Bea Johnson visits Whitehorse

Whitehorse can stop wasting, says leader of global Zero Waste lifestyle movement

 

A woman who has eliminated trash from her California-based household since 2008 is coming to Whitehorse to encourage others to do the same.

Bea Johnson and her family adopted a Zero Waste lifestyle in 2008 and they now produce only a half litre of trash per year. Her blog and subsequent bestseller Zero Waste Home launched a global movement of waste-free living.

Zero Waste Home has been translated into over 20 languages and is rated number one in the amazon.com waste category.

 

“In giving this way of life a face, in showing that Zero Waste is possible, that it can be stylish, that it can save time and money (40% on our overall budget!), we changed people’s misconceptions. And our lifestyle turned into a movement. Thousands are doing this now,” says Johnson.

Dubbed “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living” by the New York Times, she has become a guru to a fan base to hundreds of thousands on Facebook and Instagram.

“The Zero Waste lifestyle might, at first sight, be about reducing as much household trash as possible, but what you ultimately discover is a simple life, a life based on experiences instead of things. It’s the opposite of what we would have expected it be; It’s improved our lives so much that we could not envision going back to the way we used to live,” the French native explains.

Bea Johnson has completed 14 international speaking tours and given talks in 50+ countries on 6 continents.

 

A will to create a more sustainable world for her children’s future is what got her started 10 years ago. Today she is driven to spread her message as far and wide as possible. Johnson speaks all over the globe, counting the United Nations, Google, Adobe, and the European Parliament as recent gigs. Bea is known to talk about her personal journey with humor and without preaching, inspiring self-reflection and change.

Zero Waste Yukon is excited to annouce that Bea will be speaking twice in Whitehorse on October 21st – once in French and once in English. She will be giving a presentation about practical ways to eliminate trash. Johnson’s presentations will be the closing event in Whitehorse for Waste Reduction Week in Canada, which takes place October 15-21 across the nation in support of waste reduction initiatives.

Zero Waste Yukon chose to bring Bea to the Yukon because she is extremely knowledgeable and relatable to so many people. She’s had such a large influence abroad and we’re excited for her to inspire change here locally too. Waste Reduction Week is the perfect time to bring everyone together to inspire action.

“I’m really excited to share my lifestyle in Whitehorse. There’s been a lot of interest in this way of life in Canada and I am honored by Zero Waste Yukon’s invitation” says Johnson.

Bea Johnson is speaking twice on October 21st at the MacBride Museum – 1124 Front St. Both presentations will be followed by a Q&A period.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm – présentation en Français

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – presentation in English

Both presentations are open to the public.

 

Contact info@zerowasteyukon.ca or call 867-667-7269 ext. 27 for more information.

 

 

Award-winning documentary Bag It comes to Whitehorse

Zero Waste Yukon is excited to announce a free film screening of the award-winning documentary Bag It!

 

The screening will take place at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, at 7:00 pm on October 17th.

Bag It follows Jeb Berrier, an average American guy who is admittedly not a “tree hugger,” who makes a pledge to stop using plastic bags. His girlfriend, Anne, joins him in the challenge to decrease their use of plastic at home. This small action gets Jeb thinking about plastic—not just about plastic bags, but other kinds of plastic. “What is plastic made of? Is it recyclable? Does it decompose when it ends up in the landfill? Does plastic have negative health effects?” Jeb wants to learn more, so he embarks on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world.

Our reliance on single-use disposable items is so deeply ingrained in our society that we rarely stop to think of what effects our behavior might have on our local environment. The film explores these issues and identifies how our daily reliance on plastic threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. In the Yukon, single-use plastics take up large amounts of landfill space, are hard to recycle, and escape collection to litter our wild spaces and affect wildlife.

Building off a successful Plastic Free July, the screening at Beringia Centre is part of Zero Waste Yukon’s campaign to curb the use of single-use plastics in the territory. Many North American cities including Washington, DC and San Francisco, as well as countries like Ireland, Italy and China have implemented fees or bans on single-use disposable bags, with positive results.

“Think about it—why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away? What’s up with that?”
—Jeb Berrier

 

Event Details:

Screening Date: October 17, 2018

Screening Time: 7:00 PM

Screening Location: Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre

Admission: FREE

 

Contact info@zerowasteyukon.ca or call 667-7269 ext 27 for more info.

 

 

Lea Pigage

Meet the biologist & business owner who sparked our Plastic Free July challenge.

Lea Pigage challenges the need for single use plastics. She began ditching plastic in 2017 for her first Plastic Free July challenge. Since then, she has tried to reduce her use of single-use plastics such as plastic bags, cups, cutlery, water bottles, and straws. What’s remarkable is how Lea has incorporated plastic-free and other zero waste practices into the varied facets of her life – as a biologist, businesses owner, and parent.

Lea and her husband own and operate Urban Caribou Bed and Breakfast in Whitehorse, where she uses simple practices to reduce waste while operating a successful business. These practices include sourcing cleaning and food products in bulk (then decanting into smaller containers) to reduce packaging, lining compost and waste bins with old newspaper, only washing towels upon request, and baking their own homemade bread for guests. Coffee is purchased in bulk using in 5 lb reusable bags from the Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, mini bars of soap are bought in bulk from Yukon Soaps Co., and growlers are provided for guests to refill at local breweries. As much as possible, the preserves they serve are jams made from local berries and all of their bed and breakfast communication with guests is electronic so no paper waste is created.

For those trying to reduce waste, Pigage recommends “starting with things that are easy.” Take inventory of your behaviors, look at what is in your garbage bin, and then “challenge the normal.” She recommends beginning with something simple, like using reusable produce bags. “You can also look for opportunities to buy local, buy bulk, and tweak behaviors. Finding suppliers that share sustainable practices and are willing to accommodate package free options is also really helpful. Riverside Grocery now has a really great bulk section where you can bring your own containers to fill.”

For Pigage, the benefits to her business and community far outweigh any initial inconveniences. According to Pigage, her waste reducing practices are not only good for the environment but also connect her business to a “niche market that supports sustainable practices.” For Pigage it’s clear – “reducing waste is totally possible, if you take it one step at a time.”

To learn more about Lea Pigage and her B&B visit www.urbancaribou.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Free July – complete!

July is over and with it the Plastic Free July challenge! First off, big congratulations to everyone who participated. Whether you refused one straw or avoided all single-use plastics entirely, give yourself a pat on the back! We hope this challenge has made visible all the ways that disposability has infiltrated our society. From plastic in the produce section to the little stopper in your disposable coffee cups, single-use items are all around us.

We are excited to announce that Roslyn Woodcock is the winner of the plastic free prize pack from Riverside Grocery.

Roslyn was one of the first people to sign up, and even challenged the rest of the Whitehorse City Council to participate. Congrats Roslyn!
A special mention goes to Steve Roddick who shared his dedication to the challenge online and inspired many people to ditch single use plastics beyond July.

It’s no small feat to avoid single-use plastics. They are ubiquitous, and so ingrained in our daily lives that we hardly stop to think about it. Writes Leyla Acaroglu in her essay Design for Disposability:

“Within 50 years we have moved from everyday reusable products to single-use disposable items that are a blight on our wallets and the environment. Countries spend billions of dollars every year to build and manage landfills that just compress and bury this stuff. While people complain about dirty cities and giant ocean plastic waste islands, producers continue to deflect all responsibility for the end of life management of their products, and designers are complacent in the perpetuation of stuff designed for disposability.”

This last sentence is key. Often the consumer takes much of the blame for the plastic pollution crisis we have found ourselves in. However, product producers continue to design new and diverse disposable packaging to drive profits and increase convenience. In British Columbia, there are over 15 extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs in place. These programs manage many consumer products such as packaging, printed paper, electronics, appliances, tires, used oil, and more. Under an EPR system, producers are responsible for funding the end-of-life management of their products. This creates incentive to design products that can be recycled, and allows for better collection and recycling of these products.

Some of our favourite Plastic Free July experiences!

 

We set up shop at Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer to remind people to bring their reusable bags and hand out Zero Waste Yukon bags to those that forgot. Really impressed how many shoppers were bringing their own bags already!

Handing out bags at the Independent.

 

Earlier this month we shared an interesting article about plastic bag use in different countries. Did you know that Danes use on average about 4 single-use plastic bags each year? This is in stark contrast to the US, where the average person uses a bag per day. We asked our followers to show us their favourite reusable shopping bags, and we had some great responses!

     

Our favourite reusable bags people shared

 

We also hosted a workshop on creating beesewax wraps, a reusable alternative to plastic wrap, at the Fireweed Community Market. Everyone who stopped by took home their own beeswax wrap!

We learned this month that the City of Whitehorse water bottle refill stations have filled the equivalent of over 270,000 single use bottles since 2010! Here’s to continued efforts by City staff and administration to eliminate single-use.

 

Stay tuned for more from Zero Waste Yukon as we work to eliminate disposability and single-use plastics in Yukon!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Registration Open! Recycling and Zero Waste Working Forum: April 11-13, 2018

Join Zero Waste Yukon, Eric Lombardi and expert panelists as we explore ways to become a Zero Waste territory. We’ll learn about how to eliminate waste, make local recycling systems more effective, and find new ways of doing business within the Circular Economy!