Trash Talk: Reading between the lines – ‘One Bag Does Not Fit All’

We recyclers need to read between the lines when we hear people waxing on the wonders of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) and the fact that these systems are a viable alternative to good old, tried and true source separation.

Proponents of MRF’s suggest that with these systems, residents will be able to throw all their waste – recyclables, composting and garbage – into one big bag. Once at the MRF these bags will be opened and all the valuable recyclables retrieved for diversion.

What supporters of these systems sometimes fail to mention, is that once the recyclables have been mixed in with everything else, especially wet waste and compost, very little of it is good enough or clean enough to be shipped to recycling markets.

Recycling paper mills do not want the paper, as it is of very low quality once contaminated with shards of glass or food, and few compost facilities want the wet material, as it is not of a standard to re-enter the agricultural cycle.

Keeping the streams separate and clean (as they are when we buy them in product lines on the shelf at the store!) is the best way to ensure these materials will go to recycling markets. This is called source separation and it is they key to maintaining high recovery and robust recycling markets.

When reading articles such as this, on the merits of throwing recycling, composting and garbage into the same bag – we need to ask 2 questions:

  1. What % of materials going through a MRF go to recycling markets and what % goes to landfill?
  2. What is the quality of the recycling markets – are these materials turned into more product with high recovery value or considerably downgraded?

And let’s keep in mind – we already have the ‘one bag solution’ – it’s called garbage collection and it’s exactly what the region is trying to move away from in our efforts to get to 70% diversion and Zero Waste.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/environment/big-companies-and-big-money-squaring-over-480m-incineration-plan?page=0,0

Source Separation helps municipality increase Diversion rates

Great to see increasing diversion success in Guelph – adding organics to their current source separation program added a 19%+ diversion to their current rates, jumping them up to almost 70%.

Aiming to hit targets of 70% by 2015 –Metro municipalities can look to success stories like Guelph and others, where source separation ensures clean recycling streams and highest possible recovery.

As the Metro Vancouver region is currently engaged in discussion around best practices and optimal models for recycling, it is encouraging to see that many other municipalities focused on diversion are sticking to source separation.

See Nicole’s comments in her blog post, another local recycling company supporting best practices for diversion and recovery.

Nicole Stefenelli @ Urban Impact: Guelph achieves 67% waste diversion

Solid Waste Magazine: Guelph tops waste diversion ranking: WDO

 

 

Zero Waste Conference

Last Wednesday, Metro Van held its annual Zero Waste conference yesterday with the theme of ‘re-thinking our waste’.

The conference focused on 2 areas:

  1. Cradle to Cradle design and innovation for a circular, closed loop economy
  2. The problem of food waste, both ‘pre-consumer’ (i.e. food that expires or we throw out before it gets to our plates) and ‘post-consumer’ ( i.e. prep remnants, plate scraping and leftovers) for Metro’s 2015 food scrap bans in the landfill

Keynote speakers included Dame Ellen MacArthur Continue reading…

Trash Talk #11 – Dr Braungart

BoC Dr Braungart 2Last night, on the eve of Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Conference (www.metrovancouver.org/zwc) , the Board of Change (www.boardofchange.com ) hosted a Round Table conversation with the German chemist turned ‘Cradle to Cradle’ prophet, co-founder of EPEA (Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (www.epea-hamburg.org), co-author of Re-making The Way We Make Things, and keynote speaker at Metro’s 2013 Zero Waste conference, Dr. Michael Braungart.

It was a close up conversation, with room for only 40 Board of Change members to attend. Continue reading…

Going car-free with the BC Scrap-It Program

I love my car. Really.

I learned to drive in this car. I moved away to university in this car. I met my husband because he liked my bumper sticker. It’s driven over 200,000 kms, carried dozens of rugby girls covered in mud, and traveled to more parts of this province than most people have probably seen. It’s been towed, ferried, and flooded.

And now I’m scrapping it.

The decision to scrap the car was a tough one. I’ve been debating it for years, but always found an excuse not to. I love the convenience of my car.

It still runs fine! Sure I’ll admit it has transmission problems and costs me a ton to maintain, but I’ve always convinced myself it’s worth it. It’s just that every year (and every major repair) makes it harder to believe. So I’ve decided Continue reading…

Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Tonight the Vancouver Folk Music Festival kicks off their 35th annual show and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been working with Folk Fest for 21 years, helping them to reduce waste at an event that sees thousands of people eating and drinking outdoors over three days. Not an easy feat.  Over the years their environmental committee has developed a zero-waste plan that works with the spirit of the event and could stand as a best-practices example for festival recycling.  Keep reading to see exactly how they have succeeded…

Continue reading…

Festivals and Events – best practices to reduce and recycle

As we hit the mid-point of the summer season, (weather notwithstanding this year!), and the zenith of festival-mania in Vancouver, it’s a good time to re-visit some of the tried and true benchmarks for guaranteeing your community event comes up clean and green in terms of its waste reduction and diversion efforts!

Over the last 20 years Recycling Alternative has gained a reputation for working closely with countless community events and festival organizers to collaborate, guide, educate and help implement robust recycling at various public events Vancouverites have come to associate with summer in our city.

Here are our TOP TRASHBUSTING TIPS for ensuring your event walks the talk by setting a high waste diversion standard that organizers and participants alike can be proud of when measuring the environmental impact of your celebration. Continue reading…

Make Music Vancouver – June 21st, 2012

We are excited to be partnering with Make Music Vancouver this year as they usher in the first day of summer with the sounds of an impressive diversity of musical genres on the streets of Gastown!

Make Music Vancouver isn’t a stand-alone event – it is part of a global live music celebration that takes place every year on June 21st in over a hundred countries! Last year over 20,000 people Continue reading…

Trash Talk #9 – Composting Site Visit

Last Sunday a group of dedicated Drop Spot volunteers made the trek out to the commercial composting facility to learn more about where your weekly Drop Spot food scraps are going.

Each Saturday, Recycling Alternative picks up the totes from the Drop Spots and transports them to Envirosmart in Ladner. Envirosmart uses a state to of the art, windrow system to process the more than 1,000 tonnes of food scraps they receive on a weekly basis from local composting programs.

Continue reading…

Trash Talk #7 – The Cul de Sac’s and On Ramps of Social Change

Last week’s SCORAI conference (Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative) brought together over 100 academics and practitioners from many parts of the USA and Canada, to discuss the challenges of sustainable consumption, dematerialization, and what we need to do in practical terms to get there.

Among those gathered was Annie Leonard (Story of Stuff) who talked about ‘cul de sacs’ and ‘on ramps’ as telling metaphors on the trajectory of individual behaviour modification and the pressing need for broader, collective social change.

Continue reading…