We’ve all been there - the slight hesitation in front of the waste bins as we work out where to delegate our trash and recycling. Us Vancouverites are lucky, as most of the city is equipped with clearly labeled containers that makes organized and smart disposal insanely simple.
Let’s be real though - have you ever stopped to consider what happens after we toss our trash? Does it really matter or is it all a waste of time (no pun intended!) Waste management may not seem like the most glamorous conversation to be having - but it is a necessary one. So let’s (dumpster) dive-in!
We reached out to Thea Zerbe, a self-proclaimed “trash enthusiast” and former Projects Coordinator with AWARE Whistler - a non-profit dedicated to fostering environmental awareness and sustainable practices within the Sea to Sky community. Thea helps us break down common waste-related questions as we delve into what you did (and didn’t) want to know about waste disposal.
What is recycling, and does it really help the environment?
T: Recycling is a circular process by which waste is broken down into its basic material to be reused. By recycling plastic, glass, metals, paper, etc. we are “completing the circle” and avoiding having to source more raw materials to manufacture goods.
What typically happens to waste after it’s picked up?
T: This one depends on your municipality - the best way to get specific answers is to call your waste hauler and figure out where it’s taken. It’s most likely taken to a transfer station or depot where it’s sorted, bundled, and sold off to a materials manufacturer who facilitate the actual recycling. Recycle BC has a video detailing what happens to our recycling and goes over the sorting in-depth - trust me when I say it’s cool!
So my compost was full and I put a banana peel in the garbage - no big deal right?
T: Big deal! Because landfills are anaerobic environments, organic waste that ends up in landfill generates methane, a greenhouse gas 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. That banana peel (alongside any other food scrap that doesn’t make it to the compost!) gets trapped amongst non-organic material and fails to properly break down.
What are some habits that should people should break (and create) to help reduce waste?
T: This one’s simple! For starters, Bring a reusable bag, mug, cup, cutlery, straw, etc. with you when you’re on the go. It’s very easy to assemble a “zero waste kit” and throw it in your backpack, purse, or trunk of your car. Another way is to buy food in bulk - avoid processed, overly packaged food and cook from scratch when possible (or support your locally-owned food retailers ;). Contrary to popular belief, there’s more than just 3 R’s: recycle, reuse, reduce, refuse, repair, re-gift and recover. Before discarding any items, ask yourself whether it could be preserved or repurposed in someway! Buying second-hand is also a great way to avoid creating more waste. AWARE has a series of eco-tips that cover a lot more topics - check em’ out here!
For businesses committed to reducing waste, what are some important things to consider?
T: There’s a few. Make sure you are collecting the waste streams you produce (i.e. a restaurant should be collecting organics and a retailer should collect cardboard, etc); adhere to the organics waste bylaw (which mandates the diversion of organics from landfill); look into compostable food container options (like BPI certification); and encourage customers to bring their own food or beverage containers.
At the end of the day, it’s an immense privilege that our communities have prioritized the responsible treatment of waste, Simple, everyday practices in aggregate have a great impact on our environment. For more information on how to reduce the impact of our waste, swing by the AWARE website for insight and resources. (http://www.awarewhistler.org/) To learn more about Glory packaging and our commitment to sourcing the least impactful containers, check out our FAQ.