Halfway There! Celebrate your Plastic Free July!

Packing reusable cutlery is an awesome way to avoid those pesky single-use items!

 

It’s been two weeks since Plastic Free July kicked off and we’re seeing more and more local individuals and businesses highlighting their efforts to go without single-use plastics! We’re excited to celebrate all the little ways you’ve been choosing to go plastic-free this July!

Have you been participating? Share your experience with us for a chance to win an awesome prize pack full of plastic-free goodies courtesy of Riverside Grocery! Tag us in a photo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or send us an e-mail!

Here are some highlights from the first two weeks of Yukon’s Plastic Free July!

 

To kick the month off we visited the Fireweed Community Market to host a Plastic Free July workshop! We spent the afternoon making reusable beeswax food wraps (instructions here) from scratch and signing people up for the Plastic Free July Challenge! Visitors seemed very excited about the prospect of ditching plastic cling wrap for something reusable and compostable!

Klondike Kettle Corn was trying out paper bags in honour of Plastic Free July, and even gave us a sample. We think the popcorn tastes better in a paper bag…

 

We took the Zero Waste Yukon truck to the Atlin Arts and Music Festival and helped to divert a truckload of recyclables and compost! Kudos to all the vendors who worked to avoid single-use plastics this year! We look forward to continuing to divert materials at next year’s festival!

Many Atlin food vendors were helping reduce single-use plastic by using compostable food containers and cutlery.

 

Whitehorse City Councillor Rosyln Woodcock has been taking the challenge and documenting it every step of the way! Whether it’s hunting for plastic-free tortillas or bringing her own containers when she eats out, she’s doing her best to stomp out single-use this month!

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis and City Councillor Rosyln Woodcock filled their reusable containers at the theatre for a plastic-free movie experience!

 

Riverside Grocery has been a great leader in showcasing alternatives to single-use plastics in Whitehorse. They carry all sorts of reusable alternatives to single-use products, and recently installed bulk bins! They’ve now announced you can purchase their fantastic ice creams in bulk as well! Celebrate your achievements by bringing your own container down and loading up whatever weight of ice cream you desire (I recommend the swirl)!

Bring your own container to Riverside Grocery and get your pay-by-weight ice cream!

 

The Dirty Northern Public House recently said #StopSuckingWhitehorse and got rid of single-use plastic straws in favour of paper alternatives! Other businesses offering compostable straws include the Gravy Train food truck and Bean North Coffee Roasting Co.! Reusable metal straws are available at Baked Cafe and Riverside Grocery!

 

Bean North Coffee Roasting Co. has these funky paper straws on offer.

 

Know of any individuals or businesses who are taking steps away from single-use disposable products? Let us know so we can celebrate their efforts!

If you’re taking the Plastic Free July challenge and finding it harder than you thought, don’t worry! It’s tough, but your efforts are meaningful! With each choice we make we’re dictating the kind of world we want to see. Plus when July is over, you’ll have figured out plenty of ways to avoid single-use!

Visit our Plastic Free July page for info on signing up for the challenge! We’ve also collected some plastics resources that highlight all the issues associated with disposable single-use items!

Stay tuned for more updates and tips on how you can have a Plastic Free July!

 

 

 

Consumption and Disposability: Saying No to Single-Use Plastics

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns.”  – Victor Lewbow, Economist, 1955.

Every bit of plastic ever made still exists. Let that sink in. Since the 1950s we’ve created over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, and every bit that hasn’t been recycled or incinerated is still around today.

Plastic, for all its environmental benefits, has an inherent flaw. We use it primarily for products that are disposable, but it is anything but. The result? Our landfills and oceans are overflowing with plastic, much of it in the form of single-use items. Plastic water bottles, takeout containers, straws, plastic cutlery, coffee cup lids, and food packaging are everywhere, and only now are we starting to realize the consequences of our disposable society.

In fact, disposability and consumption are so ubiquitous, that we see them as normal. In her essay Design for Disposability, Leyla Acaroglu tells the history of how we got to where we are.

“Waste and disposability, are very much a product of intent to design a system that perpetuates consumption,” she writes. Consumption of disposable goods increases a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so it is seen as a sign of a healthy economy.

Now we’re at a point where the effects of plastic consumption and disposability are being seen in polluted oceans, overflowing landfills and rising emissions from the skyrocketing use of fossil fuels.

So what’s to be done about our single-use conundrum? How do we escape the cycle of consumption and disposability so the world we leave behind is livable? Recycling, while important, isn’t the answer. Our ability to recycle products is vastly outpaced by the production and disposal of new and diverse plastic packaging. A new circular economy is on the horizon, but what can we do right now to support this important shift?

We can start by saying “no.” No to disposability and yes to intelligent design. No to consumption and yes to reduction. No to single-use and yes to reuse.

Enter Plastic Free July. Started in 2013 to raise awareness about the harmful effects of single-use plastic pollution, it’s grown into a worldwide campaign with millions of participants signing up to say NO to single-use plastics.

Making a choice to refuse single-use plastic items doesn’t have to be daunting. To start, pick one item, try to avoid just that, and go from there. To help you out, here are 5 items you can stop using today to drastically cut down on your plastic consumption.

 

1. Plastic Water Bottles

It makes little sense to be bottling tap water from across the continent and shipping it here when we have clean, drinkable water flowing in our taps. Using a reusable water bottle will save you a ton of money and will help you cut out wasteful single-use water bottles. Check out the Story of Bottled Water!

 

2. Straws

We got along just fine before the invention of straws, and for many years the paper straw did the trick. Simply say “no straw please” when ordering a drink, or invest in a reusable glass or metal one if you use them often. Straws are small and hard to recycle, which is why they so often end up as litter. Paper straws are making a comeback, and you can pressure your local businesses into making the switch! Kudos to the Dirty Northern in Whitehorse for ditching plastic straws!

Grab your reusable straws at Riverside Grocery or Baked Cafe in Whitehorse!

 

3. Plastic Shopping Bags

By now many of us have a collection of reusable grocery bags, the only trick is to remember to bring them! Keep a few in your car, or buy one that you can put in your purse or backpack. Skip the plastic produce bags, you’ll be washing the produce at home anyways. Grab a few reusable produce bags for the few instances where you need one!

 

4. Coffee cups and lids

Unfortunately paper coffee cups aren’t recyclable in Yukon yet. Plastic lids can be recycled but it’s better to simply avoid these altogether. If you don’t have a reusable mug yet, invest in one! Your coffee will stay hotter and you’ll get a discount at most places! For those of us who are cup-a-day (or more) drinkers, bringing a reusable mug will cut down on an enormous amount of waste!

 

5. Take-out packaging and cutlery

This one is tricky. Many places still use dreadful styrofoam to package food. Best thing you can do is eat in, or try bringing your own containers when getting take-out! It’s not as weird as you might think, and will go a long way to cutting down on plastic waste. Keeping a metal fork and spoon (or spork) in your bag is also a great way to avoid hard to recycle plastic cutlery. Finally, if you must get take-out, make sure the containers your favourite restaurant uses are recyclable or compostable and dispose of them properly!

It’s easy as that! If you can give up even one of these 5 things you’re well on your way to giving up single-use plastics altogether. Don’t be discouraged if you end up using some single-use items along the way, instead, celebrate! Be proud of the fact that you’re helping to create a cleaner, better world. Never forget that any action, no matter how small, counts for something!

Visit our Plastic Free July page or our social media pages for tips and guidance all month! 

 

 

 

Yukon Montessori School Battles Plastic Pollution

 Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen of Yukon Montessori School are visualizing solutions to environmental issues through Cosmic Education

 

When discussing the global plastic pollution crisis – and it is a crisis – things can often seem bleak. That’s not the case at Yukon Montessori School, where in Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class, the future looks bright. Very bright. Through Cosmic Education, the class is utilizing their creative energy to imagine solutions to global plastic waste.

What is Cosmic Education? It is one of the pillars of the Montessori system. Maria Montessori called it the path through which children develop a global vision. By developing gratitude for the universe and their own lives within it, children can begin to understand their role, purpose, and responsibility in society.

Plastic production has many associated negative externalities (costs) that will only worsen as consumption surges.

 

Since the 1960s, plastic production has increased twenty-fold. Plastic production uses 6% of the world’s oil resources. By 2050, it will account for 20% of global oil use. It is a material that lasts forever, but is mostly used for items that are destined for a single-use. As a result, we waste 95% of the value of our plastics each year. What’s more, vast amounts of these single-use items escape collection and are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).

After hearing about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and learning about 4 Ocean, an initiative to clean up marine plastic pollution, Scott’s class decided to create a project that could illustrate the dangers of plastic pollution to others. What they came up with was a plastic artwork show that highlights not only the harmful effects of plastic pollution, but also imagines potential solutions to the crisis.

Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class is teaching visitors about plastic pollution through recycled art.

 

I spoke with students Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen (ages 6-9) about their art pieces and was blown away by their depth of knowledge and creative ideas for solving this global problem.

Using recycled plastic, most of it from their school lunches, they created incredible models of machines and vivid scenes of plastic pollution, complete with explanations and up to date facts.

 A scene that’s becoming more and more common, littered beaches and strangled marine life highlight the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans.

 

Several students created machines designed to remove plastic debris from the ocean and recycle it. One was even designed to take ocean plastic and convert it into water! Some pieces showed the extent of plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife and ecosystems. Many called for the viewer to take action against garbage. There was even a rocket ship created to remove garbage from space and return it to Earth to be recycled!

 

This scene of ocean pollution was accompanied by pleas to “Save the turtles,” and “Save our Earth!”

 

Accompanying the art pieces were posters providing the facts about plastic pollution. Speaking to the boys it was clear that they knew their stuff. We talked about where plastic comes from, and the backwards logic of creating single-use items out of a material that lasts forever. We discussed how plant-based alternatives to plastic might help decrease plastic waste. Most importantly, we talked about ways we can all use less plastic in our lives.

“We’ve really come a long way with our classroom waste,” says Scott.

“We recycle a lot, and only fill a small garbage bin once every few weeks. Next up is student lunches, I’m hoping to get everyone on board for plastic free lunches in the fall.”

  The plastic art pieces were complemented with posters displaying facts about plastic pollution.

 

The class’ timing is great, as Zero Waste Yukon is kicking off a campaign to promote Plastic Free July. This is an international initiative to raise awareness of plastic pollution.  We’re challenging people to refuse as much single-use plastic as they can for the month of July. Throughout the month we’ll be celebrating people that are refusing single use plastic, and providing tips for living with less.

Kids like the students in Scott’s class at Yukon Montessori are our future Zero Waste champions. They’re out there reminding people that there are so many easy little things we can do, whether it’s bringing a reusable water bottle or coffee cup, or saying no to straws when we dine out. Small behaviour changes have an impact, and when kids are leading the charge, you know that the future is in good hands.

 

Plastic Free July kicks off July 1. Zero Waste Yukon will be at the Fireweed Community Market on June 28th hosting a plastic-free living workshop where attendees can make their own beeswax food wraps and learn ways to live with less plastic.

Visit zerowasteyukon.ca/plasticfreejuly for info on sign up and all the ways you can choose to refuse single use!

 

 

Rethinking Plastics Part 2: Priorities and Innovation in a ‘New Plastics Economy’

This is the second installment of our two part series on the ‘New Plastics Economy.’ Click here to read Part 1.


 

In part one of this series we introduced the current global plastics picture, with a focus on packaging, plastic’s largest application. We ended by introducing the idea of a new circular economy for plastics as the way forward.

The circular economy makes most sense when we compare it to our current economic model. Currently, we exist in a linear economy. We take resources, make products, and dispose of them when they reach their end of life.

The current linear economy relies on extensive inputs of virgin fossil feedstocks, resulting in degradation of natural systems, waste generation, low resource productivity and short product lifespans (Photo credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

 

In contrast, a circular economy seeks to design out waste and pollution, keep materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.

The circular economy utilizes circular flows of technical and biological materials to be restorative and regenerative by design (Photo credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

 

The New Plastics Economy hinges on the creation of an effective after-use plastics economy. This system would increase resource productivity, preserve material value and decrease negative environmental effects of plastic consumption. Instead of degrading ecosystems and consuming finite resources for short term gain, we can change the system to build prosperity long-term.

The shift to a circular economy won’t happen overnight. Our linear systems are too entrenched to be altered at the flip of a switch.

So where do we start?

The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action identifies three key strategies to increase circularity of the plastic packaging market. These are priority areas to focus on if we’re to begin the transition to a circular economy for plastics.

 

1. Fundamental redesign and innovation

 

At least 50% of plastic packaging items are not reused or recycled. These items are priorities for redesign and innovation.

Small format packaging such as lids and candy wrappers often escape collection and have small reuse or recycling potential. These items must be avoided or fundamentally redesigned to support their reuse and recycling.

Multi-material packaging (e.g. chip bags, wax tetra-paks) often cannot be economically recycled due to the inseparable layers of different materials. Material innovation will provide recyclable or compostable alternatives for these items.

Uncommon materials such as polystyrene (Styrofoam) and polyvinyl chloride should be replaced with alternatives, eventually leaving only a few key materials in use across the market.

Finally, compostable packaging and related infrastructure to process food-soiled packaging must be scaled up.

 

 

2. Reuse

 

Reusable packaging was the norm 50 years ago. Over the last half century, single-use, disposable packaging has all but replaced reusable options. We’re at a point now where innovation and societal acceptance are once again supporting reuse as an attractive option.

More than 20% of plastic packaging today has a high potential for reuse. This includes personal and home care bottles, carrier bags, beverage bottles, pallet wraps, and large rigid packaging.

Reusable bags could replace over 300 billion single use plastic bags per year, generating almost $1 billion USD in cost savings.

Innovation in new delivery models using reusable packaging could go a long way in utilizing reuse potential. Furthermore, there is significant room to scale up the use of reusable packaging in business-to-business settings.

 

 

3. Recycling with radically improved economics and quality

 

Because plastic packaging is diverse and continuing to diversify, materials have lower value for recycling and increased recycling costs. After-use systems can’t keep up with production, and recycling processors don’t have reliable access to high quality materials. Volatile markets have resulted in fragile economics for recycling.

A Global Plastic Protocol would provide a core set of standards for plastic design, labeling, collection, sorting, infrastructure, and secondary markets. Global convergence would still allow for continued innovation and regional variation, but would provide alignment across the value chain.

Standards for packaging design formats, materials and additives would improve recycling quality and decrease costs. This would reinforce recycling as an economically attractive alternative to landfill, incineration or energy recovery.

Compatibility of collection and sorting systems and scaling up of high-quality recycling processes would create economies of scale in after-use systems.

New technologies and innovations combined with clear standards for packaging will greatly improve the economics and quality of recycling. These are long term goals, but policy measures such as extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, carbon taxes, incineration bans and deposit systems could help to trigger progress in the short term.

 

Fostering Innovation

 

Advancements in technology, changes in public perception and new legislations are all small parts of a shift to a more circular model. This transition will require widespread partnership between industry, government, and non-governmental organizations. Only collaboration will help overcome the fragmentation of current initiatives.

Around the world, the circular economy is hitting the mainstream. Businesses, governments, and academics are coming up with new technologies and initiatives, paving the way towards a circular economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation highlights numerous case studies showcasing the circular economy in action. These range from new bio-based packaging and vehicle plastic recycling to product repair and redistribution programs.

A large part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative is the launch of the $2 million Innovation Prize. This prize awards material innovation and circular business models. The foundation recently awarded $2 million, split between 11 different projects. Among these were several bio-based packaging alternatives, a plastic-free grocery delivery model, a returnable cup system, and others.

 

The Circular Economy and Big Business

 

The circular economy is also gaining traction among big-name plastic producers. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently announced that 11 major companies are aiming to use 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. This list includes Amcor, Ecover, Evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz. Together these companies represent more than 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging annually.

Is this merely green-washing? Will these companies lead the way in preventing plastic pollution?  Time will tell; however, this signals a big step forward in the shift towards a circular economy for plastics. Hopefully this leads many more companies to follow suit. The circular economy won’t work when only a few stakeholders are on board. All the interconnecting companies that form our infrastructure and economy must work together to embrace this new way of thinking.

A simplified sketch highlighting the biological and technical material flows that make up a circular system.

 

Now is the time to act

 

The public perception of plastics is changing. Growth of movements such as #breakfreefromplastic, Plastic Free July and the Plastic Pollution Coalition show that there is increasing negative perception of plastics in relation to health and environmental issues. More and more people are beginning to refuse single-use, disposable plastics.

Technologies are also advancing at remarkable rates, in areas such as material design, separation, reprocessing and biodegradable/renewably sourced plastics. These all provide new opportunities to replace our current systems.

Developing countries are in the process of building after-use infrastructure that will serve them in the coming decades, so they are prime targets for development of effective recycling systems.

More and more governments are implementing or exploring legislation for plastic packaging. Several provinces in Canada have Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs in place for packaging, and expansion of these will help cover the costs of effective recycling. The Government of Canada recently announced they are exploring a “zero plastics waste charter” to combat plastic waste and ocean pollution. We are in the midst of a great transformation, one that will define how we leave this world to future generations.

Envisioning a world without plastic indeed sounds impossible. A world without plastic is probably not the answer. The answer instead is to change the system entirely. The answer is an economy in which material flows are circular. One that prevents leakage, regenerates natural systems, retains material value, and provides global economic and social benefit for all.

 

 

Free Public Film Screening: Divide in Concord

Join us as we kick off our Recycling & Zero Waste Working Forum with a free public screening of the film DIVIDE IN CONCORD!

Divide in Concord is an award-winning feature-length documentary that follows the entertaining tale of the battle of banning bottled water in small town America.

In 1775, Concord patriots fired the infamous ‘shot heard round the world’ that began a Revolution and defined a nation. Now a local eighty-four year-old woman has waged another seemingly unwinnable battle. For three years Jean Hill has been trying to rid the town of single-serve plastic bottles of water. Complete with strong opposition from local merchants and the bottled water industry, Jean is once again leading the controversial crusade.

In the same town that incited the American Revolution and inspired Thoreau’s environmental movement, can one senior citizen make history? A tense nail-biter of a vote will decide.

Doors and reception open at 6:30 pm, light snacks will be provided.

This free public event is the kick-off to the Recycling & Zero Waste Working Forum, April 12 and 13 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

Who is Eric Lombardi?

You may have heard that our keynote speaker for the Recycling & Zero Waste Working Forum is none other than Eric Lombardi, Senior Advisor to Eco-Cycle Solutions and CEO of Zero Waste Strategies Inc., but just who is this guy?

Some would call Lombardi the “grandfather of Zero Waste” in North America (no offense meant, of course). Grandfather or no, for over 30 years, he has been at the forefront of the Zero Waste movement, and is a recognized authority on developing comprehensive community resource recovery programs.

Lombardi holds a Masters Degree in Technology and Human Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis. In 1989 he joined the non-profit recycler Eco-Cycle in Boulder, Colorado. Lombardi was Executive Director of Eco-Cycle for 24 years, and under his tenure it grew to become one of the largest Zero Waste social enterprises in the world.

Eco-Cycle is a non-profit social enterprise (just like Raven Recycling here in Whitehorse). This means that they use business strategies and principles to meet a social or environmental mission, putting all profits back into community recycling initiatives, education and building Zero Waste communities. They now have 80 employees and recycle 50,000 tons/year of diverse resources.

On top of his on-the-ground experience in the recycling industry, Lombardi is also an experienced public speaker, policy advocate and strategic community planner.

 

 

Since 2014, Lombardi has been a Strategic Advisor to Eco-Cycle Solutions, a web portal that is a one-stop shop for all things Zero Waste. It is primarily a networking and technical support platform for anyone working towards a Zero Waste future in their community. One of their more important tools is a Community Zero Waste Road Map. This high level overview outlines the steps to take when seriously pursuing a Zero Waste goal. It highlights key infrastructure, policies, and programs that have been proven to work in other communities.

As CEO of the consulting company Zero Waste Strategies Inc., Lombardi is “bringing together the local resources covering all aspects of strategic visioning and planning for government, business and community advocates to move beyond recycling and into the Zero Waste economy.”

His list of other accolades is extensive. In 1998 he was invited to the Clinton White House as one of the Top 100 USA recyclers. He helped co-found the Zero Waste International Alliance, the GrassRoots Recycling Network and the US Non-Profit Recyclers Council. He also served on the board of the National Recycling Coalition.

Praise for Eric Lombardi

 

Lombardi’s body of work is exemplified in Boulder, Colorado. With the support of Eco-Cycle, city government and community partners, they have taken great steps to achieve Zero Waste goals. In 2015 they passed a Universal Zero Waste Ordinance to expand recycling and composting for all residents.  Lombardi hopes to “continue supporting a global community-of-practice that is working to bring an end to the age of landfilling and incineration.” He wants to keep transforming the “waste management” industry into the “resource management” industry.

Those who have worked with or hosted Eric Lombardi as a speaker have not been disappointed.

“My team came away from the meeting with Mr. Lombardi energized about the many good ideas and information that he provided. He is thinking two steps ahead of us,” said Shaun McGrath of the US EPA.

“Eric’s in-depth knowledge, and ability to effectively frame a conversation on Zero Waste, as well as the broader topic of sustainability, are truly remarkable. Every semester my students talk about Eric being their favorite speaker,” said Jeff York, Assistant Professor at the Leeds School of Business.

Lombardi’s real-world experience and continued involvement in Zero Waste systems provides a broad understanding of all the challenges and issues associated with creating Zero Waste communities.

“Eco-Cycle’s credibility as Zero Waste experts is based on the fact that they have actually developed and continue to manage the various infrastructure and facilities necessary for a Zero Waste system. Because of this they understand the full spectrum of related and interconnected issues from public policy to community buy-in to service and facility management. We feel very confident in Eco-Cycle’s expertise and are most fortunate to have them as advisors on our project,” said Christine Funk, Director of Zero Waste Programs for WasteCap Nebraska.

Zero Waste Yukon is thrilled to experience first-hand this expertise and in-depth understanding of bringing communities to Zero Waste.

 

A special opportunity for Yukon

 

Yukon does not have a territory-wide waste management system, and this causes problems. For example, the mayor of Mayo recently spoke out about the growing costs of managing their landfill taking away from other things in the community. The mayor of Whitehorse also spoke out at a recent council meeting saying the territory needs to do its part and implement a territorial waste management plan. In a bit of good news, the city council voted Monday to expand the city’s compost program to food service businesses and multi-unit residential buildings.

The current linear economy is a one-way street, from the earth to the dump (Image from Eco-Cycle Solutions).

 

We’re thrilled to have Eric Lombardi here to join the conversation about the challenges facing Yukon. He will provide knowledgeable insight into how we can work together to take the needed steps to reach Zero Waste. This means creating effective and harmonized systems for resource management, but  also tackling the upstream problem of product design.

“Waste is actually the product of bad design, and bad design can be changed,” says Lombardi.

“Producer responsibility is the real revolution of the 21st century – it’s the other half of the story. When we start making products with the environment in mind, then we can start recovering them for reuse – then we have the cycle, and that whole cycle represents Zero Waste,” says Lombardi.

 

Zero Waste systems are circular, just like in nature, where nothing is wasted. The result is a thriving Zero Waste community (Image from Eco-Cycle Solutions).

 

Eric Lombardi will be the keynote speaker at the Recycling & Zero Waste Forum, providing a keynote address and speaking at our business lunch about how Zero Waste can work for businesses.

Lombardi will also be giving a free public presentation at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, speaking to the public on how Yukon can reach Zero Waste.

We hope you’ll join us for the forum or public speaking event to get inspired and learn from one of the world’s foremost experts as we break down the future of Yukon resource management and get on track to reach Zero Waste – or darn near!

 

Free Public Presentation: Eric Lombardi, Eco-Cycle Solutions

We’re excited to announce as part of our Recycling and Zero Waste Working Forum, a free public evening presentation by Eric Lombardi, Senior Advisor to Eco-Cycle Solutions and CEO of Zero Waste Strategies Inc.

On Thursday April 12 at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, Eric Lombardi will give an inspiring and educational talk on what Zero Waste is, the global picture, local challenges, and the steps we need to take to get Yukon to Zero Waste (or darn near!).

Doors and reception open at 6:30 pm. The presentation will be followed by a short Q&A period.

Light snacks will be provided and there will be a cash bar with beer and wine.

 

About the speaker

 

Eric Lombardi is a recognized authority with over 30 years experience creating comprehensive community-based resource recovery programs. For 24 years he was Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, the largest Zero Waste social enterprise in North America, and since the mid ’90s has been at the forefront of the Zero Waste Movement.

In his work as an international consultant, keynote speaker and strategic community planner he has addressed numerous topics including Zero Waste, the waste-climate connection, recycling facility design, recycling of hard-to-recycle materials (CHaRM), building social enterprises, and the politics of growing community programs.

Lombardi holds a Masters Degree in Technology and Human Affairs from Washington University (St. Louis), and other notable achievements include:

– helped create the GrassRoots Recycling Network
– co-founded the Zero Waste International Alliance
– co-founded the US Non-Profit Recyclers Council
– invited to the Clinton White House as one of the Top 100 USA Recyclers

Eric’s work brings together governments, businesses and communities to “experience success within their mutual enlightened self interests.” He aims to support a global community-of-practice that is working to bring an end to the age of landfilling and incineration, and keep transforming the “waste management” industry into the “resource management” industry.

 

An unique opportunity

 

Lombardi will also be speaking several times during our Recycling and Zero Waste Working Forum. This forum will provide knowledge and tools to business owners, policy makers, community depots, elected leaders and landfill operators. He will be joined by other expert panelists including Giselle Beaudry, Waste Reduction Specialist with the Government of the Northwest Territories, who helped implement their Electronics Recycling Program, and Allen Langdon, Managing Director of RecycleBC, North America’s first 100% extended producer responsibility (EPR) program.

“Producer responsibility is the real revolution of the 21st century – it’s the other half of the story. When we start making products with the environment in mind, then we can start recovering them for reuse – then we have the cycle, and that whole cycle represents Zero Waste,” says Lombardi.

Given the Yukon Government’s work on expanding the Designated Material Regulation, and ongoing changes in the global industry, the timing is great for sharing information and planning for the future. Unified action and knowledge are essential for reducing waste and creating better ways to manage resources that currently end up in the landfill.

For more information on the forum visit our forum website.

 

Eric Lombardi’s free public presentation takes place at 6:30 pm on April 12, 2018 at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.

 

 

Zero Waste Yukon would like to thank our event sponsor Yukon Brewing!

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Plastics: an introduction to the ‘New Plastics Economy’

This is part 1 of a two-part series examining the New Plastics Economy, published in 2017 by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation with support from the World Economic Forum. The report can be viewed in its entirety here.


 

Have you ever imagined a world without plastic?

 

It’s nearly impossible. Plastics are a ubiquitous material in our modern economy, and it’s no surprise why.

They are versatile, durable, inexpensive, lightweight, high performing, and have brought incredible economic benefit across all sectors of industry.

Plastics also have environmental benefits. Their low weight cuts down on transportation emissions. Their physical properties allow us to keep food fresh longer, decreasing food waste.

Plastic production has increased twenty-fold since 1964, and plastic use is expected to double again in the next twenty years. It’s estimated that 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics have been produced to date.

Production of virgin petroleum based plastic, 1950-2014 (Photo credit: Ellen Macarthur Foundation).

 

Plastic’s largest application is in packaging, making up 26% of the total volume. By 2050 it’s estimated that packaging alone will account for 318 million tonnes of plastic each year. This is more than the entire industry today.

Currently, plastic production accounts for 6% of global oil consumption. On top of that, large amounts of other resources such as gas, energy, water, and labour are needed.

Plastic does not break down, but it is easily recycled. Unfortunately, plastic packaging has an inherent flaw – it is almost exclusively designed to be single use or disposable. Its typical useful life is less than a year, but it persists in the environment for centuries (or more).

Instead of recycling all the plastic we produce, we’re simply throwing it away, and with it, the value of materials used to make it.

 

Only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling worldwide.

 

95% of plastic packaging material value, worth approximately $80-120 billion US, is lost worldwide each year. Value losses along the recycling chain mean that only 5% of material value is retained for future use.

How many forests would be razed if only 5% of paper (recycling rate of 58%) was recycled? What amount of virgin resources would be required if we didn’t recycle 70-90% of iron and steel?

The losses are staggering, and if only 14% is picked up in our recycling, where’s the rest? If we’re not retaining the value of most of the plastic we create, where’s that value ending up?

An additional 14% of plastic packaging is sent through an incineration or energy recovery process. These processes don’t recover the full value of plastics and are not a sustainable answer to the growing issue of plastic waste. For starters, they do little to promote waste reduction, as a constant supply of waste is required. Incineration still results in value losses, negating the energy and labour used in creating the plastic. It’s also problematic due to the pollutants generated, particularly if proper controls are not in place.

The materials burned in waste-to-energy systems are the same materials that have high recycling value. There are also concerns that low operating costs and large investments in incineration infrastructure can push higher value recycling mechanisms out of the market. In principle, burning trash is not the way to a cleaner future for our environment. To take a product that uses significant natural resources to create and simply burn it when we’re finished with it just doesn’t make sense.

 

The vast majority (72%) of plastic packaging is simply not recovered.

 

40% ends up in landfills, where it occupies valuable space and can contribute to groundwater contamination. The remaining 32% escapes the collection system. Yes, almost one third of plastic packaging slips through the cracks and we are now seeing the economic and environmental costs of these negative externalities.

In 2012, CO2 emissions from plastic production were 390 million tonnes. It’s estimated that by 2050, the plastics sector will account for 20% of global oil consumption and 15% of the carbon budget (if we’re to limit the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees).

The external costs associated with plastic production and consumption are mounting. These include degradation of natural systems to acquire virgin resources, ocean pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health and environmental impacts from plastic chemicals.

Simply put, we cannot continue to rely so heavily on finite stocks of natural resources while also bearing the environmental burdens.

 

Each year, 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean.

 

This is equivalent to a garbage truck’s worth dumped in the sea every minute. It’s no surprise that plastic packaging accounts for 62% of all items found in international coastal clean-up operations.

By 2025 the ratio of plastic to fish in the ocean (by weight) is forecast to be 1:3. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

These little fragments of plastic do more than just float around and accumulate in oceanic garbage patches. They entangle marine animals and break down into smaller pieces which coat the seabed, float on the ocean surface, and enter the marine food web.

Plastic distribution in the world’s oceans. Plastics can float up to several meters below the surface making accurate measurements of ocean plastic very difficult (Photo credit: Nature).

 

According to the UNEP document Valuing Plastic, damage of plastics to marine ecosystems is valued at over $13 billion per year. This includes financial losses to fisheries, aquaculture and tourism, as well as clean-up efforts.

Roughly one million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine animals are killed each year, either by plastic entanglement or ingestion. What’s more, we still don’t know how plastics are interacting with terrestrial organisms.

 

What’s the answer to our plastic problem?

 

Innovation and improvement efforts show potential, but so far these actions are too divided and uncoordinated to have large scale impact. New packaging materials and formats are being developed faster than the after-use systems required to manage them.

Bio-plastics are hailed by some as a solution to the plastic problem. While these will surely play a part in the future of plastics, they also come with their own challenges. They can take decades to degrade, and can contribute to methane production in landfills.

Plastic product bans have been enacted in some countries, but there are compelling arguments for and against this. For example, plastic bag bans have greatly reduced usage in some jurisdictions; however, plastic bag bans generally lead to increased use of paper bags which have been shown to have a higher carbon footprint.

        Logos supporting and opposing plastic bag bans show the lack of agreement on the value of plastic bans (Photo credit: bagtheban.com, hsbsurfrider.org).

 

Legislative measures such as implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs can have positive effects on plastic recycling. For example, in British Columbia, packaging is covered under an EPR system which funds container recycling programs province-wide. These programs are slowly becoming more widespread as jurisdictions move to shift responsibility to producers rather than consumers.

Innovation, initiatives and legislation are important and can bring about visible changes. But, in order to have significant impact in the face of unconstrained growth of plastic production and consumption, there needs to be a fundamental shift in how we view and handle packaging and other plastics.

 

The most compelling large scale solution to the plastic problem is transition to a new circular economy for plastics.

 

A circular economy is one that preserves material value and increases resource productivity. Transition to this model will reduce the escape of plastics into natural systems and other negative environmental costs. Furthermore, it will facilitate decoupling of plastic production from virgin fossil feedstocks.

An effective after-use economy for plastic would create incentive to build collection and recovery infrastructure. Better designed products would have higher after-use value and would be less likely to escape collection. New innovation will produce plastics that are “bio-benign,” and won’t harm the environment if leaked into natural systems.

Under this circular system, plastics never become waste, but instead re-enter the economy as resources. 

Could we change our systems to operate so that nothing is wasted? So resources are recycled and reused in a circular fashion, just like in nature?

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with their New Plastics Economy initiative, are setting out to prove this is possible. The foundation works with global partners including business, government and academia. Through education, insight, analysis, publications, communications and systemic initiatives they are building a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.

In Part 2 of our look at the New Plastics Economy we’ll examine the circular economy for plastics, priority actions for plastic packaging and the ways in which innovators around the globe are accelerating the transition to a circular economy.

 

 

 

 

Toss it? No way! Take it to the Repair Café!

Glenn Piwowar, one of the hosts of YuKonstruct’s Repair Café, eyeing up a new project. (Photo credit: YuKonstruct)

 

It’s time once again for Zero Waste Yukon’s 5th annual Indoor Community Garage Sale and Reuse Fair! From 10 am – 2 pm on February 10th at the Canada Games Centre there will be loads of great secondhand goods on offer for great prices.

What makes this year’s event even more special is that YuKonstruct will be in attendance hosting a pop-up version of their famous Repair Café!

YuKonstruct, the first makerspace north of 60, has been offering a community-operated work space for makers, hobbyists and would-be entrepreneurs since 2014. They provide access to communal space, tools, quality resources and shared knowledge, all in a collaborative environment.

Since opening, YuKonstruct has been operating a monthly Repair Café at their makerspace, teaching people how to safely disassemble, troubleshoot and repair their broken electronics and other small appliances.

Glenn busts out the blow dryer for this repair project (Photo credit: Glenn Piwowar)

 

Repair Cafés, or similar events where anyone can bring in a broken appliance or machine and troubleshoot its repair with some expert assistance, are growing in popularity worldwide. Not only do these events offer a chance to keep items in use and out of the landfill, but they also offer a unique, do it yourself, hands-on learning experience.

We sat down with Glenn Piwowar, member of the YuKonstruct Board of Directors, makerspace member, and one of the hosts of the Repair Café, to discuss toasters and technology.


After indicating his interest in getting involved at one of YuKonstruct’s kickoff events, Glenn was approached to help host the Repair Café, and jumped at the opportunity. A registered professional engineer with degrees in physics and engineering, and coming from a family of teachers, he was the perfect candidate to host the Repair Café.

“I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I’m not afraid to dive in,” he says, indicating that electronics can be scary to most people, and can also be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

“I call it having a healthy respect, but not an irrational fear,” he says, describing his relationship with electronics and electrical items.

Part of his inspiration in hosting the events is a love of tinkering and hands-on things, as well as a desire to help others understand how things work. He is also quick to acknowledge the Repair Café’s other volunteers, most notably Michelle and Garnet, who help keep up the success of the initiative.

“I think we should be learning more about our technology,” he says. “Throwing stuff away is not how to deal with technology.”

Glenn and an eager participant at last June’s Reuse and Repair Fair (Photo credit: Zero Waste Yukon)

 

While most of the items Glenn sees at the Repair Café are small home electronics, that’s certainly not the only thing they help people work on. They’ve assisted eager participants in fixing mechanical items, wooden materials, and textiles. They’ve helped repair the likes of lawnmowers, vacuums, microwaves, RC cars, VCRs, vintage radios and more. Glenn even told me a story about how they once stitched a lawnmower back together using electrical wire.

Often when people’s appliances or machinery stop working, it’s just because they need cleaning. Take toasters for example.

“Toasters work using an electromagnet,” says Glenn. When you push the handle down, it contacts the magnet, holding the bread down to be toasted. Sometimes these contacts get dirty with crumbs or soot, and this can cause the magnet not to stick.”

In this case it’s as simple as cleaning these connections, and often the biggest challenge is to access these parts, as many modern appliances aren’t meant to be taken apart.

“Older appliances and machines we meant to be maintained, and could easily be taken apart for cleaning or repair. These days a manufacturer would just as soon have you buy a new one every 5 years,” says Glenn.

So is the key to buy the most expensive toaster because it’s less likely to break? Not necessarily.

“I’ve spent money to get a good toaster, but they still fail. The most expensive item is not necessarily going to last the longest.”

The best thing to do is to seek out items made of durable materials that can easily be maintained or repaired should they fail. When things do stop working, don’t be afraid to try and learn how to fix them. Often it’s something simple and you’ll be thankful you didn’t shell out for a new one when your old one just needed a little oil!

 Garnet works on a vintage toaster at last August’s Reuse and Repair Fair at the Fireweed Community Market. (Photo credit: Zero Waste Yukon)

 

Glenn reiterates that YuKonstruct is not operating a repair service, rather it’s more of a teaching service. Their goal is to help participants learn, rather than do things for them.

“We want to give people the tools to help themselves,” he says.

North Americans generated over 11 million metric tonnes of e-waste in 2016, mostly in Canada and the US, so it’s clear that giving people the skills to repair their electronics and prevent them becoming waste has never been more valuable.

 

When people attend the Repair Café, they are often eager to learn. Participants are keen, enthusiastic, and curious, they want to know how these things work. Often they’ve already taken the item apart once or twice at home before they bring it in. The fix isn’t always easy, and some items are unfortunately beyond repair. The fun part is finding out what’s happening, where the problem is, and what might work to fix it.

This involves “persistence, observation, and experimentation,” says Glenn.

His vision of the Repair Café?

“I want people to see it as a safe environment, where hopefully you’ll fix what you brought in, but no matter what, you’ll definitely learn something.”


YuKonstruct’s Repair Café happens from 6 pm – 9 pm on the last Thursday of every month. The event is free to members, and they ask non-members to pay a $5 drop-in fee to cover the costs of consumable materials.

Apart from the Repair Café, they offer numerous other workshops and events like Drinking With Scissors, a craft night with craft beer, and Mentor’s Nights, where you can pop in to talk and learn with an expert about your latest project!

Visit YuKonstruct’s website for more information on any of their programs, and be sure to check out the Repair Café at the 5th annual Indoor Community Garage Sale, February 10th at the Canada Games Centre!

YuKonstruct is located at 135 Industrial Rd. in Whitehorse, YT.