Zero Waste is a philosophy where no trash is sent to landfills and incinerators and “all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.” (-Zero Waste Alliance). For many people, starting to reduce your personal waste is a fun challenge that can also save money and lead to a healthier lifestyle whereby you accumulate less “stuff”, eat fewer processed foods, and learn new skills (repair, baking, etc).
Living zero waste in most of Canada is becoming easier. More municipalities have composting pick up, there are more bulk and refill stores (for both food and personal/cleaning products), and there is a proliferation of local farmers markets. Rural and northern areas may have less access to recycling and alternative buying options than cities.
While many of us celebrate the international Zero Waste Week, Canada’s official “Waste Reduction Week” is in October. This year it is Oct 17-23, 2016.
Zero Waste Canada – a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes solid waste solutions that eliminate the use of landfills and waste-to-energy plants
National Zero Waste Council – a leadership initiative bringing together governments, businesses and non-government organizations to advance waste prevention in Canada.
For food waste, Metro Vancouver administers the site www.lovefoodhatewaste.ca with food waste facts, storage tips, recipes, and tips.
5 Quick Tips for going zero waste:
- This is the single most effective way to cut your garbage output. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “roughly 40% of the waste in our landfills is compostable organic matter”.
- Stop Using Needlessly Disposable Items. I’m talking about plastic bags, water bottles take out containers, coffee cups, plastic forks, razors, etc. You don’t need them! There are reusable versions available that work just as well if not better; you don’t have to “give up” anything, except maybe that huge garbage bin.
- Choose to Reuse. Reusable bags, jars, and containers will allow you to shop in bulk and skip the packaging. Many major grocery stores have fantastic bulk sections and milk in refillable glass jars (depending on location). Smaller butchers and fishmongers will usually fill your containers. If you’re down to the last little bits, Farmers Markets offer produce without plastic stickers or wrappers.
- Buy Secondhand. Besides saving you money, previously loved goods don’t come with packaging. Who says you need a brand new bread machine or a brand new frying pan. There are millions of them already out there, and a lot of them need a new home. Try craigslist, freecycle, or your local thrift shop.
- DIY (Do It Yourself). You can make a surprising number of things yourself (and save some serious cash at the same time). From bread to clothing to laundry soap, The Clean Bin Project DIY page has some great recipes.
Recycling and Waste in Canada
Waste is generally regulated at a provincial level and dealt with at a municipal level. Most cities have garbage and recycling pick up; many have compost pick up too. Rural areas usually have recycling depots where you can drop items; they may include a share shed where people can give or take other items like chairs and clothing.
There are various locations that take back things like beverage containers, light bulbs, and electronics, and these vary by province. BC has the most stewardship programs; there are take back programs for everything from paint to beverage containers (you get a deposit back too) to tires to electronics.
Many cities have compost pick up, and in Metro Vancouver there is actually a ban on putting food waste in the landfill.
Recycling Information by Province
Here is a (basic) list of resources province by province. Currently most programs focus on recycling and are moving towards promoting reduction:
Recycling Council of BC. http://www.rcbc.ca
Toll Free Recycling Hotline: 1-800-667-4321
Recycling Council of Alberta https://recycle.ab.ca/
Recycle Saskatchewan http://www.recyclesaskatchewan.ca/
Recycle Manitoba http://www.recyclemanitoba.ca/
EDIT: Teresa Looy added two more resources to Manitoba: First is her organization, www.greenactioncentre.ca, which has many resources on sustainable transportation and waste reduction.
Second is http://simplyrecycle.ca/ which helps with “what goes where” in the province.
Recycling Council of Ontario https://www.rco.on.ca/
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Island Waste Management Corp www.iwmc.pe.ca/interactivesortingguide.php
Beverage Container System http://www.beveragecontainers.pe.ca/
Zero Waste Yukon www.zerowasteyukon.ca/
I Care http://icarenwt.ca/
Recycling symbols are not standardized in Canada in terms of bins, but they are standardized on packages. These are the symbols used on plastic packages. #1 and 2 are most easily recyclable.
Sometimes we see just a recycling triangle on a package. If it’s on paper, it means the paper is recyclable (all paper is recyclable, regardless of whether it has the symbol, so it’s a bit redundant). If it is on plastic, it doesn’t mean anything unless it has a number in it.
Resource written by Jen Rustemeyer from The Clean Bin Project http://www.Cleanbinmovie.com