In her post on How to talk about Climate Change, and her Friendly Friday Challenge: Recycling Amanda asks us to share Green Environmental initiatives in our community. I needed to think a bit about that. Some of the things I consider novel may be common place elsewhere. Or maybe not? Let me know what’s different or same in your part of world.
In Toronto I’m used to sorting household waste into three different bins – green for organic food waste, blue for recyclables and grey for garbage. I remember the early days when the city provided mandatory, government issued bins. The green bins in particular were troublesome. Toronto is the ‘racoon capital of the world’ and the ‘trash pandas’ were adept at opening the bins and feasting on the food inside.
In 2016, the city spent CA$31 million (about US$24 million) on waste bins that were specially designed to keep furry scavengers out. To open one up, a rotating handle on the lid must be turned to unhinge a gravity lock. The hope was that raccoons, which lack opposable thumbs, wouldn’t be able to break in.Toronto, ‘Raccoon Capital of the World,’ Is Fighting Its Trash Panda Problem … and Losing – by Emily Petsko. September 17, 2018
Cameras cast doubt on that theory … footage uploaded to YouTube by the Toronto Star shows a determined mama raccoon cracking the code to open the lid and get to the good stuff inside.
The bins have had a couple design iterations since then. I’m glad to say that the latest (at least for me) has been trash panda proof. Knock on
wood green bin.
Other eco-initiatives in Toronto include things like eliminating plastic straws, disallowing free plastic bags and banning single-use plastics like stir sticks, cutlery, dishes, takeout containers and six-pack rings for cans and bottles. Like everything else though, the initiatives took a hit with the pandemic. For a time, re-usable grocery bags were not allowed for shopping and with take-out only options for dining, plastic container use is at an all time high.
Probably the biggest contributor to plastic waste is consumer packaging. For my part, I try to buy less pre-made products by either making my own or doing without. It’s healthier and tastier too. Buying in bulk is also a good option.
In 2017 Bulk Barn, the largest bulk retailer in Canada, endorsed the Zero Waste movement by allowing home-brought reusable containers for purchases. The containers are weighed before shopping and tared accordingly at check-out. Unfortunately, (again) due to Covid the program is temporarily suspended.
In more recent news, Loblaws which is Canada’s largest grocery chain, partnered with Loop, an online retailer to test market sustainably packaged groceries. Under this program, consumers buy groceries in reusable containers which are then picked up and returned to manufacturers for refill and re-use. Just like old-style milk bottles … but for more than, and not including, milk.
The most innovative program I’ve seen lately is this one based out of British Columbia. ChopValue recycles chopsticks into wooden furniture, shelves and countertops. Every day they collect 100-300 kg of used chopsticks from restaurants in the Vancouver area. At their HQ the sticks are cleaned, roasted, treated and pressed into high density slabs of wood.
Since 2016 ChopValue has recycled 33 million chopsticks that would have otherwise ended up in landfill. In China, that amount is used in just one day’s lunch break. There, people throw out 130 million chopsticks a day! Imagine the potential for upcycling there.
By the way, this Business Insider channel on World Wide Waste is a treasure trove of interesting videos. Each features an initiative to recycle or re-invent items that would normally go to waste. From transforming pineapple scraps into biodegradable plates to making flip-flops from algae. You can view the full playlist here.
Toronto, Canada. March 2021