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.

5th Annual Indoor Community Garage Sale + Reuse Fair

Registration is now open for the 5th annual Indoor Community Garage Sale!

This year during the sale we will be launching our new household goods reuse program, “Perfectly Good!”

Also new this year is the opportunity to learn to repair household electronics with the help of YuKonstruct‘s handy Repair Cafe. YuKonstruct’s volunteers will make their best effort to help you repair your broken devices during the event.

We will also have visible mending and weaving workshops on offer, stay tuned for registration details!

With over 1000 people attending the event last year, this event is a great opportunity to raise funds for your organization (non-profit, sports team, etc.) while keeping materials out of the landfill! Or, just shop around for great secondhand items at awesome prices!

To register as a vendor for the event please call North Star Mini Storage, our event partner, at 633-5402.

Visit the Facebook event page here, and contact Zero Waste Yukon for more information!

The Green Fence and the Future of Recycling

If you’ve been following the recycling news in the past few months – and I know you have – you may have heard the term “green fence” thrown around, but just what the heck is the green fence anyway?

The term refers to “Operation Green Fence,” a policy program implemented by China in 2013 to improve the quality of recyclables being exported to China. After years of decreasing quality of materials entering China, and no longer wanting to bear the financial and environmental costs of dealing with those materials, the Chinese government cracked down on imports of North American and European recycling.

This program increased enforcement of regulations to stop dirty recyclables and trash entering China. The result? North American and European recyclers were forced to improve processing or find other markets for their materials. It was a rude awakening that we here in North America needed to do things better when it came to recycling.

Rather than return empty, container ships such as this one are loaded with North American and European scrap commodities before returning to China. (Photo credit: Recycling Today)

 

Five years later and China is again telling the rest of the world it doesn’t want our trash, and rightly so. As of January 1, China, the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, is renewing its campaign against foreign garbage with bans and stricter contamination limits on numerous recycled materials including plastics, metals, cardboard and mixed paper.

The effects of the “green fence” are being felt only a few months after the impending restrictions were announced, and the United States is being hit particularly hard. US scrap exports to China were worth over $5.6 billion last year, and recyclable materials are the sixth largest US export to China. With a lack of domestic infrastructure to handle the volumes being collected, the future of US recycling is uncertain. Some companies are being forced to landfill or store materials, while others have stopped accepting materials altogether.


Here in Canada, we send about 21% of recycled plastics to China, but the effects of tightened restrictions are being seen across the country, and Yukon is no exception.

Changes in the market are requiring local processors in Whitehorse to ensure that paper and plastics shipped south are clean, so they don’t end up landfilled.

Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling recently asked customers to begin sorting recyclables into two streams, a dry paper stream and a clean container stream, to increase the quality of materials being recycled. While China’s new regulations are forcing changes to Yukon recycling, volatile recycling markets are nothing new. In 2008, recycling commodities markets crashed, and in 2014, poor market prices forced the temporary closure of Raven’s public drop off.

Raven Recycling is urging the public to keep up the good work by continuing to sort and rinse recycling, and to separate plastics and paper in packaging to ensure the materials get recycled.

Cardboard is loaded at Raven Recycling for shipment to recycling mills in BC and Washington.

 

Elsewhere in the country, the regulations are having varied effects.

Edmonton, which sells paper and cardboard to China, is hiring extra staff and slowing sort lines to ensure they get coffee cups, plastics and other contaminants out of their paper stream. So far they are managing to keep contamination low enough, but things are tenuous. In 2013, when standards were first tightened, the city lost $1 million in revenue due to flooded markets.

Calgary has stockpiled five thousand tonnes of recyclables since October, and Island Waste Management in P.E.I. has stored more than 100 tonnes of plastics (mostly grocery bags) and incinerated another 60 tonnes in a waste-to-energy facility.

Halifax recently sought approval to landfill 300 tonnes of film plastics, a practice that has long been banned, but decided to burn them instead.

The City of Winnipeg says there is currently no backlog of materials. Recycling is being shipped out as usual and nothing is being diverted to landfill. Even so, recyclers in Manitoba are actively seeking ways to reduce contamination, foreseeing costs down the line.

The City of Toronto is still shipping material, but revenues are decreasing due to an oversupply of recycling and low prices. They also have a single-stream recycling system – one bin for all materials – and contamination is high, around 25%.


One jurisdiction that seems unaffected by the new restrictions is British Columbia, where residential packaging and printed paper are covered under an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program. This program requires the producers of these materials to be responsible for collection and recycling at the end of a product’s lifespan. This EPR system funds Recycle BC, the organization in charge of residential packaging and printed paper recycling province-wide.

Recycle BC has guaranteed a supply of plastics to a local processor, and BC has been recycling plastics locally for over three years, creating second-generation plastics with value.

According to Recycle BC Director Alan Langdon, BC is also producing high quality paper and cardboard, giving them access to markets unavailable to other jurisdictions. BC’s paper and cardboard are cleaner than most provinces because many cities in BC require residents to separate paper from other recyclables. BC has also facilitated widespread plastic bag recycling by installing bag drop offs at major pharmacy chains such as London Drugs.

The benefits of an EPR system are evident in BC. Similar programs have potential to be developed in other provinces. For example, Ontario has laid out ambitious goals for waste diversion and EPR programs in their Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario. China’s new regulations could be just the thing to kickstart EPR programs nationwide that support domestic infrastructure for recycling and promote the circular economy.

 Residents of the City of Vancouver sort recycling into three
streams. BC is one of few provinces with an Extended Producer
Responsibility (EPR) program in place for residential
packaging and printed paper. (Photo: City of Vancouver)

 

We are entering a new reality of recycling and waste management. This is a wake-up call to North Americans, and the world, that we need to better manage our own materials and find ways to process recycling locally and sustainably. It’s a rallying call for implementation of more EPR programs and legislation to address our growing waste problem. It’s an endorsement for transition to a circular economy in which we treat these precious materials as resources, not waste.

Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to reflect on our current lifestyles and the amount of materials we create only to quickly dispose of them. We must challenge ourselves to change for the better. We must strive to take less, embrace environmental design, reuse and repair items, and recycle materials as a last resort, because continuing on with business as usual is no longer an option.

 

Breaking Up With The Paper Cup: A New Year’s Resolution

With the start of a new year, it’s time again to decide on some resolutions to take into 2018 to make our lives and the lives of those around us a bit better. As always, some resolutions will fall by the wayside, some we might stick with for a few months, and a few of our resolutions might become the norm. Some resolutions are grandiose (“I’m going to work out more!”) others more modest (“I’m going to stop eating popcorn before bed!”), but let me suggest a resolution that is entirely attainable and will have meaningful impact on your environment: Break up with the disposable paper cup.

In Canada, over 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups, equivalent to as much paper as over half a million trees, are thrown away each year. In Whitehorse, it’s estimated that 20,000 cups are thrown away each week, and in Vancouver, the cups make up about 22% of the on-street garbage stream, costing the city millions of dollars to deal with. Our dependence on convenience has resulted in a cycle of growing waste, but these disposable cups are easy to give up, and there’s no time like the present.

 

Disposable coffee cups are a growing environmental burden

 

Most disposable coffee cups are made from paper but have a polyethylene or wax lining,which makes them difficult to recycle. Some municipalities can recycle these cups but these are few, and in places that do recycle them, most people are unaware that they can be recycled.

Many shops offer compostable coffee cups, which is great, if they get thrown in the compost. Often there are few compost options around for the cup to go into, and the average number of steps someone will carry garbage is only twelve paces. Unfortunately many consumers are unwilling to carry the cup to find composting options, and they end up in the landfill where they last hundreds of years and contribute to the production of methane, whose greenhouse gas effect is 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

 

Bring your own

 

Impressed by a friend’s decision to quit using disposable cups, I decided I would get a reusable mug, but I would often forget it and have coffee in a paper cup anyways, plastic lid and all. As time drew on and my understanding of the global issues of waste evolved, I decided that to do this effectively I would have to strengthen my resolve.

I decided that if on any given day I forgot to bring my mug, or didn’t have time to use one at the coffee shop, I would skip coffee that day. In this way, I created a negative consequence for forgetting to bring my mug. On those days I forgot and couldn’t have my coffee, the act of missing out created incentive to consciously remember my cup wherever I went.

The cup for me was an old ceramic mug I “inherited” when I moved out of my parents’ house. It was a good size, and I always preferred the taste of coffee from a ceramic mug. It didn’t have a lid, so I would be forced to stop and smell the coffee, or to tread carefully when carrying a full cup, but it was a convenient enough size that I could comfortably carry it everywhere, and I saved a bit of money with each cup, as most businesses offer a discount for bringing in a reusable mug.

(Photo credit: Moomin Shop Online)

The key? Find a mug you love, one you enjoy drinking out of, and you’re much more likely to bring it with you every day.

I’ll admit there are lots of less than ideal travel mugs out there. Some don’t keep the coffee hot, and some keep it so hot that you have to wait hours before it’s a drinkable temperature. KeepCup makes some funky, sustainably made coffee mugs that are great for specialty coffee and come in all sizes. For those on the move, I can’t say enough good things about my Stanley 16oz Thermos. It’s not too big, has a cup, and keeps things hot for hours. On top of that, it has a lifetime warranty.

Spend a little time looking and you’ll find the right mug for you, then the only thing you’ll have to do is remember to bring it!

 

Solutions to the coffee conundrum

 

It would be wonderful if we could all wake up tomorrow and stop using disposable cups, but that’s unlikely. Fortunately, there are many people and organizations working at reducing our consumption of disposable coffee cups.

We’ve seen how beverage container deposit systems are successful at diverting recyclables from landfills, could the same system work for coffee cups? In Vancouver, where 2.6 million cups are thrown away every week, The Binners’ Project is exploring what a refund-deposit system for coffee cups would look like. They hosted a one day “Coffee Cup Revolution” where they offered a 5 cent refund for every disposable cup brought in.

Photo credit: Binners’ Project

In 3 hours, they collected over 53,000 cups, and project leader Ken Lyotier didn’t beat around the bush when discussing the issue:

“We’re chopping down half a million trees a year in Canada to provide ourselves with these disposable cups, which we ship out to the dump, and we can’t afford to build decent, affordable housing for our very poorest citizens — there’s something very off-kilter here.”

Lyotier is right, and even though paper coffee cups are covered under an EPR program for packaging, the City of Vancouver is exploring potential regulations to further reduce coffee cup waste.

At UNBC, they started the ‘Borrow-A-Mug’ program, setting up stations on campus where reusable mugs can be borrowed if needed, and then dropped off to be washed by volunteers. Other universities are employing this new strategy as a way to move towards Zero Waste on campus. We’ve all been in the coffee line and realized we left our mug at home, so this is a great way to provide reusable cups for students on the go.

Similarly, a New Zealand Cafe challenged the norm and did away with takeout cups altogether. Instead, they offered repurposed ceramic mugs they got at thrift shops and other recycling stores. The mugs could simply be taken and dropped off later, and the shop saw no decrease in business like they expected.  By taking away the option of a disposable cup they’re encouraging their customers to rethink their behaviour, and eventually people get used it.

 

Change the story about convenience

 

There are lots of great initiatives tackling the issues associated with our disposable culture, and we’re still discovering the consequences of convenience. What it will take to change is people like you deciding enough is enough. Individual actions have merit, so if you’re looking for a new year’s resolution, ditch the disposable cup! Get out there and find a mug you love! You’ll enjoy your coffee more, and you’ll dramatically reduce your waste! Furthermore, you’ll be showing people there are alternatives and demonstrating a real solution to the issue of disposable cup waste. In the words of Lindsay Miles from Treading My Own Path, “you’ll be changing the story about convenience”, making reusable cups a little more socially acceptable and disposable cups a little less so.

Forgot your travel mug at home? Stop and smell the coffee (literally) by enjoying your cup at the café in a real mug, or dare I say it, skip the coffee?

Happy New Year!

 

 

References

 

Chad Berndt. 2013. Wake up and smell the coffee. Retrieved from: https://talkintrashwithuhn.com/2013/05/08/wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee/

CBC News. 2014. Coffee cups recycled for 5-cent refund in Vancouver. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/coffee-cups-recycled-for-5-cent-refund-in-vancouver-1.2789576

Durocher et al. 2014. Methane fluxes show consistent temperature dependence across microbial to ecosystem scales. Nature 507: 488–491

Chad Pawson. 2017. Vancouver seeks ideas to stem tide of cups, containers and bags. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/single-use-waste-strategy-consultation-city-of-vancouver-1.4420041

Brianne Tolj. 2016. Cafe BANS disposable takeaway coffee cups telling customers they can either bring their own or drink out of old crockery from second-hand shops. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3470576/Cafe-bans-disposable-takeaway-coffee-cups-favour-old-crockery.html#ixzz53AIt6hvC

Zero Waste Canada. 2017. The brewing problem of the to-go coffee cup. Retrieved from: http://zerowastecanada.ca/the-brewing-problem-of-the-to-go-coffee-cup

Indoor Community Garage Sale + Reuse Fair: February 10th, 2018

Registration is now open for the 5th annual Indoor Community Garage Sale!

This year during the sale we will be launching our new household goods reuse program, “Perfectly Good!”

Also new this year is the opportunity to learn to repair household electronics with the help of YuKonstruct‘s handy Repair Cafe. YuKonstruct’s volunteers will make their best effort to help you repair your broken devices during the event.

We will also have visible mending and weaving workshops on offer, stay tuned for registration details!

With over 1000 people attending the event last year, this event is a great opportunity to raise funds for your organization (non-profit, sports team, etc.) while keeping materials out of the landfill! Or, just shop around for great secondhand items at awesome prices!

To register as a vendor for the event please call North Star Mini Storage, our event partner, at 633-5402.

Visit the Facebook event page here.

Contact Zero Waste Yukon for more information!