With all the recent Family Day Sales and upcoming parcels to arrive at your doorstep, I thought it would be timely to discuss disposing waste properly especially with all that extra packaging. How often have you thrown out an item into the wrong waste bin thinking, "Oh waste management will deal with it"? When it comes to recycling, composting, or "land filling", it's important we are aware of what waste items go where. When I used to drink coffee cups from Tim Hortons or Starbucks (I try to bring a coffee tumbler with me whenever I can), I thought it was okay to throw them into the blue bin because it was primarily made of paper. Wrong. That wax-lining deemed it non-recyclable and in very fine print at the bottom, the cup indicates that it's only made of 10% recyclable fibres. I was actually performing a disservice to Toronto Waste Management Services and more importantly, a disservice to our planet.
Waste is unfortunately a daily occurrence in our lives. Everyday people are throwing things out so it's important to know what we can and cannot recycle, compost or "land fill" and teach that forward. It's also important to practice the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. So I decided to come up with helpful tips on how I avoid and manage my waste which I hope helps you and your families.
Tip #1: Consume Less (even if it's a freebie)
This is probably the most important tip. Avoid buying or taking things you don't need especially items that do not have longevity or serve a practical purpose. Not only do material things eat up space in our homes, one day that item will end up in a landfill. I know it's not easy but think of all the money, space and time you would save if you didn't buy so much. Be mindful about how much you consume. A lot of energy, fuel, and packaging goes into creating and transporting goods to your local store or to your doorstep. If you do have to purchase a good, try to understand and purchase from companies that make recycling and sustainability a priority.
Tip #2: Before you toss it, donate, sell or give it away
"One man's junk is another man's treasure". You can donate used items to Salvation Army, Thrift Store, Value Village or Children's Charity (to name a few). Recently we donated 8 large bags worth of used clothing and household items to the Salvation Army. It's a non for profit organization so it's volunteer based. The volunteers are always so kind so be nice to them because they're sorting through your old things.
Sell your used items. There are many buy, sell trade groups on Facebook or mobile apps that facilitate the buying/selling of used goods. Let Go! is a new mobile app that allows you to sell or let go of your used items. It's great because it only populates your mobile feed with sellers in your local vicinity so you can avoid the inconvenience of meeting someone from across town.
Give it away. Now by give I don't mean re-gift it. But I mean ask your friend or family member if they can use that item. I've been asking my friends if they want some of my old jewellery display trays and crafting tools and they were happy to take it. My friend also recently suggested giving away used goods to people in need. She gave her items away to Syrian Refugees through an organized foundation and this can act as a more thoughtful way to help others at the same time! Check if there are any organizations who are coordinating donation runs in your local vicinity.
Tip #3: Knowing What Can be Composted, Recycled or Tossed Out
Each municipality, city, or town has their own website and within that website is usually a section where they list what can be recycled, composted or thrown into the garbage. Most Ontario residents receive a handy calendar which contains a quick picture guide of what items go into which bin. Keep this calendar on your fridge and you won't need to visit your town's website (time saver!) If you are a resident of Toronto, I've provided City of Toronto's Waste Website by clicking here. They even have a neat tool called the "Waste Wizard" where you can type in the name of an item and it'll guide you to which bin to throw it out.
Tip #4: To use or not use Biodegradable Bags for Compost?
After initially writing this post, I did some more research and learned that certain municipalities do not require you to use biodegradable bags for compost and some require it. For instance, Toronto and Markham do not require it however Richmond Hill, Aurora, Peel and Vaughan suggest that you do. Ideally if you have access to these bags, I feel that we still should use them as they end up in the landfill and can degrade a lot faster than a plastic bag. The reason for which some municipalities say it's not a requirement is due to the following reason:
"Should I use bio-degradable bags in the Green Bin? There is no need to buy special bags; used grocery bags are fine. Using a bio-degradable bag does not provide any real benefit. The mechanism used to open and separate the bags full of organics cannot distinguish a compostable/bio-degradable plastic bag from a regular plastic bag. All bags are opened, removed and treated as residue that requires landfill disposal."
-Live Green Toronto
Be sure to check your municipality's requirements and check to see if the brand of biodegradable bags indicates the official compostable logo by BPI (see above image).
Tip #5: Know the Quantity You Can Waste
Each town has rules about how much you can toss out. Now don't roll your eyes at this rule, it's put in place to remind us to be thoughtful of how much we consume and throw out. If you're a homeowner, you're probably aware of how many blue, green, black bins or bags you can leave out for waste management to pick up. Be aware of your town or city's limitations or you may end up receiving all that waste back or worse it ends up on floating on your local street as litter.
Tip #6: You can't recycle everything
Unfortunately not everything with a triangular recycle logo can be recycled by your local facility as they may not have the capability to break it down, especially plastics. And no, you can't force them to recycle the item just by placing it in the blue bin. Refer to your town calendar or website for what you can and cannot recycle. Or try calling or emailing them!
Tip #7: Reuse!
Try thinking of other ways you can re-purpose something and don't give up on it. For instance, if you have outdated kitchen cabinets sometimes a fresh coat of paint can really update that kitchen. Or if you receive a lot of plastic forks and knives from take-out, keep them for future parties or re-wash and re-use them for yourself at work. I have this chandelier that has lost it's appeal with me. As my husband and I were stripping the components down to clean it, we noticed how cool it was without the dangling crystals and box cover. Instead of buying a new light fixture, we re-purposed it by swapping out the light bulbs to vintage ones and now it has this exposed-industrial look that compliments our home. (Don't worry we kept the crystals, box cover and bulbs for usage later in case my style changes again).
I hope in some shape or form these tips were helpful or provided some enlightenment to your waste habits. If you guys have any more tips, please do share them with me in the comments section! I'd love to hear them. Please also share this post with your family and friends and most importantly, I hope you practice these tips and encourage others to do so as well!