Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
It’s Waste Reduction Week in Canada this week from October 21-27, 2019. What does that mean? It means every week is waste reduction week, but this week, in particular, we put special emphasis on specific ways we can reduce waste. Focusing solely on the principles of circular economy, resource efficiency and waste reduction, Waste Reduction Week is a year-round program that celebrates environmental efforts and achievements. The celebratory nature of the campaign motivates learning and behaviour change while encouraging new innovative ideas and solutions.
This year, Waste Reduction Week focuses on the following seven categories:
- Circular Economy
- Champions & Innovators
- Food Waste
- Swap, Share or Repair
Through each of these main focus points, we can look at how we can divert and reduce waste from our landfills and major water sources. Examples of these tactics are:
- Donate. By donating gently used clothing you can help a nonprofit make an income and help a family or individual purchase good quality clothing at a fraction of the price. If your clothes aren’t resale worthy, consider donating them to a humane society for animal beds, a preschool for paint clothing or crafts or a community garden or start-up forest that can use strips of fabrics as tree/plant ties.
- Reuse. Torn up shirts, as an example are great for home renovation products such as paint clean up rags. They are great for using in the garage to clean up those little spills, or just for general household cleaning.
- Crafts. One of our favourite crafts is a rag wreath like this one here. With the holiday season coming up quickly, this is a quick, easy and fairly inexpensive way to get creative, festive and use up leftover textiles.
- Refuse. This is the hardest one to adapt to. In a society that craves a fast pace and ease of living, it can be difficult to refuse that quick bottle of water at the Wal-Mart check out, or the plastic cutlery that comes with those yummy chip truck French fries. Our best advice – PLAN AHEAD. But plan ahead for the unexpected. Time gets away from us and all of a sudden, it’s lunchtime and you’ve been running errands all morning, with 50 more stops before making it home. You are thirsty and hungry. Always keep reusable straws and cutlery in your car. As for water – keep a portable water container in there too. Download the app called ‘Tap’. It will show you all the places near you that you can fill up your water bottle with filtered water for free.
- Reduce. There are so many plastic-free options out there, that reducing the amount of plastic is getting easier every day. Locally, there is a startup Earth2UProducts that have created reusable produce bags. Reusable straws are trending and you can find them almost anywhere in a variety of materials like silicone and metal. There are also the paper or organic versions that are single-use but biodegrade in record time.
- Be informed. Just because a plastic material says ‘biodegradable’, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the environment. Biodegradable plastics (or bioplastics) are made from renewal biomass sources such as vegetable fats and oils, cornstarch, woodchips and recycled food waste. The way in which they are processed makes it harder for them to break down when in landfills. While they are certainly a better option than any other plastic, they still pose a risk to the regular decomposition of compostable materials.
- Very simply – don’t buy more food than you need and don’t buy more food than you can eat. Food waste in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28x more potent than carbon dioxide. Food that is composted can be used as a fertilizer on cropland, improving soil health and productivity. Use your local green bin or backyard composter!
- Back to Basics. Do you know what’s awesome? Homemade goodies. Let’s preserve our food like Grandma did by picking fresh fruits and vegetables and creating our stockpile of canned goods. This is great for many reasons. First of all, preservatives are canned in glass mason jars (which in themselves can be used for a multitude of things), you’re picking fresh organics that haven’t been through the grocery store stream, and, most importantly, in the event of the zombie apocalypse, you will have plenty of food to feed your family.
Swap, Share or Repair
- Swap. More and more frequently, people are hosting swap parties. As an example, a girl’s night will have all the attendees bring unwanted clothing, books and purses and everyone swaps! Anything left over is saved for another swap night or donated to a local cause such as women’s shelter.
- Share. Similar to donating, sharing your unwanted items with someone who could use a hand up, is a great way to get them out of your home and out of the landfill. Know a new mom who could use some good quality hand-me-downs? Even though her little girl won’t look as adorable in the polka dot dress as yours did, she’ll appreciate it just the same!
- Repair. Don’t toss that item just because it’s broken. There are lots of small businesses that are available to fix your broken items. Hole in your shoe? Contact your local shoemaker. They are skilled at repairing your favourite pair of kicks. Your computer not working right? Go to a small business instead of the big box store such as Ted’s Computers in downtown Trenton. With a small business, you get one on one assistance, better quality repair and you keep your dollars local.
- Smart Purchasing. Don’t be swayed by cheaper versions of electronics. Because these electronics are made with cheaper components, including the circuit board and motherboard, they are not built to last. Purchase smartly designed products meant to be reused, refurbished or dismantled.
- Proper Disposal. Once it can no longer be repaired, knowing how to dispose of it properly can keep unnecessary and hazardous items out of the landfill. MOST products that are considered electronic (with a circuit board or motherboard) can be taken to your local household hazardous waste depot, free of charge. It’s important to check to see what’s accepted in that program first. A list of items we accept at both of our locations and our mobile events can be found here.
- Electronic vs Electrical. If an item has a cord or takes batteries to operate, it doesn’t mean it’s considered hazardous waste. As an example, a curling iron or handheld vacuum isn’t electronic waste (e-waste). Those are just plain garbage. Examples of electronic waste would include TVs, gaming systems and tablets. If you’re unsure and you can’t find the answer on our website, give us a call. We are happy to answer those questions for you.
This is just a start to the many ways you can live a ‘reduced waste lifestyle’. And just by participating in your local blue box program, including using the proper size boxes, making sure materials are properly sorted and clean, is an amazing start. If your area has green bins at the curb, use it. They use the materials for large crops and public parks and gardens. So by using industrial composting, they are able to accept a larger variety of organics than your backyard composter.
For more resources and information on Waste Reduction Week, visit their website. There are great tips on reducing waste. How to get involved in various initiatives, such as the Food Waste Pledge, and how to get students involved as well. Working together we can make a difference!