EcoUrbia Network

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about waste

by Karen Morton

Our current level of waste generation is unsustainable. Every time we throw something away we stress our landfills, and lose the opportunity to recover the material elements they are comprised of (such as aluminum, precious metals and glass). We can take an active role toward waste reduction – from the stuff we buy, to the ways in which we dispose of it, including food waste - composting is the simplest, and easiest method available to us because we can do it for ourselves, and reap almost immediate benefits from it. 

Sounds simple, so why aren't we? Because we have to change the system. The current long-held system requires municipalities (you & I, the taxpayers) to be responsible for the collection, and removal of our waste to landfills, so it has never mattered how the materials are produced in the first place. It's not their problem, and its not been their burden to bear. Municipalities have been successful in implementing blue box recycling, and yard trimming waste programs, but we fall far short of where we could be. Some municipalities have implemented a food scraps program (Port Coquitlam), while others (Vancouver) are in the early planning phase. We also see environmental disposal fees attached to the purchase price of some of our goods, but its still up to us to know where to dispose of these products, and these programs are often nominal at best.  

We are not powerless while we wait for the system, and policies to change: we have a voice, and we have a choice. By being informed, we can more actively engage in waste reduction strategies, and be empowered as consumers. The most important thing we can do is REDUCE our consumption in the first place, be smart consumers, and buy items that can be REPURPOSED either by ourselves or by manufacturers through take-back programs, REPAIR materials rather than replace them, REUSE items that no longer serve their intended purpose, and RECYCLE products for their base materials before we DISPOSE of the leftovers into our waste stream. Value, and opportunity resides within these resources.

By changing the way we make things, and by supporting, and advocating for product stewardship, extended producer responsibility, zero waste, and a cradle-to-cradle® approach by the manufacturers of the products we buy, this will significantly reduce the intended waste in the first place, and the effect it has on our environment - this is how we can most effectively change the system.

Product stewardship is a strategy to place the responsibility for end-of-life product management on the producers, and consumers of a product, and not the general taxpayer or local government. In BC, employment generated directly by industry in meeting its stewardship responsibilities is estimated at 1,600 positions, with 500 more jobs created indirectly.

Source: BC Ministry of Environment's economic aspects study.

Incineration is not a solution. It poses health, environmental, and financial risks, and acts as a disincentive to waste reduction strategies by taking away our ability to recover, and repurpose materials, and to re-invent ourselves as a sustainable society. "Waste incineration is an end-of-pipe technology based on the Cradle to Grave paradigm. Prices of resources are increasing. This price increase opens a door to a new cradle to cradle® economy, where companies can gain internal profits from recovering beneficial materials from products." (Cradle to Cradle: From Waste Incineration to Beneficial Materials, Catalyst Strategic Design Review, Spring 2010)


did you know

  • Industry product stewardship programs in BC reduced 267,000 metric tonnes of CO2e & saved 5.3 million gigajoules of energy relative to land filling, with aluminium cans & tires accounting for 82% of these reductions; these reductions are equivalent to saving:
    • 72,950 passenger cars removed from the roadway each year
    • 858,913 barrels of oil
    • 150,776,044 litres of gasoline
  • Recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its virgin source, bauxite.
  • Lead acid batteries can be taken apart and almost entirely recycled into new batterires, with the sulphuric acid made into fertilizer & plastics pelletized for use as raw material in moulded plastic products.
  • Juice boxes are separated & used to make cardboard boxes as well as toilet paper.
  • Pop bottles are transformed into a fibre to make new fleece clothing, blankets & more.
  • Glass bottles are crushed & ground back into sand; this sand is used as mix in sandblasting material or made into fibreglass to insulate homes.
  • Used oil containers are centrifuged to recover oil, washed and pelletized for use in new oil containers, drainage tiles & parking curbs.
  • Steel from used oil filters can be used to manufacture rebar for construction.
  • Old tires can be broken down into crumb rubber and made into flooring & mats, landfill construction material, rubberized asphalt or highway construction materials.
  • To manufacture one computer & monitor, it takes 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water


north shore initiatives


other initiatives


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"We must now work together to build a zero waste nation - where we reduce the resources we use, reuse and recycle all that we can, and only landfill things that have absolutely no other use." (Hilary Benn)

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waste topics

-composting (also food)
-compostable containers (also food)
-cradle to cradle
-extended producer responsibility
-incineration (waste=energy)
-recycling: reduce, reuse, repurpose
-toxic waste
-waste reduction strategies



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SIGN... Declaration for Seed Freedom 

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