder what will happen to all those stuffed animals won at the midways. Will they be loved for a long time? Or will they be discarded quickly?

What are some of the ways the change in season impacts your family’s waste? I’d love to hear from you.

See you out there, raking the leaves.

Posted in Compost, Green Living, Household Hazardous Waste, Reuse | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back to school… back to green

What can you do to help make this new school year green?

What can you do to help make this new school year green?

For anyone involved in education, that feeling that creeps into your stomach as August fades away cannot be ignored. While September can bring anxiety over the uncertainties of new classes, new teachers, and a new school year, it also brings with it a wave of energy, new beginnings, and great potential.

This September, I will embark on an exciting journey of my own. I will be teaching at a brand new elementary school for almost 800 students in the rapidly growing Town of Milton. This journey will undoubtedly bring its share of challenges and growing pains as we work to bring hundreds of families together to create a true community.

However, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of promise and potential. As we build a school culture from scratch, we have the opportunity to embed the principle of sustainability into all that we do. A chance to set the bar high in terms of our environmental expectations; a chance to set the bar low in terms of our ecological footprint.

So, as we plan for our new “green” community, I am reminded that there are many things that all students and families can do this year to help keep their own schools “green.” Most eco-friendly actions require only a simple shift in behaviour.

Tips For An Eco-Friendly Back to School

Reusable Water Bottles: Avoid all of the wasteful plastic and pollution that is created from single use plastic water bottles. The tap water in our schools is safe, tasty, and free! Help us turn our “throw-away” culture into a culture of conservation.

Active & Safe Routes to School: If you live close enough, consider allowing your child to walk or ride a bike to and from school. Practice the route with younger students, or arrange for a group of students to travel to school together. Help us reduce air pollution and keep our students healthy and active.

Swap, Don’t Shop: Back to school time creates mass consumer consumption. But does it have to be this way? Consider setting up a “swap” of school supplies, backpacks, kids clothing, etc. with friends and neighbours. Or visit your local reuse centre where you’ll find great items, save money, and reuse materials. Your teens will tell you the vintage look is “in” any way! Help us reduce our global footprint by cutting back consumption.

Waste-Free Lunches: Pack lunches and snacks into re-usable containers (or, teach your child how to do this). Our schools are doing an amazing job at diverting waste through our Blue Box and GreenCart systems, however, there is still a lot of plastic waste produced from snack foods. Help us reduce our waste.

Paper Usage: Consider implementing a “GOOS” (Good On One Side) bin in your home  to ensure that paper is used on both sides. Check notebooks from last year to see if they contain empty pages and can be used again this year. Help us save trees.

Idle Free Zone: If you will be driving your child to and from school, please keep in mind that idling cars are harmful to the lungs of our students and our planet. Please turn off your car while waiting. Help us keep our air clean.

Your efforts do not go unnoticed. When we all make these slight shifts in our behaviour, the cumulative effect is profound. Thank you for your help and happy back to school!

About this guest blogger:

Erin Walsh, Guest Blogger

Erin Walsh, Guest Blogger

Erin Walsh is an intermediate teacher with the Halton District School Board. She works to engage her students and to create a sense of community through building organic school food gardens. Follow her on Twitter.

Posted in Green Living, Schools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Breast Cancer Support Services

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

Reuse centres provide many positive benefits to our community: they create jobs, provide affordable shopping, and divert waste from out landfill. Many reuse centres are registered charities, and support many great initiatives to assist with community development.

In 2012, over 3,300 tonnes of material was donated by the residents of Halton Region to local reuse centres. This equates to over 7.2 million pounds of donated material! While a lot of us donate materials to these reuse centres, approximately 7% of the material found in the garbage in Halton is textiles (clothing, bedding, etc). So there’s potential to reuse even more!

In this post, we visit Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS), which is supported by a reuse organization.

Staff of Breast Cancer Support Services

Staff of Breast Cancer Support Services

I had the pleasure of speaking with Blair Lancaster, who serves not only as a Regional Councillor, but is also the Executive Director of BCSS and has been involved with the organization for 20 years. When I visited the centre at 695 Brant Street in Burlington, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found: the inside of the building resembles a comfortable family home. When Blair greeted me at the entrance, she brought me on a tour of the lovely facility and informed me of the history of the organization and the amazing services that are offered for women fighting cancer in our community. After the tour, we sat down at a large, comfortable kitchen table and began discussing the organization and its commitment to helping others.

LP: Tell me a bit about Breast Cancer Support Services

BL: Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS) began 25 years ago with two women who met in a breast cancer screening clinic many years ago and felt lost, confused, scared, and without answers. They began to meet regularly at each other’s homes, where they sat at the kitchen table sipping tea and discussing their newly diagnosed conditions and offered support to one another. Eventually, their meetings grew and welcomed more women, creating one of the first support groups for women fighting breast cancer.

In 2002, the current centre was established and today women can drop into the centre to speak with volunteers about their diagnosis, whether it is to get more information or find an understanding shoulder to cry on. Some women see our centre as a safe haven where they can spend time alone to reflect. We offer our comforting serenity garden to all of our visitors to sit in on their own, or meet with others.

Aside from getting information about breast cancer (and more recently, gynecological cancers), BCSS offers a number of services to women living with cancer, free of charge. Women can come and attend free yoga classes, receive acupuncture, reflexology, or reiki  treatment.

A mastectomy kit provided by Breast Cancer Support Services

A mastectomy kit provided by Breast Cancer Support Services

We also offer a number of support groups for women going through breast cancer treatment, as well as for their families and friends. We feel it is so important to provide a non-threatening, comfortable environment for women to learn more about their diagnosis, connect with other women who are fighting or have survived, and find a positive outlet for channeling energy.

LP: How many people utilize BCSS annually?

BL: In 2012, 250 support groups were held for breast cancer patients and their families; 800 support calls were received; 680 Holistic Therapy sessions were held; 290 prosthetics and 350 bras, bathing suits, etc were given to survivors, and over 800 participants attended our Breast Health Workshops.

Each year, hundreds of comfort kits are prepared and distributed for mastectomy and chemotherapy patients, which provide information and special products to make the side effects of treatment easier to deal with. Scarves were donated and chemo caps were knit by volunteers for women to pick up to keep their heads covered and warm. These services could not be provided without the 2200 hours dedicated from our program volunteers and the donations received from our numerous supporters.

LP: When did the reuse program start?

BL: In 2001, after struggling to find financial resources to maintain and enhance our current programs, we met “our Angel,” Paul DeKort, who is the CEO of Clothing for Charity Ltd. After meeting with him and educating him on the initiatives and goals of BCSS, Paul offered to make BCSS a partner, and made a generous donation of a new centre to house BCSS’ operations on Brant Street! Our “green donation bins” can be found throughout Halton Region where residents can donate gently used clothing. While we do have several supporters, the assistance provided by Clothing for Charity has enabled us to expand our program and strengthen our resources to assist women fighting breast cancer, as well as their families and friends.

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

BL: Clothing, paired shoes, towels, sheets, and blankets can be donated.

LP: How are the materials processed?

BL: There’s a great video to show you how Clothing for Charity receives and processes donations!

LP: How does the clothing reuse program benefit BCSS?

The serenity garden at Breast Cancer Support Services

The serenity garden at Breast Cancer Support Services

The reuse program benefits BCSS in countless ways. As I mentioned, our partnership with Clothing for Charity is the reason we have this comfortable home to use as the headquarters for our support centre. It also helped significantly increase our budget to keep our services running. As previously mentioned, we now provide resources for women with gynecological cancers, and we’re hoping in the future to expand our services to include resources for Halton residents fighting prostate cancer as well (an important initiative for BCSS as all three of those cancers can derive from the same gene.

The program also allows us to raise awareness in the community about the importance of breast health and regular screening. In partnership with Clothing for Charity, we donated $100,000 to have a new mammography suite installed at Joseph Brant Hospital.

The financial assistance that we receive from all of our donors, including Clothing for Charity, allows us to continue to expand our programs and resources for cancer patients and keep them free of charge.

LP: In what way can residents get involved with BCSS or help out?

BL: Residents can continue to donate — both clothes through our partnership with Clothing for Charity, or financial donations to BCSS directly. We are always looking for volunteers to help cover all of the shifts to service our visitors. Lastly, those passionate about contributing to BCSS can hold an event to raise awareness and funds for our organization.

Breast Cancer Support Services is just one example of how the efforts of Halton residents are benefitting the community while diverting reusable materials from the landfill.

Stay tuned throughout the year to learn more about the other charitable reuse centres and the ways your contributions can make a difference.

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One of the most selfish acts in the world… illegal dumping

IllegalDumpingIn my opinion, illegal dumping is one of the most selfish and self-centred acts anyone can commit.

Think about it for a moment.

A resident or a business feels it is okay to fill their personal or commercial vehicle with garbage, drive to a random location (often under the cover of night), and then dump their garbage on someone else’s property, with no consideration of how it impacts others or the environment.

Illegally dumping garbage in a park or street litter bin results in messy neighbourhoods and unnecessary litter.

If garbage is illegally dumped in a school’s dumpster, the school board — which pays for garbage collection and disposal — has to spend money intended for educational purposes (books, equipment, etc.) and use it to dispose of someone else’s garbage.

And illegally dumping in rural areas not only destroys natural beauty, but it negatively impacts local ecology and farms, and harms biodiversity.

When you consider that many illegally dumped items, including metal and appliancestires and electronics, can be recycled free of charge, there’s really no excuse. Even construction and demolition debris, including shingles, can be recycled! Often, contents of illegally dumped garbage includes acceptable Blue Box material. If you use your Blue Box and GreenCart, you’ll have less garbage.

When Halton Region reduced its garbage limit and introduced garbage tags in April 2013, there was a concern that illegal dumping could increase. Luckily, this has not been the case.  Reports of illegal dumping has not changed from the previous year.

If you see any instances of illegal dumping, please access Halton by dialing 311. If you are able to safely get a photo of the offender’s license plate, that helps Halton and Local Municipal staff follow up with the offenders.

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Reuse Centres in Halton Region: Burlington Humane Society

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

Reuse centres provide many positive benefits to our community: they create jobs, provide affordable shopping, and divert waste from out landfill. Many reuse centres are registered charities, and support many great initiatives to assist with community development.

In 2012, over 3,300 tonnes of material was donated by the residents of Halton Region to local reuse centres. This equates to over 7.2 million pounds of donated material! While a lot of us donate materials to these reuse centres, approximately 7% of the material found in the garbage in Halton is textiles (clothing, bedding, etc). So there’s potential to reuse even more!

Burlington Humane Society - buildingI recently met with Adrienne Gosse, Shelter Manager of the Burlington Humane Society  to discuss The Attic and The Loft, two thrift stores owned and managed by the Burlington Humane Society.

When I visited the Burlington Humane Society at 740 Griffith Court, I was welcomed into the bright facility by friendly volunteers and Smokey, a happy long-term feline resident at the Humane Society who is looking for a home.

While touring the facility, Adrienne enlightened me about Society’s operations, including one very important fact that I was personally pleased to hear: Burlington Humane Society is a “no kill” shelter and does not euthanize healthy, adoptable animals.

After a quick tour, we sat down to discuss the history and values of the Burlington Humane Society, as well as their reuse program and how it benefits their operations.

LP: Tell me a bit about the Burlington Humane Society.

AG: The Burlington Humane Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding stray and surrendered animals a loving home. Our organization started in 1974. Residents in Burlington became concerned about the number of stray animals in the city, and these residents came together to form Animal Aid (what the society was originally called). They began by running shelter type activities from their homes to help keep animals off the street and find them loving homes, and with the support of the community, the humane society grew into what it is today.

Thirty-nine years later, the Burlington Humane Society continues to successfully strive to find animals loving homes. We moved to our new location here on Griffith Court five years ago. We can now house 100 to 130 animals (mostly cats), and we are at capacity most of the time. The society runs solely on donations and fundraising, along with the assistance of over 500 volunteers that feed and clean the animals, walk dogs, work as receptionists, maintain the grounds, and run the thrift shops.

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

AG: On average, 700 to 800 animals a year are adopted from the Burlington Humane Society. We are a no-kill shelter for animals, so those cats or dogs that are with us for a while go into our long-term care system.

LP: When did the reuse program start?

AG: The reuse program began in July 1984 with the opening of our first reuse centre, The Attic (located at 479 John Street. The Loft opened five years ago when the Humane Society moved to our new home on Griffith Court, and is a part of the new facility. These stores quickly became our “bread and butter,” so to speak. It is not only a great way to promote reusing and diverting materials from the landfill, but it is a wonderful way to sustain our programs .

As our reuse program expanded, we decided to offer ink cartridge and battery recycling for residents to ensure these products are being recycled safely. It is a part of our environmental initiatives. This building was actually the first geothermal building in Burlington!

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

AG: Our stores kindly accept dishes, cutlery, soft covered books, clothing, housewares, jewelry, and knick knacks. The humane society itself welcomes animal care donations such as food, leashes, toys, and brushes.

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

AG: Yes, we do sometimes receive materials that we cannot resell because it is either too big for our stores or the shops are at capacity. In these cases, we have several partners that we share our donations with as a best effort to keep materials out of the landfill and find them a new home.

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

AG: One hundred per cent of the profits made from The Attic and The Loft thrift stores come back to the Humane Society. These proceeds go towards obtaining medication and vaccinations for all of the animals, providing all of the needs that these animals require, as well as covering the operational costs of running a humane society.

LP: How can residents get involved or help?

AG: We hold a number of fundraising events residents can participate in, including our annual summer bottle drive, Fore the Animals Golf Tournament and ‘RUFF’ ride .We always welcome new volunteers. And, of course, residents who are looking for a pet can always visit our facility where a loving cat or dog is awaiting adoption!

Residents can find more information about our programs and initiatives by visiting our website, Facebook page, or by following us on Twitter.

Help keep cats safe by donating items to the Burlington Humane Society's two reuse centres

Help keep cats safe by donating items to the Burlington Humane Society’s two reuse centres

Burlington Humane Society may operate two small reuse centres, but The Attic and The Loft divert approximately 6,800 kg of material from landfill each year! This is substantial not only for extending the life of Halton’s landfill, but as Adrienne highlighted, provides funding to keep the shelter running successfully.

So if you have items you’d like to donate for reuse, or if your family is seriously considering adopting a cat or dog, be sure to give the Burlington Humane Society and its thrift stores a visit.

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Travelogue: A Journey Through Eastern Canada

Recently, my wife, our dog and I headed out east for a driving vacation through Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

We stayed at private camp grounds, provincial parks, national parks and the odd hotel, and it gave me a chance to see how these locations explained waste management practices to tourists.

OnRoute

A waste sorting station at an Ontario ONRoute service centre.

Leaving from Milton, like many drivers on the 401, we stopped at a few Ontario ONRoute service centres. I do like the ONRoutes — they are bright, clean, and there are lots of food and beverage options. Looking at the waste sorting stations, I’m curious about the caption “plastics, glass and cans.” Glass and cans implies beverage containers. Is “plastics” referring to plastic bottles only, or to all plastics like coffee cup lids or plastic forks? Personally, I find the signage a bit too vague to be effective.

Our first night was at a KOA Camp outside of Montreal. The welcome sheet told us to sort our waste, but with very little details on how to do it properly. It wasn’t until I needed to visit the two dumpsters that I learned what should go in what bin — it was time for a little re-sort.

The next day we drove to De La République Provincial Park in New Brunswick. There was a centralized waste area for recycling beverage containers and for garbage. What was weird is that every other camp site had its own lidded garbage bin. This made garbage disposal more convenient than recycling, so I’m sure a lot of recycling gets thrown away as garbage.

The "wet" and "dry" waste station at Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

The “wet” and “dry” waste station at Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

Our third night was in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick. Upon arriving, staff told me to sort my waste into “wet” and “dry.” Wet was for organics, and dry was for recycling. I asked what to do with the garbage. After a weird look, I was told it depends — either wet or dry. Our dinner that night was a dehydrated pouch meal, and I know those multi-material pouches are not recyclable, so I don’t really understand how they could be included with the rest of the “dry” recycling. Perhaps a mixed waste processing facility is used to separate the recyclables from the other residual waste?

Notice the organics bin at Tim Hortons in New Brunswick.

Notice the organics bin at Tim Hortons in New Brunswick.

Like true Canadians, we stopped at a number of Tim Hortons along the way. The Canadian Maritimes have been early adopters of municipal composting, and I was amazed to see the Tim Hortons in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, had a bin for organics! I’ve never seen that in Ontario!

When we finally reached Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we stayed in a hotel. Our hotel room had a garbage can and recycling bin, but no mention of what was accepted. Breakfast was lovely, even more so because paper plates and bowls were used, with very clear signage to put them in a bin for composting. That was a first for me — a hotel that composts!

The waste sorting station at PEI National Park, Prince Edward Island.

The waste sorting station at PEI National Park, Prince Edward Island.

When in Prince Edward Island, of course we had to visit Green Gables Heritage Place and PEI National Park. Green Gables used rustic wooden barrels to collect recycling, organics and garbage. The waste sorting station at PEI National Park were very accessible and easy to find. Signage helped identify how to sort waste properly. Considering PEI has so many international visitors, I wonder if it would be more clear if photos of waste items were used on the signs as opposed to English and French words. And while egg cartons may be found in a camp ground, they’re not likely to be found on the beach — so including that information on the beach poster wasn’t helpful.

The waste "shack" at Mount Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick.

The waste “shack” at Mount Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick.

After two days on the island, we headed back to New Brunswick and camped at Mount Carleton Provincial Park. Besides being the province’s largest provincial park — and home to the province’s tallest mountain — it is now one of my favourite parks. It is simply beautiful and woodsy. Scattered throughout the campground were “shacks” for waste. There wasn’t any signage to tell you what to put into the bin inside the shack, and I’m guessing, based on the holed lid, the metal bin outside was for recycling beverage containers. The nearest park staff were about 10 km away, so driving back to ask them wasn’t really an option.

The next day took us to Quebec City, Quebec. We stayed in a lovely hotel (again, no signage about what was accepted in the room’s recycling and garbage bins), and toured the city. In the newer and old part of the city were stand-alone litter bins. Public space recycling is always extremely difficult — the fact is tourists are concentrated on looking at buildings and art and people, they aren’t focused on sorting waste properly. In the summer, Quebec City is bursting with international tourists, so language also presents a barrier to waste sorting. I suspect too, it would be difficult to find appropriate bins to blend into the old-world charm of the old city.

Our dog loves camping!

Our dog loves camping!

This was a great vacation. We met interesting people, hiked along waterfalls, beaches, forests and haunted woods. We saw moose, deer, foxes, hawks, and brook trout jumping up-stream.  We did our best to “leave no trace” and to make good waste diversion choices throughout our trip.

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The Green Fence Policy – China tightens restrictions at its boarders

About five months ago, there was a bit of a hiccup in the world-wide recycling industry: China implemented what is known as “The Green Fence Policy.”

This policy has resulted in more rigorous scrutiny of all recyclable material coming into China — everything from paper to metals to plastics — which arrive in shipping containers from North America and Europe. China is now rejecting any shipments considered to have a contamination rate (items that cannot be recycled) of 1.5% or higher, and at a very hefty price. Rejected shipments travel back to North America or Europe, and are estimated to cost $10,000 to $18,000 per container!

Since many of our consumer goods are manufactured in China, a huge percentage of the world’s recycling market is in China.

Here is how the system works.

The material collected from your Blue Box is sent to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where materials are sorted and baled. These bales of recycling materials, whether they are bales of aluminum cans or newspaper, are considered a commodity and are sold to market to be turned into new materials.

Baled Aluminum Cans

Baled aluminum cans

The recycling market, just like any other market, consists of the buying and selling of commodities, with rates fluctuating on a monthly basis, depending on basic supply and demand and the overall market economy.

For example, due to the worldwide economic downturn in 2008/2009, less products were being manufactured, so less recyclable material was needed. This caused the average basket of goods (a common group of recyclable materials) price per tonne to drop. The basket of goods price per tonne has since increased.

Over a decade ago, China opened its doors to the world with an enthusiastic desire for recyclable materials, especially metals, plastics and paper fibre. This desire resulted in China receiving 93% of the plastic material shipped worldwide, thereby becoming the dominant market. As with the majority of various industries, China has the means to do it cheaper, so that’s where the business goes. This strong desire for recyclable material resulted in the Chinese industry being a little lax about the quality of materials coming into the country — they just wanted it all!

Chinese Customs inspecting mixed paper

Chinese Customs inspecting mixed paper

By shutting its doors and restricting the flow of imported recyclables, the enforcement of the Green Fence Policy quality regulations could bring about a number of consequences:

  • Redirection of recyclables into other markets, which could potentially drive down commodity prices around the world.
  • Processors being forced to diversify into more domestic and North American markets, as well as look for opportunities in India and Malaysia.

More positive impacts to China’s new policy may include:

  • Decreasing the amount of contaminated materials available to China’s recycling “black market,” which has historically recycled materials with little regard for human or environmental health, thereby driving these illegal, unofficial-type processors out of business.
  • Increasing China’s use of modern recycling facilities and boosting China’s overall environmental performance.
  • Setting new international standards for acceptable contamination levels — which translates into cleaner materials required worldwide and more enforcement of proper sorting at the curb, as well as increased sorting technologies in the MRFs.

Halton Region’s MRF is operated by Emterra Environmental, which has long demonstrated its ability to effectively sort and market recyclable materials, applying strict quality controls to ensure commodities can seek the highest price internationally.

On the home front, we need you to sort your waste properly, ensuring you only place acceptable recycling materials in your Blue Box. If you reduce or stop Blue Box contamination at home, the MRF has less unacceptable waste to sort out, meaning the recycling bales are even cleaner and easier to market.

While we wait in anticipation to see the long term impacts of the Green Fence Policy, efforts are underway to re-establish domestic markets so as to not rely on one dominant market, and to encourage manufacturers to use only packaging that is easily recycled and marketed.

green fence

This begs the question — is the grass greener on the other side of the fence?

Posted in Blue Box, Businesses, Recycle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New waste management legislation proposed for Ontario

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

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

On June 6, 2013, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley, introduced Bill 91 to the Ontario Legislature.

Bill 91 – An Act to establish a new regime for the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste and to repeal the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 — is an attempt to address the stagnant waste diversion rate in Ontario.

Waste management is a complex issue that is affected by all levels of government in Canada. Since the enactment of the Waste Diversion Act in 2002, a number of limitations have been identified that prevents Ontario from being a leader in waste diversion.

Bill 91 will bring five fundamental changes differing from the existing Waste Diversion Act:

  • It will establish a Waste Reduction Authority.
  • 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 recycling.
  • The cost of waste diversion will be placed on the producers of designated products and packaging, and not on the taxpayers.
  • The existing 50% funding cap by producers on municipal Blue Box programs will be removed. 

Waste Reduction Authority

The Waste Reduction Authority will be given powers to ensure producers, the IC&I sector and municipalities are complying with the Waste Reduction Act. The Authority will also set out a new compensation formula for waste diversion between producers and municipalities, with producers expected to pay 100% of “reasonable” costs. Currently, producers pay 50% of the costs to recycle Blue Box materials like paper, glass, plastic and aluminum packaging, with municipalities — you the taxpayer — covering the other 50% of costs. The Authority can identify new and different materials for recycling for example, carpet and mattresses.

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 timelines in how and when the transition would occur.

What does this mean to you?

Consumers will no longer see an “eco-fee” added to products like tires or electronics being purchased at a store. Instead, the cost of recycling that product will be placed on the producer, who would incorporate the cost of recycling the product into the final advertised sale price. This will spur competitiveness between producers to reduce their costs in recycling their products.

Consumers should have more opportunities to recycle more. Not only is Blue Box recycling being promoted in the IC&I sector, but new recycling programs for items like cars, mattresses, carpet, etc., could be mandated.

Have your say on how Ontario manages its waste.  Both the Waste Reduction Act and Waste Reduction Strategy are available for public comments until September 4, 2013 on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry.

What’s next?

Bill 91 has had its first reading in Ontario’s Legislature. The public consultation process ends on September 4, 2013. Comments and feedback will be incorporated into an updated version of the Bill, which would have its second reading in fall 2013.  A third reading is required before it gets Royal Assent and the Bill becomes passed into law. There is no definitive time in which a Bill will go through the various stages of reading or if it even receives Royal Assent. Once the Bill becomes an Act, there could be a delay before the Act comes to force and effect.

Currently, there is a minority government in Ontario. Should the government fall and an election be called, this process would cease. A new government could continue the process, or start fresh on their own legislation.

Posted in Blue Box, Businesses, Houses, Product Stewardship, Recycle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Visiting the Halton Waste Management Site during the summer

The Halton Waste Management Site (HWMS) can be extremely busy during the summer. Here’s a few helpful tips and reminders to make your next visit simple and easy.

Welcome to the Scalehouse! Halton Region staff are ready to help at the Halton Waste Management Site

Welcome to the Scalehouse! Halton Region staff are ready to help at the Halton Waste Management Site

Check your Waste Management Guide and Collection Calendar for materials that are collected from the curb free of charge like bulk waste or yard waste. There are fees to drop off these items at the HWMS. In addition, metal and appliances are collected at the curb by appointment, free of charge. Dial 311 to schedule your pick up. If you bring metal and appliances to the HWMS, there’s a fee to drop them off.

When packing your vehicle with waste materials, be sure to keep materials somewhat separated, as you’ll have to separate materials when you get to the HWMS. For example, don’t put garbage bags on top off household hazardous waste, because household hazardous waste is the first thing you’ll drop off.

Most vehicles will go to the Scalehouse, where we’ll figure out what you’re dropping off and if a charge is required. Follow these tips to make your Scalehouse visit a successful one:

  • Drive onto the scale slowly and safely when the light is green.
  • If the light is red, don’t drive on to the scale. Be patient.
  • Make sure your front license plate can be seen by the operator.
  • Have your cash, debit, Visa or Mastercard ready to avoid creating line ups.
  • Stop at the operator’s window and roll down your window — remain in your vehicle.
  • Advise the operator of the type of waste materials you are dropping off and where they came from (a home, a business, etc.). 

Let the Scalehouse operator know if you are dropping off electronics, Blue Box recycling, GreenCart organics, tires, eye glasses, and natural corks because they are accepted free of charge, and if the operator doesn’t know, you could end up paying a fee for the drop off.  Also let the operator know if you have any concrete, asphalt, brick or soil. That way the operator will know to charge you the appropriate fee.

If the operator determines that you have less than 50 kg or less than 150 kg of waste, they’ll take your payment right there, and then you’ll drive to the designated area to drop off your material. If you are not sure where to go, ask for clarification before leaving the Scalehouse. Once you’ve dropped off your materials, you are done and can make your way out of the Site.

If your materials likely weigh more than 150 kg, the Scalehouse operator will give you a blue card and direct you to the appropriate area to drop off your materials. Once you’ve unloaded, head back to the Scalehouse. Drive up to the operator’s window and remain in your vehicle. Hand your blue card to the operator. A computerized weigh scale system will calculate your fees. This is based on your vehicle’s inbound weight minus your outbound weight — the difference in weight is how much you dropped off. Cash, debit, Visa or Mastercard payments are all accepted.

While at the Scalehouse, you can also pick up a:

Keep in mind the Halton Waste Management Site is open Monday to Saturday,  8 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. The Site is typically the busiest on Mondays and Saturdays; to avoid longer line ups, schedule your visit accordingly.

About this guest blogger:

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

Sanida Aljic, Guest Blogger

I’m Sanida Aljic and I’m the Waste Management District Works Clerk for Halton Region. I provide administrative support services for operations at the Halton Waste Management Site. Fortunately, 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.

Posted in Landfill, Recycle | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s the deal with “compostable” packaging?

The manufacturer wants you to take this apart - the cardboard tub going in the GreenCart, the plastic lid going in the Blue Box, and the pouch going in the garbage. The stickers are garbage too.

The manufacturer wants you to take this apart – the cardboard tub going in the GreenCart, the plastic lid going in the Blue Box, and the pouch going in the garbage. Even though they aren’t mentioned, the label stickers are garbage too.

Packaging is a huge business. Corporations spend millions of dollars annually to ensure their packaging choices are eye-catching, memorable, and easy to use — all in the effort to ensure consumers (you) buy their product.

In recent years, many corporations have introduced new packaging or made modifications to their existing packaging — ultimately to save themselves money, but with an added bonus of providing some form of environmental benefit. Some corporations are using smaller cardboard boxes for items like cereal (reducing paper costs). Others are switching from glass to plastic packaging; the plastic being lighter and therefore less expensive to transport. The weight of plastic water bottles has decreased by over 30% in the past decade — saving manufacturing and transportation costs.

At the moment in Ontario, stewards — the corporations that manufacture or import papers and packaging — pay 50% of the net costs of operating the residential Blue Box program (municipalities fund the other 50%). Stewards producing packaging not accepted in the Blue Box must still pay fees.

We are now seeing packaging that’s supposed to be composted instead of recycled. It’s an unusual switch as stewards are paying for the packaging to be recycled, but don’t want it recycled. In addition, most of this supposedly “compostable” packaging hasn’t been tested in Canadian municipal composting facilities before being introduced into the marketplace.

One corporation introduced a crinkly chip bag with claims it could be composted and launched a campaign to promote this great innovation to consumers. When municipalities were finally provided samples to test in their composting facilities, the chip bags were found not to break down at all in the facilities’ composting process. Thankfully, these bags were removed from store shelves.

Another corporation launched a “compostable” gum bottle, again to great fanfare. While the gum bottle is made from pressed boxboard and technically compostable, the gum bottle had label stickers (which don’t compost) and a plastic lid (which doesn’t compost). Most consumers would be unwilling to spend the time necessary to take apart this gum bottle, however the old plastic version of the same gum bottle could easily go in the Blue Box.

This same type of “compostable” packaging is now being used for laundry detergent and protein powder. Labels on the packaging tell the consumer to put the cardboard in their Blue Box or GreenCart, and the inner plastic film liner would be garbage, but there’s no mention of the label stickers or plastic lid. Again, this is a strange packaging choice as the previous plastic laundry detergent bottle and plastic tub could be easily recycled in the Blue Box. And many residents would be unwilling to take it all apart for proper waste sorting.

Many people will ask, “why don’t you just ban certain types of packaging from being made or sold?” It’s a good question. In Ontario, municipalities don’t have the authority to ban items. Banning can be done at the provincial level. However packaging, especially as it relates to Canada’s official languages laws, are within a federal jurisdiction. However, some corporations claim that Canada’s marketplace is too small to dictate terms to their international, global operations.

So ultimately, it all comes down to you, the consumer. Don’t be fooled by claims of compostability. Instead, determine if a package can be easily recycled in the Blue Box, or better yet, be reused.

Posted in Compost, Green Living, Product Stewardship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cups runneth over

The summer season is in full swing — bringing long weekends and warmer temperatures, backyard barbeques and outdoor parties. Entertaining in the summer is fun and, while reusable beverage cups are truly the best option, many find that outdoor entertaining is made easier with the use of disposable beverage cups.

Did you know each disposable cup has a different environmental impact when it comes to waste management? The most common types of disposable cups are paper, plastic, Styrofoam, and PLA plastic.

Examples of paper cups which can go in the GreenCart

Paper cups go in the GreenCart.

Paper cups are actually lined with a thin layer of polyethylene (PET #1) film. This film helps keep hot beverages, like coffee, hot.  Some paper cups have an inner and outer lining of this polyethylene film and are primarily used for cold beverages at fast food restaurants (these cups are commonly referred to as waxed cups).

Paper cups are compostable and go in the GreenCart. Remember, plastic cup lids go in the Blue Box.

Plastic cups go in the Blue Box.

Plastic cups go in the Blue Box.

Clear plastic cups are made entirely from polyethylene plastic (PET #1), while coloured plastic cups are made from polypropylene plastic (PP #5), polystyrene plastic (PS #6), or mixed plastics (Other #7). Plastic cups have become increasingly popular because of iced coffees in fast food restaurants, and pop culture songs.

As of April 2013, plastic cups are accepted in the Blue Box. A new piece of sorting equipment was installed at our materials recovery facility making this possible.

Styrofoam cups go in the garbage.

Styrofoam cups go in the garbage.

Styrofoam cups are made when air is blown into a chemical compound called polystyrene (PS #6). Styrofoam is actually a brand name of a particular type of blown polystyrene. Styrofoam is very challenging to recycle because of how easily it crumbles. There isn’t a stable recycling market for Styrofoam.  So, all Styrofoam goes in the garbage.

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

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

The newest cups available on the market are made from polylactic acid plastic (Other or PLA #7). PLA products are actually made from corn. PLA products claim to be “biodegradable” and “compostable.” While they are made from corn, they have most of the same properties of regular plastic and do not compost in our composting facility. At the same time, because they are made from corn and not petroleum-based plastic, they have a different melting rate than regular plastic cups and cannot be recycled either. PLA cups go in the garbage.

So next time you raise a glass at your summer barbeque, consider buying a cup that can be easily recycled or composted, instead of one that goes in the garbage.

About this guest blogger:

Jacqueline Bryant-Allatt, Guest Blogger

Jacqueline Bryant-Allatt,
Guest Blogger

I’m Jacqueline Bryant-Allatt. I attend the University of Waterloo in a program called Environment and Resource Studies. As part of my co-op, I’m currently working at Halton Region as a Waste Diversion Technician. Most days, you can find me at different townhouse complexes throughout Halton conducting GreenCart and Blue Box participation studies.

Posted in Blue Box, Garbage, Green Living, GreenCart | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Shopping for a new fridge

Fridge (iStock15148158)I recently had to purchase a new fridge after my 30-year-old fridge reached was on its last leg. After hiring an electrician to have the fridge fixed many times, we decided it was cheaper to buy a new fridge. New fridges are also more energy efficient.

While out shopping, the new fridges available for purchase made me realize I’d been living in the Stone Age with my old ice box. Some new fridges have smart computers with television sets and internet access right on the door. Most have stainless steel finishes where fridge magnets will not stick.

What was interesting to see was, no matter the price-point of the fridge, most only had a one-year warranty.  The sales person informed us that all new fridges are controlled by a computer motherboard which can often break.  She stated that if we were lucky, these fridges would last five to seven years.

Besides the high-tech gadgetry available, I had to consider the size of the fridge.  My old fridge had a fairly large freezer/fridge combo with 23.1 cubic litres of capacity.  The new fridges with the same capacity were a lot larger and would not fit in my kitchen.  The only option available was to downsize the capacity of the fridge.  This made me think, do I need such a large fridge?  What is currently in my fridge is a lot of leftovers, take-out containers and the results of my tendency to buy food in bulk.  Considering over 30% of the food we buy ends up being wasted, downsizing the fridge was a good idea, in addition to adopting some of these food saving tips.

When the new fridge arrived at our house, we ended up with a large corrugated cardboard box. In Halton, remember you must cut, bundle and tie your corrugated cardboard into 3 feet x 3 feet x 1 foot bundles. We can’t get the corrugated cardboard into the recycling trucks if you don’t cut the cardboard down.

Now that I had a new fridge, I had to get rid of the old one.  Fridges contain a number of harmful chemicals that are bad for the environment.  They also contain metal, glass and plastic components that can be recycled.  Here in Halton, if you have garbage collection, you can make an appointment for metal and appliance collection free of charge.  You can also drop off appliances at the Halton Waste Management Site. There’s a small cost for each appliance dropped off. In Ontario, most hydro companies also offer fridge recycling programs.

In North America, almost every house has a fridge. Most of these fridges last for a number of years before needing to be replaced. By recycling our old fridges and purchasing durable, well-made new fridges, we can make our environment a better place.

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Fore! Look out, the 2013 RBC Canadian Open is going green!

Mike Weir will be playing at the 2013 RBC Canadian Open

This year, from July 22 to 28, Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville will be hosting the 104th Canadian Open golf tournament. This week long tournament showcases the abilities of over 26 amateur and professional Canadian and international golfers.  It is a spectator event that requires more than 1,500 volunteers, corporate sponsors, and many months of planning.  The entire event will be broadcast worldwide in over 520 million households in 221 countries.

This year, the RBC Canadian Open will be going “green,” promoting various environmental initiatives, including waste diversion, bike valets, water refill stations, and green golf management.

The Canadian Open is a great venue to showcase Halton Region’s ability to provide waste diversion programs.  We were lucky to be a part of the tournament in 2009, and will be building upon our success for this event.  Halton Region will be providing all the necessary tools to divert recycling and organic material.  And have worked with many partners to ensure the event diverts as much material away from landfill as possible.

Halton staff are working with the large catering company which provides food for all the corporate tents and skyboxes, as well as concession stands throughout the course.  The goal is to ensure only acceptable recyclable or compostable material is issued on site to serve food. Staying away from non-recyclable packaging helps decrease the event’s overall waste, and decreases the potential for contamination.  As well, the catering company will reduce their waste by using bulk containers for condiments, and will be donating any leftover food to a local charity.

Every tent, skybox and concession stand will have recycling and composting for proper waste sorting.  Halton staff will be on site during the weeklong event to ensure only acceptable items get placed in the bins and to ensure as much waste is diverted as possible.

The Canadian Open has also focused on transportation.  Working with the Town of Oakville, Golf Canada has increased access to public transit, added green vehicles to their shuttle service, and has even created a bike valet service for attendees.  You can avoid all traffic if you ride your bicycle to the event; not only are you saving on gas emissions, you’ll probably get there faster and you’ll get front row parking for your bike in a designated staffed coral area.

Make sure to bring your reusable water bottle, once you get into the event you will notice water refilling stations throughout the course.  These are free of charge, and a great way to get refreshed and reduce unnecessary waste from plastic water bottles.  If you forget your reusable bottle, the event will be selling ones on site for spectators.

The golf course is getting greener as well with golf course maintenance teams using more environmentally friendly golf green upkeep practices; not only during the event, but all year long.  These new practices include, new top dressings that will extend the intervals between applications, and eliminating chemical fertilizers and replacing with a green option.

And finally, to further decrease the amount of overall waste, the entire event has gone paperless. Brochures, course maps, players list and other traditional paper items are now available online. Golf Canada, the catering company and other various partners are doing their part to make this weeklong event as green as possible.

Halton Region is excited to be doing its part to help increase waste diversion and promote more environmentally friendly practices at special events.

Posted in Compost, Green Living, Recycle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Greening for golf

Did you know the sport of golf and the environmental movement have a long standing relationship?

Some golf courses in the Great Toronto Area are built on closed landfills and other  golf courses are working towards being certified for their environmental programs like GEO or Audubon certified.

Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. In my opinion it is one of the most bipolar sports in the world. There is something Zen-like about being in a relaxed state of mind in order to swing properly, but on the flip side, there is so much frustration when you hit a bad shot.

Every golf season, I lose dozens of balls to natural hazards. There are companies who collect lost golf balls and clean them up to be sold again at a lower price. They are known as recycled balls. Oh the beauty of recycled golf balls — it makes hitting expensive golf balls affordable.

Other companies refurbish golf balls that are damaged. There is only one company that makes truly recycled golf balls in which all components of the ball are made from recycled materials and at its end life it can be recycled into new products.

In 2013, Halton Waste Management Site is operating a pilot program where residents can drop off old golf balls (and tennis balls) for recycling.  The rubber inside is recycled into new products like play surfaces.

Here are some other tips that can make your golfing experiences a little greener:

  • When upgrading your clubs, ask if there is a trade-in program available.  This can help reduce your costs as well as keep usable items out of landfills.
  • Used golf clubs can also be turned into other useful everyday items or even works of art.
  • Used golf equipment can also be donated to sports organizations and charities.
  • Old golf clothing can be donated to a local reuse centre.
  • While on the green, bring a reusable water bottle to keep hydrated.
  • Wear sunscreen. If your sun screen is expired, please bring it to Halton’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot — don’t put it in the garbage.
  • Don’t litter, especially after being visited by the snack/drink cart  Recycle your score cards.

When hitting the links this summer, think about the environment. Let’s go green for golf!

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World Population Day

Earth “Global Village”World Population Day is recognized internationally on July 11. Coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund, World Population Day aims to educate about the challenges — and opportunities — associated with increased population on development, health and social attitudes.

In 1950, the world’s population was 2.5 billion people. In 2011, the world’s population reached a staggering 7 billion people. This number is expected to increase an additional 1 billion people over the next twelve years.

At the same time that populations around the world are increasing, so too is financial prosperity. Financial prosperity is connected to employment which is connected to industrial growth — which in many instances leads to environmental pollution.

One form of environmental pollution that needs to be addressed is solid waste. According to a study by Worldwatch Institute, municipal solid waste is expected to double by 2025. The World Bank’s Urban Development department estimates the amount of municipal solid waste will rise from 1.3 billion tonnes per year to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. While wealthier nations currently generate more municipal solid waste waste per person, developing nations are starting to “catch up” as population, wealth and consumption habits increase.

In 2013, the population of Halton Region is just over 500,000 people. By 2031, Halton’s population is expected to reach 780,000. Many of these new residents will be accommodated in mid and high-density developments. This change in housing — from single family homes to multi-family dwellings — will change the way in which Halton Region collects Blue Box and GreenCart materials from residents. At the same time, annual population projections are incorporated into the lifespan planning of the Halton Waste Management Site.

Locally, and globally, population is continuing to rise. Through effective planning focusing on the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — the environmental impact of the people’s municipal solid waste can be minimized.

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All aboard! Next stop…waste diversion!

Many people would argue that train travel is one of the most sustainable modes of transportation. According to the Railway Association of Canada, Canada’s rail sector moves more than 70% of all surface goods each year, yet only accounts for 3.4% of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and less than 1% of Canada’s overall emissions.

Did you know, in North America the average service life of a train is between 30 and 50 years? That’s way longer than cars, trucks, and planes. Trains can actually last a lot longer but to ensure public safety, they are retired after 50 years. Rail cars are designed to last.

At the end of its life, almost all of parts of a rail car or locomotive can be recycled.

Once a rail car is taken out of service, it can be reused in many different ways.  The Toronto Transit Commission converted old subway trains to collect waste from the subway stations at the end of each day. Some trains are displayed in museums, including one in north Halton! And other rail cars have been re-purposed as restaurant diners or have been converted into living areas. Rail cars have also been identified as great objects to be used as artificial reefs.

So next time you hop on board — either for a short commute into Toronto or a longer trip to the coast — think about how the train could be reused and recycled.

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Halton Haz Waste – For the Orange Box!

Halton Region has turned a little orange over the past nine months. That’s because almost 1,000 homes are participating in Halton’s Orange Box pilot program.

Collect, store and safely transport your household hazardous waste in the Orange Box.

Collect, store and safely transport your household hazardous waste in the Orange Box.

The Orange Box Pilot Program was first launched at the Halton Waste Management Site’s 20th Anniversary on September 29, 2012, when 350 boxes were picked up by residents. Soon after, at the Special Waste Drop-off Day at Mohawk Racetrack, 150 Orange Boxes were given out to interested residents. A few residents even came back that same day to drop off additional hazardous waste material they learned from the acceptable materials sticker was actually considered hazardous! Recently, at the Halton Eco Festival on April 6, residents picked up 450 Orange Boxes.

450 Residents picked up Orange Boxes at the Halton Ecofest

450 Residents picked up Orange Boxes at the Halton Eco Festival

If you would like to participate in the pilot program there are still some Orange Boxes left at the Halton Waste Management Site’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot.  Stop in any time between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday, to be a part of the pilot.

If you have an Orange Box at home, and it is full — please bring it to the Household Hazardous Waste Depot or upcoming Special Waste Drop-off Days. So far, more than 60 residents have dropped off their full Orange Box. No longer are their shelves, cupboards and drawers being cluttered with unwanted hazardous waste. Instead, these materials are being placed in the Orange Box, safely transported to the Depot, and 75% of all hazardous waste material we collect — is recycled, with the remaining being disposed of safely!

Three to four Orange Boxes are arriving at the Household Hazardous Waste Depot every week, which is great — but we want to see more! We all have unwanted hazardous waste at home, including paints, solvents, medications, pharmaceuticals like cosmetics, and propane tanks. The Orange Box is that reminder to de-clutter your house, and divert these materials from ending up in the landfill.

Halton’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot is your one-stop solution for all hazardous waste. We accept everything from acids, aerosols and all household cleaners, to medications, and fertilizers.

The Household Hazardous Waste Depot is located at 5400 Regional Road 25, Milton

The Household Hazardous Waste Depot is located at 5400 Regional Road 25, Milton

Not sure if it’s hazardous? You can print the acceptable materials list, or use our Put Waste In Its Place database! We want to help you know where to throw all your hazardous materials.

No Orange Box? No problem. Halton residents can still bring their hazardous waste to the Household Hazardous Waste Depot free of charge, in whatever box you would like. Just make sure the hazardous materials are tightly sealed in their original containers. Do not mix hazardous materials together.

At the end of 2013, the Orange Box pilot program will be evaluated to determine if it was successful. In the meantime, stay blue, green and ORANGE!

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Plan now for efficient water irrigation this summer

Grass sprinklerAutomatic irrigation systems have become popular because of convenience, however they do not always translate into improved water efficiency. Many systems use excessive amounts of water due to improper design, installation, and/or maintenance. Irrigation systems that significantly over-water are not uncommon.

According to Landscape Ontario’s Irrigation Sector Group that represents the irrigation industry in Ontario, “Homeowners typically over-water lawns and landscapes by as much as 30%.”

The excess water use or leaks in the system can result in a high water bill and may also cause damage to your plants and property.

So what can you do?

  • Ensure your irrigation system receives a regular maintenance checkup to detect problems and avoid leaks. 
  • Ensure your irrigation contractor is a trained, certified irrigation professional. The Irrigation Association maintains a registry of trained, certified irrigation professionals on their website. Always be sure to check the credentials of a prospective contractor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ensure your system designer, installation and maintenance contractors are Select Certified Irrigation Association professionals, with training as Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditors.  This emphasizes a commitment to efficient water management.  
  • When looking to hire an irrigation system designer or contractor, ask:
  1. Does the layout of my system minimize or avoid watering paved surfaces such as the driveway and walkway?
  2. Does my system have a rain sensor or central controller?  What are the benefits of these mechanisms?
  3. Can I set the system to run twice a week instead of every other day?
  4. Can you explain to me the benefits of drip irrigation and water pressure-regulated sprinklers?
  5. Can you explain to me the difference between spray-type and rotary-type sprinkler heads, and where each is most appropriate?
  6. Does my annual maintenance contract include inspections mid-summer, as well as opening and closing, to check for leaks and broken heads?
  • If designing your landscape or garden from scratch, consider that the layout, turf coverage and plant choice should be designed with irrigation needs in mind. This helps minimize over-watering and maximize efficiency.

About this guest blogger:

Kathy McAlpine Sims is responsible for Halton Region’s Water Efficiency Program, which encourages wise water use through various initiatives such as Residential Toilet Rebates, Annual Rain Barrel Truckload Sales, and the Halton Children’s Water Festival.

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Improving waste diversion in the industrial, commercial and institutional sector

In Ontario, households are doing a great job practicing the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

From shopping wisely and choosing products with minimal packaging to packing food in reusable containers, residents’ participation in curbside recycling programs helps Ontario’s household waste diversion rate continue to rise. Here in Ontario the average residential waste diversion rate is 46% (Halton Region currently sits at approximately 57% ).

But what about the business or commercial sector? The restaurants that serve our community? The office spaces that we work out of? The hospitals that take care of us? The manufacturing plants that make the goods we buy?

Unfortunately, the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) sector — which generates 60% of all of the waste in Ontario, is actually experiencing a decrease in their waste diversion rate. In the ICI sector, waste diversion rates have plateaued at 13%. This means that out of the 12 million tonnes of waste produced last year, 8.125 million tonnes headed to landfill just from the IC&I sector.

Because the ICI sector is so broad – restaurants, offices, hospitals, manufacturing plants, etc. — attempting to create a single solid waste strategy for this diverse sector is challenging. Fortunately, great efforts have been made in Ontario to assist this sector in achieving optimal diversion rates.

In Ontario, the Recycling Council of Ontario recently launched the 3RCertified Program. This program is directed towards the ICI sector and recognizes those businesses that are leading the way in waste reduction and diversion. I really appreciate the program’s application process as it requires interested organizations to evaluate all aspects of solid waste management — encompassing everything from purchasing habits through to consumption and eventual disposal. Taking a holistic approach to managing a business’ waste can help identify various changes that can be made to produce significant results.

As of right now, the program is only available to office buildings, but there are plans to expand this program in the near future. This does not mean that waste diversion efforts in the IC&I sector need to wait for program to expand – they can start today! Simple changes, or enhancements can be made to current programs to divert waste from landfill.

Office waste (iStock16085055)All businesses should have an effective source separation program (aka recycling program). I emphasize effective because all businesses should legally have a recycling program as per Ontario Regulation 103/94. It’s fairly safe to say that this regulation isn’t being complied with to its fullest potential. Look into what materials your waste collection contractor will accept for recycling, and develop an internal education program so every employee is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to waste management.

Further awareness can be raised through creating a staff challenge. In honour of Earth Day or Waste Reduction Week, have staff participate in various challenges such as waste-free lunches, paperless meetings, or waste diversion contests to raise awareness.

For items like pens, markers, and ink cartridges that are traditionally not accepted in a recycling program, setup a recycling program with a qualified vendor to help divert those materials as well.

Recycling programs can also be set up for batteries, electronics, hazardous waste, and tires (depending on the nature of business, of course. See how diverse this industry is?)

Working in the food industry? Investigate an organics waste composting program—perhaps your waste collection contractor can provide this service. A significant amount of waste generated at a restaurant is food. Wet, rotting food has a very heavy weight and is a source of methane in landfills. Diverting this material will not only reduce a business’s garbage tonnage, but will also reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere! Organic waste can be turned into valuable compost that can be sold to local farmers to harvest crops, or can be used for landscaping purposes.

These are just some small starting points that businesses can take to help reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. If Ontario’s ICI sector truly embraces the 3Rs, we can see the province’s overall waste diversion rate increase dramatically, which will have positive impact on our shared environment.

Share any comments you have including suggestions for ways the ICI sector can increase and improve their waste diversion efforts.

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Six steps to upcycling success: from baby crib to blanket rack

Several years ago, a friend’s parents were preparing their home for sale. This included decluttering three decades worth of family-oriented items before they would make a “downsizing” move to another house. During a pre-move visit, I found that many precious, long-stored items had already been moved from their basement and piled into the double-car garage for sorting and packing. Within that mixed batch of belongings were the remaining parts of a 30-year-old baby’s crib (a.k.a. our upcycling subject).

Before my visit was complete that day, his father had talked me into taking a few of their gently used items for my own home, including two partially working gas-powered mowers, an elegant fireplace screen, and the disassembled parts of the baby crib (which he particularly insisted that I take). With a lift of the tailgate door, into the back of the Jimmy SUV it all went for a short journey to yet another garage. Ours.

Fast forward five years and that friend has become part of a happy couple with a baby on the way, and we are in need of a gift for their baby shower. Recalling that we still had his family’s baby crib parts stored away in our basement, I instantly began to (hint, hint) rack my brain to come up with a way to re-use the crib parts to create a meaningful gift. Rebuilding the crib was not an option since thirty year old crib designs are just not up to current safety standards.

The simplest, most useful re-purposing idea I could think of was to convert the two remaining wooden side rails into a baby blanket rack. I came up with several ways to create the top connection joints for the A-frame design. I settled on the one concept that required no cutting, as I aimed to preserve the original crib pieces for posterity and sentimental reasons.

Here are the six steps I took to get from storing old fashioned baby crib parts to gifting a baby blanket rack (in espresso-brown finish, of course). Go ahead and give these a try yourself:

Step 1aStep 1

Step 1 – Assess & Design: Take a good look at the items on hand and assess how to use them to their best. Decide what needs repair, what can remain as is, and what should be removed or not used at all. Design how the pieces will fit together. See if adding or subtracting parts will help the overall function or even enhance the final form. Play around. Mock it up. Then – Commit to The Plan.

Step 2 – Purchase Hardware: With plan in hand, seek out the hardware that most closely fits your design. Sometimes what works best is not easily obtained or even available nearby. If you can reuse something, even better. In my case, I didn’t already have suitable hinges. I had a lot of trouble finding just the right width and quality of hinge until I made a trip to a specialty woodworking store that carried “cast brass strap hinges“.  I was running out of time for my upcycling project, so I purchased two new strap hinges even though I would have ideally reused some old ones.

Step 3

Step 3 – Assemble, Check Fit, Disassemble: Take the unfinished pieces and actually build to your design. Does it work like you expected? If not, rework it – drill new holes if you have to, you can fill them in later. Set it up like it would be used and see if it needs anything more. If happy, take a photo to remember where everything goes. Then take it all apart. Store the parts carefully.

Step 4

Step 4 – Surface Preparation & Paint: Prepare wood surfaces by filling in holes or dents with wood filler and sanding off old varnish or paint. Apply a good primer coat and let dry. Lightly sand off rough bits of primer. Begin applying your chosen paint in coats (2 minimum) and make touch ups where needed, after each coat dries. Paint your hardware bits too if your design calls for it. Watch the paint dry with anticipation.

Step 4 continued

Step 5 – Re-Assemble and Check Fit: If the paint is dry, its time to rebuild! Put all the parts back together, tighten all screws gently and check how it all fits together. Sometimes paint thickness can get it the way, so sanding some paint off of areas where the hinges will hide anyways can make things fit nicer. Use your judgement. If it looks right, tighten everything up! Build with confidence and pride.

Step 5

Step 6 – Apply Accessories & Take Photos:  Spruce up your upcycled creation by applying accessories and get it ready for its first photo-op! It’s ready to live again as something completely new to you or someone else. Way to go! Upcycling success is yours!

Step 6

Tell us: Do you have any upcycling projects that worked out for you? We’d love to learn about them. Send us your before and after photos and a description of your project to haltonrecycles@halton.ca and we just might post them here.

Your upcycling deserves to be showcased!

Posted in Green Living, Houses, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Growing heirloom seeds with compost

This spring I read a blog at Yard Eatins  that featured a list of heirloom seed suppliers compiled by Treehugger and a video of Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I like to garden and this inspired me to try growing my own heirloom seeds.

Heirloom seeds refer to varieties of fruits and vegetables that were typically grown prior to the advent of industrial agriculture. Their use dates back 50, 100 or more years ago. These seeds would have a wide variety of characteristics that would only vary slightly over time due to natural pollination. Because modern agriculture typically uses a small variety of seeds that have been developed to produce high quantities and withstand disease, the older varieties of seeds are often in danger of becoming extinct.

I looked up suppliers located in Ontario and found a company called The Cottage Gardener. From their catalogue, I ordered a few varieties of heirloom seeds to try in my garden this year. One of the varieties I chose was the Savignac Tomato; it lists its history back to the 1930s in Quebec and will produce a round fruit that is juicy and sweet. This sounds good to me!

Since one of my goals in life is to reduce the amount of waste that I generate, I decided to see if I could grow my seeds without buying any new materials, such as plastic seed trays. I also want to grow my vegetables organically. I picked up some compost during Halton’s Compost Give Away event that is held each May at the Halton Waste Management Site. For a few weeks I saved my empty food packaging, washed it and set it aside to use as my seed trays.

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I initially used plastic ground meat trays to start the seeds in, as you can see in the photo. I did purchase some soil at a local garden centre, as it is important that the seeds do not get contaminated from fungus that could be in your garden soil. I mixed this soil with the compost, filled the trays, poked in some seeds and then watched them germinate and grow.

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A few weeks later, after they had produced their first leaves, I transplanted them to larger containers. For those I used clean, empty packaging such as milk cartons, coffee cups, plastic drink cups, yogurt containers, berry containers, etc which I poked small holes in the bottom for drainage.

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Once I had them all planted in these containers, I placed them in a large clear storage bin that I had. This made it easy to start setting them outside during the day and gave them a bit of protection from the wind, serving as a mini greenhouse for them.

June 5, 2013 was the United Nations World Environment Day. This year’s theme was Think-Eat-Save, encouraging all of us to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices we make.

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I am really excited about growing my own food and all the benefits that go with that, including:

  • Not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • Reducing the distance the food had to travel to get to my table
  • Saving on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Preserving seed diversity
  • Saving money
  • Eating fresher fruits and vegetables that taste better and have more nutrients

I am currently waiting for them to get a bit larger and then I will transplant them from the pots into my garden. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I will have some sweet and juicy tomatoes to enjoy. I will post back and let you know.

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An unconventional classroom

Who knew Halton Region had an operating landfill?

Who knew Halton Region had an operating landfill?

During the week, a normal high school student would find themselves in class learning anything from math to history at 12:30 p.m.. I too, head off to class at that time, but not in your conventional classroom — my classroom is the Halton Waste Management Site, where as a co-op student, I get to learn all about waste diversion and management.

With plans to enter an Environmental Science university program in the fall, I couldn’t help but be excited when my co-op teacher presented me with an opportunity to work at the Halton Waste Management Site — except I had never heard of the Halton Waste Management Site before and had absolutely no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into.

When I got here, I admit it — I was shocked. Up until a few weeks prior, I didn’t even know this place existed and yet here was this 311 acre facility right in front of me. I quickly learned that the Household Hazardous Waste Depot, Container Station, and Scalehouse that you initially see enter the site are only the tip of the iceberg of this amazing site.

Here, I learn outside, indoors, and even off-site from wonderful teachers, the employees. They share their knowledge and experiences, and allow me to have a taste of what they do on a daily basis.

I visited apartment buildings to ensure they had necessary Blue Bins for recycling.

I visited apartment buildings to ensure they had necessary Blue Bins for recycling.

Since working here, I’ve been able to try so many different new things, like assist customers in the Scalehouse, help out with the Compost Give Away, tag along with staff as they supervise waste collections, conduct surveys at the Household Hazardous Waste Depot and the list goes on.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have received this opportunity and engage in so many new experiences. How many other seventeen year olds can say they’ve driven a compactor before?

I’ve learned about the hidden intricacies of the system Halton has here, one that many people aren’t always aware of. I had no idea the landfill had a highly engineered liner and leachate collection system to minimize environmental impact, nor did I know that methane gas is collected from the landfill and turned into electricity to power approximately one thousand homes in Oakville.

I conducted surveys at Halton's Household Hazardous Waste Depot.

I conducted surveys at Halton’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot.

My favourite part about working here as a co-op student is that every day is something new. I don’t have a set title and have had an opportunity to learn from Waste Management Services’ three work teams: planning, landfill operations, and collection operations. This has given me a vast understanding of the big picture.  And it’s a big picture!

This co-op experience has been nothing but beneficial to me. I have learned not just about waste management, but also about the working world. I have been able to teach those around me how to recycle properly, and best of all, I have been exposed to so many different paths I can take after I finish my post-secondary education. I’ve had fun, met amazing people, and gained invaluable experiences that will continue to shape my future.

About this Guest Blogger: 

Adriane Pong, Guest Blogger

Adriane Pong, Guest Blogger

Adriane Pong is a senior student at Craig Kielburger Secondary School in Milton and is doing her co-op placement at the Halton Waste Management Site to complete her Specialist High Skills Major in the Environment sector. She has plans to attend McMaster University in the fall and earn an undergraduate degree in Environmental and Earth Sciences without drinking any coffee.

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Floating cities and the waste they create

carnival Magic in Montego Bay, JamaicaI recently had the opportunity to call a new place home for 14 nights.  This new home is a magical place where you can throw your towels on the floor and they get cleaned and replaced twice a day.  There is also a never-ending supply of food and drinks.  Some compare this place to a floating city.  Yes, I am talking about being on a cruise ship.

Cruising is becoming a popular vacation choice.  The lure is being able to see the world, have five-star service, and access the amenities of most all-inclusive vacation resorts.  Some ships even have Broadway production shows, casinos, indoor ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and surf and golfing simulators on board!

Most cruise ships carry an average of 2,500 passenger and crew aboard.  The largest ship in the world carries over 6,000 passengers and crew.  Most cruises average seven to ten nights. It is estimated there were 20 million cruise ship passengers around the world in 2012, of which 11 million passengers were North Americans.

You can only imagine the amount of resources required and the amount of waste generated on one single cruise.  Most of the waste generated on cruise ships is burned or grounded and discharged into the sea.  Recyclables, mostly plastic bottles and aluminum cans, are collected and stored until they can be brought ashore for recycling.

Waste activities on board cruise ships are governed by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Annex V).  Waste management can be a challenge for ships as they are often travelling to foreign ports-of-call with no waste management standards, similar to airplanes.

I observed a very interesting sign that was posted in a very public space about discharging garbage at sea.  Do we not know better than to litter at sea?  Many of us are familiar with how waste is accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

As passengers, we have a duty to minimize our environmental impact when we are on vacation.  With more and more tourists going on cruises, hopefully cruise ship designers and operators will become more environmentally conscious and ensure that more on board waste can be reduced, reused or recycled.

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Reusing plastic milk bags

Canadians should be proud of some of the life changing inventions they have pioneered.  However, Canadians have also invented a number of items that have wreaked havoc to the planet.  The familiar green garbage bag was a Canadian invention.  Canadians also pioneered the idea of selling milk in plastic bags.

In other parts of the world, milk is sold in plastic jugs, cartons or glass bottles.  The rational for selling milk in plastic bags is that there is less packaging waste and that the milk lasts longer.

The average Canadian consumes approximately 20 bags of the 4-litre milk bags a year.  The average size of a Canadian household is 3 people, so in one year, that family will be throwing out 60 plastic milk bags.

In Halton Region, plastic bags cannot be recycled in the Blue Box.  Therefore, the majority of these plastic bags end up in a landfill.

There are a number of ways people have reused plastic milk bags.

And, there is also a program where plastic milk bags are collected and diverted from landfill for a good cause.  There are a number of charities throughout Ontario that collect the outer plastic milk bags to be used into the creation of bed mats for people in less developed regions of the world.  Plastic (not biodegradable plastic) milk bags are cut into strips to be woven (crocheted) into mats.  It takes about 500 to 600 plastic bags to create one adult size bed mat.  These woven mats last up to 20 years, are waterproof and the plastic is a natural insect replant.

A number of local elementary school eco clubs take the plastic bags and also make bed mats.  Halton residents can check with their local school to see if they are collecting and crocheting plastic milk bags.

Or better yet, start a plastic milk bag collection and crocheting group for donation to one of the many charitable organizations donating bed mats.

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Think.Eat.Save – World Environment Day 2013

WED Logo_ENWhile not as well-known as Earth Day in April, World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5.  Organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, World Environment Day raises awareness about the need for positive environmental action.

The theme for the 2013 World Environment Day is Think.Eat.Save. reminding us to think about the impacts of food waste and food loss.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, one in every seven people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.

Prior to implementing the GreenCart composting program in 2008, the average garbage bag in Halton contained 45% food waste and compostable papers.  Even with all houses in Halton now able to use the GreenCart, we still find that 23% of the average garbage bag is food waste and compostable papers.

Everyone needs to ensure they put all of their food waste in their GreenCart for composting.  In addition, we need to think about ways we can reduce our food waste in the first place:

  • Make a grocery list and stick to it.
  • Don’t buy “two-for-one” deals if you won’t be able to eat all the food.
  • Eat all of your leftovers, instead of throwing them away.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch every day for school and work.
  • Try growing your own fruits and vegetables — this is a wonderful experience the entire family can enjoy together.

So on World Environment Day, let’s celebrate this amazing environment that sustains us with nourishing food.  Let’s conserve and protect the environment to help keep us — and the rest of Earth’s biodiversity — healthy.  And let’s not waste food.

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Why we can now recycle rigid plastic packaging in Halton

newinblueIn April 2013, Halton Region added new rigid plastic packaging to its Blue Box, including clear plastic “clamshell” containers, black and clear plastic take-out containers, and single-serve plastic food containers.

Here, Halton Region and its external partners explain how these important additions to the Blue Box came to be.

David Miles, Halton Region

David Miles, Halton Region

“It was necessary to add these items to the Blue Box because the nature of our waste was changing — more and more retailers were introducing rigid plastic packaging in their stores, which meant Halton residents had more of it in their homes that needed to be thrown away,” stated David Miles of Halton Region. “Instead of ending up in landfill, it was important to ensure this rigid plastic packaging could be recycled. Halton’s Solid Waste Management Strategy identified this as a priority waste diversion initiative, but one that would require changes to our processing capabilities.”

Mike Birett, Continuous Improvement Fund

Mike Birett, Continuous Improvement Fund

“And that’s where the Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF) comes in,” added Mike Birett of the Continuous Improvement Fund. “In 2012, the CIF provided funding to Halton Region to help Emterra Environmental (which processes Halton’s Blue Box materials) to install a new piece of equipment in their facility called an “optical sorter.” The new optical sorter would allow Emterra to sort and separate the new rigid plastic packaging more easily and cheaper than if doing it by hand.  The CIF also funded the construction of a transfer station to temporarily store Blue Box materials collected from your homes, as well as the “Look What’s New In Blue” communications program that helped educate Halton residents about what was now recyclable.”

Paulina Leung, Emterra Environmental

“The optical sorter, a TITECH Autosort, came from the Netherlands and was installed in early 2013 at our Burlington materials recovery facility. Rigid plastic packaging from your Blue Box travels along a slow moving conveyor belt. They then drop onto an accelerator belt, which spreads out the packaging because this belt is moving so quickly,” stated Paulina Leung of Emterra Environmental. “As the packaging passes under the optical sorter, powerful reflective light sources or near-infrared spectrometers “read” the plastics, which then triggers a high pressurized blast of air to separate the plastic packaging by their individual resin types.  This sorted plastic is then shipped to specific re-processors to be made into new products.”

Sherry Arcaro, Stewardship Ontario

Sherry Arcaro, Stewardship Ontario

“And just how did these re-processors come to be?” explained Sherry Arcaro of Stewardship Ontario“In 2009, after much discussion with municipalities and their contractors about the influx of new rigid plastic packaging in the municipal waste stream, Stewardship Ontario initiated a Request for Expressions of Interest to find markets to manage these materials. Through capital grants provided to EFS Plastics in Listowel and Entropex Plastics in Sarnia, new sustainable markets were created.  These markets thrive today and continue to expand with the growing need for processing of mixed post-consumer plastics.”

Joe Hruska, Canadian Plastics Industry Association

Joe Hruska, Canadian Plastics Industry Association

“I always get asked, what do these plastics get made into?” stated Joe Hruska of Canadian Plastics Industry Association.  “Your answer is as close as your local retail and hardware stores. With new innovations in plastics recycling and manufacturing, you will find your Blue Box plastics being made into common household items such as baskets, tool boxes, storage containers, flower pots, garden furniture, pet product accessories and even paint trays. We can now conserve even more of our plastic resources while creating new jobs and investment locally to manufacture new and useful plastic products.”

The introduction of new rigid plastic packaging in the Blue Box, combined with the new optical sorting equipment, has proven to be quite successful.  In April 2013, Halton collected approximately 13% more Blue Box materials than in April 2012.

This is a true testament to the important partnerships between municipalities and industry.  More importantly, it demonstrates how committed Halton residents are to recycling more every day.

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Travelogue: Dubai

Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates, is home to some of the most grandiose infrastructures in the world with human-made islands in the middle of the ocean and a ski resort in the desert.  Dubai is also currently home to the tallest building in the world, and is a shopping mecca for locals and tourists.

With massive wealth comes massive consumption.

In 2012, the residents of Dubai created 3,150 kg of waste per capita.  It is one of the highest waste producing areas in the world.  In comparison, Halton residents created 427 kg of waste per capita in 2012.  Only 10 to 2% of Dubai’s waste that is collected is recycled.  Even in the most desolate of places — the desert — garbage is found abundantly in the sand dunes.  Camels even mistake the garbage as food.

The Dubai government identified the current model for waste management as unsustainable. A decree was made to cut waste generation from the Emirate to near 0% by 2030.  As landfills in Dubai are quickly reaching capacity, the Emirate installed one of the largest landfill gas recovery facilities in the region.  Public education campaigns were placed in popular public attractions.  In addition, all the waste created in the food court areas of malls are sorted by housekeeping staff for recycling and composting.

Dubai continues to be a hot bed for massive development and consumption.  We can applaud the efforts undertaken by the government and citizens to reduce the amount of waste that will go to landfill.

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Conserving blue gold

Here at Halton Waste Management Site, we like to think of ourselves as experts in the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle. This slogan is embedded into our work and everyday lives as we consciously think of ways to minimize our impact on the planet. Reduce, reuse, recycle is most commonly applied to solid waste. After a very unique experience we recently had at our Site, I’m thinking the 3Rs could be applied to another very valuable resource — water.

A few weeks back, shortly after arriving to work, we were informed that the water would be shut off for 30 minutes in order for maintenance staff to conduct a routine water inspection. We all filled our reusable water bottles and used the facilities in preparation for the brief fix. While everything was fine with the water, there were difficulties turning the water back on, which left staff without running water for two days! This resulted in staff becoming rather creative.

While we did have the option to drive to other buildings on site to use the washrooms, we also had the option to manually flush the toilets by refilling the tank ourselves with water that was brought to our building. I was rather curious as to how this would work, so I gave it a try. To my relief, it worked very well; however, I was shocked to see just how much water is required for one simple flush of the toilet.

We all hear specs about toilets — whether they be old models that use 13 to 20 litres per flush, “low flow” 6 litres units, or WaterSense rated “high efficiency” models that, using single or dual flush, use 4.8 litres of water or less — in one case, as little as 3 litres every time! The toilets at our Site office are 6 litres.  When I hear 6 litres, I think that is a relatively low amount, especially in comparison to older toilets, but when you physically SEE how much water that is, I feel it is much different.

After doing a bit of research, I found the United Nations reported that humans only need between 20-50 litres of water to meet their basic daily needs. Canadians use approximately 330 litres of water a day. While Halton is lower than the national average, I was still upset by our country’s national average.

Water conservation is an issue that has always been highlighted in my life and I must admit, I have always done my best to limit my personal water consumption. My efforts had led me to believe that I was not using very much water at all. But if I were to have my personal water consumption tracked and be shown how much I’m using daily, I think I would be very surprised.

This revelation came at an appropriate time, with Canada Water Week having just passed. “Blue Gold” is one of the planet’s most valuable resources — less than 5% of all water on the planet is freshwater, with less than 0.1% of that being readily available for consumption by the planet’s 7 billion people. In Canada, specifically in southern Ontario, water conservation may not seem as much of a priority for some people  compared to other environmental concerns since we are surrounded by the Great Lakes. Did you know that these lakes comprise of 1/5th of the world’s accessible freshwater, and 80% of all people living in Ontario rely on these lakes for drinking water?

This year’s theme for Canada Water Week is “I Love My Waterbody.” As a self-proclaimed lover of the Earth, I demonstrate this love through actively reducing my personal household waste, and recycling as much as possible. Why not extend this to show love for our freshwater bodies, and try to apply the 3Rs to personal water use?

My gears instantly started turning; following is a list of some of the many ways that Halton residents can use water wisely.  It all comes down to a different set of 3Rs — reduce, repair and replace.

Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth — It is recommended that people spend 6 minutes every day brushing their teeth and with the average faucet using 8.3 litres of water per minute, you can save over 300 litres of water a week by only turning on the tap to rinse your toothbrush!

Only run the dishwasher when full — Sometimes, we can feel a bit eager to run the dishwasher before it is completely full, which can result in more partially full dishwasher loads being run each week. Make sure you utilize all of the space in your dishwasher by rearranging dishes to ensure you can fit the most dishes possible.

Check for slow, silent leaks in your toilet  put a drop of food colouring in the toilet tank, wait 20 minutes without using the toilet, and check to see if any colour has migrated to the bowl.  If it has, your toilet is leaking, and a degraded flapper is likely the cause.  Turn off the water supply to the toilet, take the old flapper to a hardware store to ensure you get the same model, or call a licensed plumber.

If you have an old toilet that flushes with more than 6 litres of water and you haven’t already benefited from Halton’s Toilet Rebate program, take advantage of the $75 rebate by replacing the old toilet with a high efficiency WaterSense approved model that flushes with 4.8 litres of water or less, without sacrificing performance (Halton Region residents only).

If you have an automatic irrigation system, make sure it’s not leaking, all heads are functioning properly, it only waters where it’s needed, and you have a rain sensor or central controller. For more info on automatic irrigation visit Halton’s website

Rainbarrel — In the warmer months, outdoor water activities around the house account for up to 40% of our water use. Rainwater is free and can be used on your plants and garden. Get your own rain barrel for just $40 at  Halton Region’s Rain Barrel Truckload Sale events starting May 11 (Halton Region residents only).

Half-empty water bottles — If you ever find yourself with a half-empty water bottle you do not plan on finishing — don’t pour that water down the drain! Instead, use it to water plants around the house.

I encourage everyone reading this to join me in showing ‘love for our waterbodies’ by using  water wisely as much as possible in an effort to preserve our planet’s Blue Gold.

For further tips on how Halton residents can conserve water, take a look at Halton’s water conservation tips.

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Waste’s impact on biodiversity

Visit the Royal Ontario Museum and learn how biodiversity is being impacted by waste — and how we can minimize those environmental impacts.

Posted in Disposal, Green Living, Household Hazardous Waste, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating National Public Works Week

Because of public works, by Jannie Ho, for National Public Works Week 2013

Because of public works, by Jannie Ho, for National Public Works Week 2013

One of my favourite books is In The Skin of the Lion, by famed Canadian author Michael Ondaatje.  Part of this excellent novel narrates the lives of the workers who helped build some of Toronto’s most iconic — and important — public infrastructure projects: the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant and Bloor Street Viaduct.

This compelling novel reminds me of the over 450 men and women who, every day, work in Halton Region’s Public Works department to preserve environmental resources, protect human health, and effectively move people and goods.

Because of public works, your recycling, composting and garbage is collected and processed; you have safe, clean, tested drinking water; wastewater from your homes is treated; and you have safe regional roads to drive on.  Public works is part of our lives each and every day.  Public works help keep us and the environment safe.

The five divisions that make up Halton’s Region’s Public Works department are guided by core values, including excellent customer service, community trust and continuous improvements.

Within the department’s Waste Management Services division, we’ve seen these core values in action: over 50,000 Blue Boxes were picked up by residents in March 2013 at eight successful events; 95% of users rate their customer service experiences at the Halton Waste Management Site as excellent or good; and new materials were recently added to the Blue Box, thereby decreasing the amount of waste headed to our landfill.

To help raise awareness about public works, each year, municipalities across North America celebrate National Public Works Week.  This year’s event runs from May 19 to 25, 2013, and is coordinated by the American Public Works Association and is supported by the Canadian Public Works Association.

Halton’s Public Works staff will be recognizing this week, and I encourage you to do the same.  So this week, when you drive down a regional road, enjoy a glass of water, use the toilet, or have your recycling collected, remember, it’s all because of public works.

About this guest blogger:

Mitch Zamojc, Guest Blogger

Mitch Zamojc, Guest Blogger

Mitch Zamojc is the Commissioner of Halton Region’s Public Works department.  Mitch has been recognized as a Top Leader in the Public Works field by both the American Public Works Association and the Ontario Public Works Association.  Prior to joining Halton in 2008, he was the Commissioner of Public Works for the Region of Peel.

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Road Trip!

It is the start of summer.

For many of us, it is also the start of summer road trips.  Whether a trip to the cottage or exploring Canada, here are some tips that can help make the trip greener.

  • Make sure your car is in good working order.  If you need to top up any fluids, make sure to dispose of used fluids and containers properly. 
  • Pack a cooler for snacks and drinks with reusable containers and use reusable ice packs.
  • If cooking with propane or other combustible gas cylinders, return empty containers for proper disposal.
  • When stopping for a coffee break, bring your own travel container.  There are travel beverage containers that can work for both hot and cold beverages.
  • If you are keeping the children entertained with electronic devices, use reusable batteries instead of single-use batteries.  Dispose of spent batteries responsibly — they don’t go in the garbage.
  • Please don’t litter.  Remember to “leave no trace.”  Keep waste materials in your car until you come to a recycling container.  When hiking, bring any waste back with you for proper sorting.
  • Remember to drive safe!

You can even consider leaving your car behind!  Parkbus operates bus routes to popular camping destinations in Algonquin Provincial Park, Killarney Provincial Park, French River Provincial Park, and more.

While out enjoying the open road this summer with friends and family, do your part and help keep our environment green and beautiful.

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Feeding the soil for future life

International Compost Awareness Week 2013 has now ended. From its start in 1995 in Canada, this event has now become part of annual awareness-building efforts for organics recycling and compost use in Australia, the UK, the United States, Ireland as well as across our country.

While every week is a Compost Week, reflecting the fact that organic residuals are created every day — whether in food production and consumption, through other life happenings as well as when gardens are active… the emphasis on the first full week of May is on “awareness” of the potential that compost offers to our environment, the health and vitality of our soils and in turn local food production as well as job creation.

The theme for this year’s celebrations is “Feed the Soil… COMPOST.”

Soil is the basis of life on our planet; everything and everyone draws strength from the productivity and health of our soil. And yet, it is largely ignored and more often than not, taken for granted.

It can take well over 500 years to create a couple of centimetres of soil, a composite material made up of different-sized rock and mineral particles as well as decomposed organic matter.  Annually returning organic matter, or compost, back to the earth provides the means to revitalize and condition the soil, helping to provide the structure and nutrients needed for plants to grow and flourish.

The development of organics recycling and composting has come a long, long way since our first Compost Awareness Week in 1995. Back then, there was a small band of people and organizations across Canada who were valiantly overcoming the many “No… it can’t be done” or “No… not now” that was the usual order of the day.

Today, organics are the number one material being recycled in Canada, and with over 40% of Canada’s waste stream being filled with organic material, there is a lot more to do before the job is done.

Sometimes the task ahead seems overwhelming and far too “uphill” — but then the gravity of people’s individual decisions kicks in every time someone “votes” by deciding to take their organic wastes to their own backyard composter or to be part of their municipality’s curbside pick-up program rather than having them buried in a landfill and creating all kinds of environmental negatives.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, gets ready to use some compost

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, gets ready to use some compost

As part of our festivities last week, a special event was held in the backyard office garden of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller. Together with the Master Gardeners of Ontario, Landscape Ontario as well as local food and compost advocates, the garden and lawn was given a “soil-lift,” aerated and amended with compost created from GreenCart programs in Ontario.

This is just one of the many ways people are standing together “on firm ground” and declaring their love of the earth — by making compost and returning it to our soil.

About this guest blogger:

Susan Antler, Guest Blogger

Susan Antler serves as the Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada, a non-profit, member-driven organization dedicated to the advancement of composting and compost usage across Canada. Susan has an MBA in Marketing from Queen’s University.

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It’s easier to clean our hands than to clean our compost

Agriculture tractor sowing seeds and cultivating field

Compost is a great alternative to fertilizers.

This is a call out to residents to ensure we are all treating the GreenCart with the respect it deserves.  Many residents are unaware that the material you throw in your GreenCart is being turned into beautiful compost.  This compost is vital to our local farmers, allowing them to use compost instead of chemical based fertilizers.  The program becomes a win – win for everyone, and a great closed loop cycle.  Residents help to save on landfill space and feel good about contributing to waste diversion; and farmers get the benefit of using natural fertilizer to help their crops grow.  This makes it really important for residents to make sure they are placing the right items in the GreenCart, so we can have the highest quality finished compost.

Halton’s GreenCart material is sent to the City of Hamilton’s Central Composting Facility, which is a state of the art indoor aerobic facility that can compost your GreenCart material in 21 days.  This accelerated process allows for a quick turn around of all your old food to be broken down into compost, a very rich, high nutrient soil that can act as a natural fertilizer. The compost produced from the City of Hamilton’s facility is mainly used on farmlands in the area.  Local farmers now have a product that will naturally fertilize their crops, and it helps to maintain moisture during the hot summer heat.

Since the compost is being placed on their fields, farmers are very particular about their product.  Strict testing guidelines are in place to ensure only the best compost goes out.  Just last year, new guidelines came out from The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. These guidelines help municipalities and compost facilities produce compost material that can be used in various applications.  The cleaner the material, the higher the compost grade and the more use you get out of the material.  Compost is now graded on an AA, A and B rating scale.  To achieve AA status, there has to be little to no contamination in the final compost product.

Remove all packaging before putting food in the GreenCart.

Remove all packaging before putting food in the GreenCart.

Halton and Hamilton’s material is currently graded at the highest level, but with the new guidelines we may find it more difficult to achieve this.  We are still finding unacceptable materials in the GreenCart program which cause contamination and affects the final compost grade.  We sometimes find batteries, utensils, and medical waste, but our biggest issue is food packaging; plastic bags and containers, glass bottles and jars, metal food cans, and smaller items like produce stickers, elastic bands, and bread tags.

So I want to remind residents to take that extra step.  We are doing so well with the GreenCart program, we have great diversion and participation rates, but we really need to make sure that we are taking our food waste out of any packing.  We have to try to get past the “yuck” factor of touching our old food.  Take the time to pull that mushy cucumber out of the plastic bag, and scrap the salsa from that glass jar, it may seem gross while you do it, but you can quickly and easily clean your hands – it’s not that easy to clean that plastic bag or glass jar out of our compost.  And, for a lot of those food containers, they can be quickly rinsed and now placed in our Blue Box program for recycling; helping to divert even more waste away from Halton’s landfill.

Actual plastic and glass found in final compost.

Actual plastic and glass found in final compost.

And don’t forget to look for the smaller items, they may seem insignificant, but they to end up in our final compost product.  Watch out for produce that has elastic bands and stickers, when taking bread out of plastic bags; ensure the plastic tab does not fall in the GreenCart.  These items do not compost, and quite often are found in the final compost product. Farmers do not want to use compost that contains hard plastic pieces, bits of glass, or produce stickers on their fields.

Taking a little extra time preparing our GreenCart to go out to the curb will ensure our material reaches the highest compost grade level, allowing it to be fully utilized on farmer’s fields.  Give yourself some extra time on garbage night and get the family involved, please remove food from all its packaging before placing it in the GreenCart.  And give your GreenCart a quick check before bringing it out to the curb, looking for items that should not be inside. Your extra effort will go a long way in ensuring Halton’s compost will continue to be used in a closed loop system.

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Stream of Dreams

This is one of my favourite times of year, not just because the flowers are blooming but because it means Conservation Halton Dream Team will soon be in local schools talking to children, teachers and parents about the importance of water and how to protect it.

Through a unique program, Stream of Dreams, we encourage residents to reduce their consumption, properly dispose of their waste, and talk to their neighbours about keeping our creeks clean.

The Stream of Dreams is a nationwide water education program that got its start in Burnaby, British Columbia in 1998.

It was started by an eight year old girl, Chanel, and her mother, Louise, in response to a devastating event in their local creek. Chanel and Louise were out for their routine walk along Byrne Creek when they noticed something was terribly wrong: the once clear water was now a milky white, with thousands of dead fish floating at the surface. They found out this was caused by a toxic mix of chemicals that was traced back to a storm drain.

In response to this, they partnered with the Stream Keepers Association (a group of local scientists) and created a water education program where participants learn about water protection, and paint wooden fish which are installed on a chain link fence to create a mural as a reminder of our commitment to protect the environment.

This program has now spread across Canada with over 120,000 students participating and protecting their local creeks!

The Stream of Dreams mural at Halton Region's Household Hazardous Waste Depot

The Stream of Dreams mural at Halton Region’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot

There are over 40 Stream of Dreams murals in Halton, with more on the way.  There’s even one at the Household Hazardous Waste Depot at the Halton Waste Management Site.  This was painted by residents who attended the Site’s 20th anniversary celebration.

I feel so lucky to be able to support these communities which are committed to protecting the environment, and forge some great friendships in the process. I love hearing the kids and teachers respond to the program and become passionate about protecting the area we live in, not to mention the beautiful murals they create!

So keep an eye out… there might be some dreamfish flowing your way this spring!

About this guest blogger:

GuestBlogger-ElizabethWren

Elizabeth Wren, Guest Blogger

Elizabeth Wren currently coordinates the Stream of Dreams program for Conservation Halton, where she has worked for the past six years. She has over 10 years of experience working at various outdoor education centres and conservation authorities, along with two years teaching overseas. Elizabeth developed her passion for the environment while completing an Earth Sciences degree at Laurentain University and continues to seek out unique environmental programs to participate in and share with others.

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Recycling old recycling bins

Plastic packaging being sorted at a materials recovery facility

Most of us are familiar with the materials accepted by our municipal curbside recycling programs, items like paper, cardboard, steel and aluminum cans, and certain plastic packaging But did you ever wonder what happens to those materials that are a bit trickier to recycle like  plastic containers contaminated with oil?

Pnewko Brothers in Vaughan, Ontario, has established a niche market for collecting materials that are less desirable or difficult to collect in municipal curbside recycling programs.  Plastic oil bottles, jugs and pails collected at Halton Region’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot are recycled by Pnewko.  Each bottle, job and pail they collect has to be disassembled to ensure that no contaminates are entering the recycling process.  The oily plastic is used to make new plastic products–products that require the plastic to be more rubbery and flexible, including impact posts, curbs and landscape tiles.

Some of the plastic pails collected from Halton’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot, ready for recycling

Did you know that old broken Blue Boxes and apartment building-sized Blue Bin are also recyclable?  But not in the Blue Box — they’re too big for our regular recycling facility to process.  Blue Boxes are shredded by Pnewko Brothers into plastic chips that are  used in the manufacturing of new plastic products like Halton’s Blue Boxes.  Apartment building-size Blue Bins are also completely disassembled and the components are recovered to make new products.  Halton’s new 360 litre (95 gallon) Blue Bins for apartments and schools are manufactured in Canada using some plastic recovered by Pnewko Brothers.

Pnewko Brothers operate on a full-circle processing system: 99% of all products that enter their facility are recovered and recycled.

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Chipped plastics will be made into new Blue Boxes

Remember, if you ever have any questions whether a plastic packaging is accepted in Halton’s Blue Box program, use our Put Waste In Its Place tool!

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How to choose a greener burial

We live. We die.  There is no getting around this circle of life.  A question that plagues most environmentally conscious families today is: how can I live and die while leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible? Can I still have a dignified burial/funeral and choose greener options at the same time? The answer is a resounding yes.

There are many things you can do to ensure both your burial and funeral (they are not the same thing) are environmentally friendlier than those of past generations.

Since it’s advisable that people plan ahead to prepare for their death, the question is, what can you do today?

Choose a Greener  Cemetery

There are a few major factors to look at when searching for greener cemetery solutions–the most important being pesticide use.  Burlington Memorial Gardens (at Dundas Street and Guelph Line) abides by strict environmental regulations and must pass an extensive yearly government environmental audit.  Their tranquil location bordering the Niagara Escarpment and the protected lands of the Bruce Trail means that they will always remain pesticide free.   The grass is left to be watered naturally and will lie dormant during the dry season returning to its lush green when the rainy season starts.  The native plants and flower beds are watered using irrigated pond water and the park-like setting is known to attract visits from local deer and the odd wild fox.   Visitors to Burlington Memorial Gardens are strongly encouraged to make environmental choices when it comes to their floral tributes as well.   Natural flowers won’t leave behind any environmentally unsound materials such as synthetics, plastics or wire, and are strongly encouraged during the spring, summer and early fall mowing season.

This casket uses unbleached cotton, and doesn't use any glue, metal or varnish.

This casket uses unbleached cotton, and doesn’t use any glue, metal or varnish.

Choose a Greener Funeral Home

Burlington Memorial Gardens also offers ‘eco-friendly’ funeral options through their funeral home Dodsworth & Brown.   Families wanting a greener funeral will choose recycled paper for their program printing, online guest books and obituaries, botanical-based embalming, and caskets made from all natural wood and cotton materials that use no glues or metal fastenings.

What about Cremation?  

Today’s cremation processes use natural gas and not fossil fuels for the burning process.  Is it perfect? No, but as with most green initiatives, the technology is moving in the right direction. Also, because there is a smaller amount of land space required for cremation burial, most families still find this to be the most environmentally sound option available.

In the end, whatever you decide, the best thing to do for you or a loved one, is to speak with a licensed Cemetery or Funeral Director to review all of your options.  The conversation you have with a professional will help you and your family make the most informed decision possible.

About this guest blogger:

GuestBlogger-ChristieChewka

Christie Chewka, Guest Blogger

Christie Chewka is a licensed Cemetery Director at Burlington Memorial Gardens and was born and raised in Lowville, Ontario.

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What Earth Day means to me

Earth Day 2013 (iStock23733018)Earth Day is celebrated around the world on April 22.  The first Earth Day was held in the United States in 1970 and was organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson.  The first Canadian Earth Day was celebrated in 1980, and in 1990 Earth Day Canada was founded.

The HaltonRecycles team share their thoughts on what Earth Day means to them:

LindsayEarth Day is a day to celebrate our beautiful planet and promote why leading an environmentally friendly lifestyle is so important. Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and we are surrounded by countless natural wonders; some of which have been damaged due to environmental negligence. Earth Day is a day to educate others on small, yet effective changes that we can make in our everyday lives to reduce our environmental impact, and bring awareness to current environmental issues. “Knowledge is power,” and Earth Day is a great time to increase our knowledge and make a change!

NicoleWhat does Earth Day mean to me? Well its one day; or potentially a week, of celebrating the Earth, and all the ways we can preserve and admire its beauty.  It’s the one time of year where schools, businesses and organizations publicly discuss ways they will help save the planet — I guess for me, I wish it wasn’t just one day.  Although I do see the benefit of opening people’s minds, and providing opportunities for people to participate in programs and discussions, I hope that on this one day, we are speaking to them in such a way that they decide to change their lifestyles forever.  Awareness is key to help change behaviour.  However, changing your behaviours for one day isn’t enough to help preserve our environment. I believe we need to make people aware of our changing environment more regularly, and have opportunities for people to help and participate more regularly. Hopefully then, Earth day will turn into something we that carries on throughout the year.

ShirleyEarth Day is an opportunity to recognize all the amazing natural spaces on earth and why it is important to protect them. The earth sustains life and we need to remember to tread lightly.

Allison: I have been celebrating April 22 for 25 years, mainly because it’s my birthday (or should I say, b”earth”day) but also because I love everything about the environment. As a child, this day was always fun-filled with friends, games, presents and Mom’s traditional birthday “Dirt Cake.” Every year, I make a conscious effort to celebrate Earth Day/my birthday by getting outside with my family and friends. Whether we’re hiking, or playing a game of disc golf, I think it’s important to be outside with nature on April 22. Earth Day to me, is a day to reflect on your impact on the environment and create new ways to reduce your footprint, one step at a time.

EarthDayParkJohn: Last summer I presented at Wastecon in Washington DC.  During my explorations of the city, I stumbled upon Earth Day Park.  To be honest, it wasn’t particularly impressive — just a small park with trees and benches, tucked in among the plethora of government buildings.  But I think that’s why I liked it so much — to a hectic world, this hint of nature is a reminder that there’s an environment that needs to be explored, conserved and enjoyed.  And while every day is Earth Day, having one particular day a year serves as a reminder that we are part of the environment and we need to celebrate, honour and respect this connection.

Stacey: Earth Day is usually family time spent with my husband and kids cleaning up our local park along with the route to the park.  We usually do a cleanup on our daily walks with the dogs, but this is an opportunity to really take the time to check the roadside, bushes and park area.  It is always amazing how much we collect.  It is great to see all the neighbours out and about taking the time as well to participate.  This is a time for my kids to learn that actions can affect the environment and that we all need to take the time to help the earth from recycling to clean ups.  Take the time today to give the Earth a hug and do a spring clean up!

Ben: If I can raise awareness of the environment for my kids by spending Earth Day enjoying the outdoors with them and having my family experience what I’ve grown up cherishing, then that’s what I think is the most important thing we need to take from Earth Day.  If we can preserve that connection with nature for future generations then our planet has a bright and healthy future.

JoyceEarth Day provides a day to acknowledge the impacts of human behaviour on the natural environment.  It also gives us an opportunity to reflect on what Christopher Stone famously wrote in his essay, Should Trees Have Standing?

AndreaI have long been a supporter of the Earth — I knew I wanted to help save it by the time I was in high school. That was a while ago and environmental conservation was definitely not in the forefront of society’s priorities, we had no “green” clubs or environmental education classes — the closest we came to that was geography, and of course the one day a year that people did actually think about it — Earth Day.  Environmental awareness is definitely making headway by leaps and bounds and that makes me happy. I’m pleased to see that a larger portion of society has become environmentally conscious on a daily basis, which is a combination of the younger generation bringing that preservation passion with them as they climb the corporate ladder, as well as people finally realizing there is no other choice. To me, Earth Day represents a day of environmental education, a day people come together to help clean up the messes of the year, and a day that attempts to get the non-conformists to conform and hop on the “green” bandwagon, because really who better to save the planet than those that destroyed it in the first place.

Walter: Earth Day did not register with me until perhaps the early 1990s. That was over two decades after it was originated in 1970. Within that span of time the public hearings for the Halton Waste Management Site were taking place and these were eventually followed by a green light to build, by 1992, what is currently Halton’s only operating landfill. How could I have known when I went off to university in the early 1990s that there were engineers and construction crews carving up a piece of old farm land to make the landfill I work at today in Milton? As I studied to get knowledge that would turn out to actually be useful and applicable there, I do not recall any sirens going off that told me to keep going, stay the course, we need you. The path from learning about the environment and working to preserve it was not a straight line, but I am here now and that is all that matters. As a student, almost every time April 22 came around I was either cramming for or writing an exam, else I was packing up my belongings and loading them into an old rusty car, moving to my next adventure, either another co-op job, or back to school for more of the same. It wasn’t that simple to take time out for Earth Day, at least for me it wasn’t. Entering the workforce did not make it any easier either. Most places I worked at didn’t seem to make a special effort to acknowledge Earth Day, but I did hear about it on the news a lot. There was always a sense of being disconnected from it though. Like there were these other people, out there, doing good, making a difference. I imagined them as faceless do-gooders, toiling away at non-glamourous jobs, sometimes just spokes in a wheel doing their little, but important part in contributing to a positive change. I suppose now I have finally come to the point where I don’t need to imagine what these people look like any longer. I see them everyday I go in to work and every time I look at myself in the mirror. There we are (in varying degrees of glamourousness), still working, still hoping to make a difference for our planet, on this Earth Day and (with hard work) everyday. Now, does that sound like a siren going off? Probably not. But, if you are out there reading this, struggling to find meaning in your earth friendly studies, please hear this: Keep Going. Stay The Course. We Need You. You may not realize it, but we are waiting for your help. We can’t do it all alone and we’re all in this together. Hope you have a glamourous and green Earth Day everyone.

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Do you have too much recycling?

Whenever people learn where I work, they almost instantly begin to share with me how they manage their waste at their home.

A lot of these people very proudly exclaim “I recycle so much!  Each week I put out five Blue Boxes and they’re almost always overflowing.”

Outwardly, I’m very excited about this great effort to recycle, but privately, my heart sinks a little bit when I think about all that waste.

Are you consuming too much just because you have a Blue Box?

Are you consuming too much just because you have a Blue Box?

Remember, the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) isn’t just a slogan.  It’s the hierarchical order created to help guide the management our waste.  So while recycling is great, it is only the third step.  We must reduce and reuse first.

Let me be very clear: if you have acceptable materials, I want you to put them in your Blue Box for recycling.  Recycling makes a huge difference, and everyone needs to participate.

But a question does need to be asked: “Why do you have so much recycling in the first place?”

Are you buying a lot of single use, disposable items?  What about items with excess packaging? Could you drink from the tap and avoid plastic water bottles?

Some weeks, my house only has one half-full Blue Box.  We don’t have a lot of papers because we don’t subscribe to any print newspapers (I read news online) and we have paperless billing for almost all services (hydro, phone, etc.).  We don’t buy bottled water in my family, and very rarely do we have pop cans or bottles (trying to avoid unnecessary sugar).

Interestingly, a recent study indicates that when people have access to recycling, they tend to consume and waste more.  Basically, individuals feel less guilty about wasting if they can recycle something.

If you have items that can be recycled, then recycle them.  But take a moment to look at your consumption and generation of those items.  Is it truly necessary?

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Four ways waste management is changing – and what this means for jobs

GreenJobs (iStock12786821)The waste management industry you see today has come a long way. In contrast to the historical approach of managing waste disposal through land filling or burning, the emerging model for waste management focuses on reducing waste production and diverting waste from disposal. While it’s great to know these changes are happening, it’s even more beneficial to understand what these trends mean for jobs. We’re looking closely at the employment impact of four key industry trends.

Trend 1: Strong Industry Growth

I’ll start with the very best news for waste management — this industry is in a strong phase of growth. From 2004 to 2006, the solid waste management sector grew by 17% in revenues, and by 2010, over 70,000 professionals were working in this area.

Over the next few years, these employment numbers are also expected to grow. According to a recent labour market study, the demand for workers in solid waste management is set to increase by an annual compound rate of 6%, or about 4,000 new positions (Solid Waste Management Labour Market Study, ECO Canada, 2010). As a result, workers who have the right skills and training can expect good employment prospects in waste management, now and into the future.

Trend 2: Modified Skills in the Green Economy

At the same time that there’s a growing demand for workers in waste management, there’s also an intensifying need for skills in waste management.

Here’s how this subtle distinction works.

Over the course of two major studies on green employment in Canada, we found that the main impact of the green economy on jobs is the adaptation or modification of existing work. As a result, many workers must add new competencies to their skill-sets because they must perform a greater range of environment-related activities in their work.

Along this vein, waste management skills are currently required for jobs in sectors that are not traditionally associated with waste management. In fact, 10% of green job vacancies in environmental protection listed a requirement for competencies in waste management, such as characterizing waste or monitoring waste disposal and reduction programs. An additional 8% of job openings in alternative/sustainable transportation and 6% of job postings in sustainable planning & urban design also mentioned waste management skills (The Green Jobs Map: Tracking Employment through Canada’s Green Economy, ECO Canada, 2012).

In this way, waste management is increasingly relevant for work in a greater variety of areas.

Trend 3: Shift from Disposal to Diversion

The green economy is one meta-trend that is shaping waste management careers, and the emergence of the “cradle-to-cradle” concept is another. At its most basic, the idea of cradle-to-cradle involves diverting waste from disposal to help conserve landfill space and preserve natural resources. In order to reach the goal of producing less waste in the first place, many companies are now considering new ways to redesign products and packaging, substitute materials, recycle, and use progressive waste disposal technology, such as anaerobic digestion of waste products.

These are exciting times for waste management, with a growing need for professionals who have the competencies to support not just waste disposal, but also waste diversion.

Trend 4: High Retirement Rates in Upper Management

This last trend shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Many existing employees in waste management are nearing retirement age: 39% of the waste management workforce are 50 years of age or older. Employees in this age category are more likely to have at least 10 years of experience in their field, and as a result of this seniority, many of these professionals also hold positions in upper management (Solid Waste Management Labour Market Study). Another key characteristic of these workers is their level of education. Thirty-seven percent of senior-level waste management employees have a Bachelor’s degree, while 40% hold a Master’s.

The big question is, of course, what happens when these workers retire?

Based on the current characteristics of these professionals, there will be a strong future demand for highly-educated staff who have the leadership skills and general expertise required for management positions.

Together, these four trends are driving a dramatic shift in the work opportunities and requirements for waste management professionals. It will be truly exciting to see what the coming years will bring.

What are your own thoughts of the major trends in waste management? Where do you see this industry heading?

About this guest blogger:

Angie KnowlesGuest Blogger

Angie Knowles
Guest Blogger

I’m Angie Knowles.  As a Communications Coordinator at ECO Canada, I stay up-to-date on the latest findings from our ongoing labour market research and share these results with our target audiences in formats that are as meaningful and relevant as possible. For an avid writer and major bookworm, this role is pretty close to perfect.

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Halton residents divert a lot of waste at Special Waste Drop-off Days

 

Residents drop off materials at Halton Region's Special Waste Drop-off Days

Residents drop off materials at Halton Region’s Special Waste Drop-off Days

The final numbers are in for all seven of 2012’s Special Waste Drop-Off Days.

Over 5,200 vehicles dropped off materials at our seven events — in fact, Halton residents diverted 108 tonnes of household hazardous waste and 128 tonnes of electronic waste.  That means a total of 407,000 kilograms of waste didn’t go to landfill!  Thank you Halton residents for your support!

We would also like to extend our gratitude to the corporations that provide space to host these events: Sheridan College, Suncor, and Woodbine Entertainment.  In addition we would like to thank the Town of Halton Hills for use of their public works yards.  We would also like to thank our event contractors Hotz Environmental and Toronto Recycling Inc. for providing quick and efficient service.

If you missed our 2012 events, there are a number of retail locations throughout Halton that will accept electronics and household hazardous waste materials at no charge.  Halton residents can also drop off items at the Halton Waste Management Site.

In 2013, Halton will be hosting another seven Special Waste Drop-Off Days.  The first two events are coming up in April 2013.  We hope to see you there.

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