Playing for the environment this World Theatre Day

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

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

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

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

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

Theatre has a long tradition of reusing

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

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

Again, many theatres have great recycling practices.

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

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

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

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

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Egg-cellent information about recycling

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

Remember, egg shells go in the GreenCart.

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

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

Paper egg cartons go in the GreenCart.

Clear plastic egg cartons go in the Blue Box.

Styrofoam egg cartons go in the garbage.

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

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

So get cracking and be an egg-cellent recycler!

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School lunch programs and the packaging waste they create

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Children’s car seats and the 3Rs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An ode to Nana’s couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But seeing it tossed away was simply sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waste Management in Canada: Ontario

Part of a series examining waste management programs across Canada.

Hurry Up And Wait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this guest blogger:

Ben Bennett, Guest Blogger

Ben Bennett, Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LP: When did the reuse program start?

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

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

LP: What kind of materials do you accept?

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

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

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

LP: How are the materials processed when donated?

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

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

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

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

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

LP: How can residents get involved or help?

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

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

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

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

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