As life continues to get busier, food convenience becomes more attractive to the millions of ‘on-the-go’ families across Canada. Whether its to get the kids off to school, to get yourself off to work or after-hours activities, it seems like most meals, especially snacks, need to be ‘on-the-go’ friendly. For food manufactures and food service locations to accommodate this new lifestyle trend, food packaging continues to get more clever, making it more convenient (and more attractive) to take food on-the-go.
Although this ‘packaging for convenience’ is convenient, it is far from sustainable. From individually packed granola bars to prepacked meals, there is very few food items that come without packaging. Not many people think about the impact that all this packing has on our environment, as more focus is on the pretty labels and marketing gimmicks that lead the average Canadian into thinking that “food convenience makes my life so much more convenient.” But it is not convenient for the planet.
Packaging acts as a marketing tool to draw consumers into products that they wouldn’t normally buy or to entice consumers to different brands of regularly purchased items. Take cereal for example – this packaging always contains pretty colours and animals/cartoons to draw the consumer in. But not only does it come in a box, but there is an unrecyclable bag inside that box – why so much unnecessary packaging? All for marketing.
This applies to almost any and all reasons for excessive, unnecessary packaging. Granola bars, frozen foods, dairy products and even coffee and produce, all contain some sort of packaging. The worst part is that most of these items are ‘double packaged’ (i.e are boxed/bagged and wrapped/stickered) and almost all food packaging is considered garbage in waste streams. This means that all of that packaging is considered garbage and therefore ends up in the landfill. Filling our landfill with more plastics, metals and unrecyclable materials ultimately puts more stress on our ecosystems
For us here at Davidson Environmental, we deal with a lot of food, which means we see a lot of food packaging. From stickers on produce, to prepackaged greens and even boxed frozen foods, packaging in the food industry is extreme, and often unnecessary. The issue we have with packaging is mainly on a contamination level. It is very difficult to have proper practices in place to capture all food packaging to ensure proper composting methods ensue. Even the littlest things, such as stickers on produce, can have an impact on the quality of end material that is generated.
However, Davidson Environmental is in the process of acquiring a machine that will efficiently remove food packaging from the food we collect in our food disposal program. This machine is called the BioSqueeze 200, de-packing system. This innovative technology is a hydraulically operated press that separates food waste into two parts – packaging and food. As the packaged food moves through the machine, the food waste results in a nutrient rich, high solid, slurry mixture. This slurry mixture is mostly contamination free, with the ability to easily be mixed in with other compost material to be transformed into biogas & high nutrient fertilizer. This machine is the next big innovation in food waste disposal, especially with the increased use of food packaging presently in the consumer market. If we are able to successfully secure this machine in our St Catharines plant, we will be the first business in North America to have the BioSqueeze fully operational for institutional, commercial & industrial waste disposal.
Next time you throw food out into the green bin, please consider unpackaging the food item to avoid contamination in the composting or biogas process. It is very important, as not all processes have access to the BioSqueeze system as mentioned above. Further, as consumers, make food packing conscious choices. Consider alternative packaging options, buy in bulk forms where possible and reduce your overall environmental foot print. It may take you extra time to do this, but it is the most environmentally responsible choice!
The global movement, #PlasticFreeJuly is making an impact on consumers and businesses alike in an attempt to curve the amount of plastic entering the landfill. This may seem like a daunting and difficult challenge to undertake, but I guarantee that 1 – it is easier then you think and 2- you’ll feel good about decreasing your impact on the natural environment. At the very least, even if you don’t ‘feel good’ or think its easy, it will provide you with a better idea of how much plastic and waste you generate in a day, week or month and how to make better choices as you go through the rest of the year and your life.
First thing about this challenge, is that you can choose your commitment level. Perhaps you’re mostly plastic free as is, then bigger commitments may be in order. But maybe avoiding plastic is impossible for you due to your lifestyle, job, etc, but you still want to curb your impact in some way. In this case, you can just choose small victories to accomplish for the month, such as no straws or go big and change all plastic reliant habits. Whatever level you feel comfortable with, you will still be making a change and assisting in decreasing your impact.
Further, the nice thing about plastic free July is that there are LOTS of reusable, plastic free, options out there that make this challenge a lot easier then it would have been in any other decade. Consumers, as a whole, are more conscious about the products that they buy and realize their ‘buying power’ over the market. There are 5 essential products you need before you make the commitment to ease in the transition (in our opinion). They are:
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Reusable Coffee Cup/Mug
- Reusable, preferably metal, Straw
- Plastic free containers for food
- Reusable bag
By having these 5 things on hand, at all times, the plastic free lifestyle becomes much simpler. Although these products can make it easier, you will still be faced with decisions that could hinder your commitment to #PlasticFreeJuly. For instance, when you go to ‘opt out’ of the conventional coffee cup at the local coffee joint but they refuse to take your reusable coffee mug do to public health complications etc. So you are forced to make a decision – will it be the non-recyclable coffee cup and plastic lid or will you have to go without coffee? It is small things like this that you must work around and and accept that you just might not get your regular caffeine intake that day. This will be your largest and most frustrating learning curve, but its for the better of the environment, right? Plus, you have the choice to take it as far as you want so the decision is in your hands at all times.
Most of the plastic issues you will encounter are a direct result from the food industry. All foods, even produce, can come in plastic packaging. The grocery store is where plastic free July will frustrate you and temp you to give up. Plastic at the grocery store is everywhere and I guarantee it will open your eyes to how much food packaging there is out there for items that do not even require it (i.e. produce). I try to stick to the bulk foods section, bring my own reusable bags and jars and simply will opt for other waste free options for products that vary by brand, style etc.
All in all, plastic free July is a commitment, no matter how big or small, that everyone should attempt to take – even if you don’t stick to it. The movement brings a strong sense of community and acknowledgement to the excessive waste we as consumers generate daily. With a heightened sense of responsibility for the natural environment, consumers across the globe are making the plastic free change – will you join us for Plastic Free July?
Biodiesel refers to the chemical reaction of vegetable oil and animal fat based lipids with alcohol to produce fatty acid esters. Here at Davidson Environmental, we have recently purchased our own Biodiesel processing machine – specifically we purchased the BioPro 190 Automated Biodiesel Processor to start processing, mixing, creating and USING our own biodiesel from vegetable oil and animal fats that we pick up from our customers.
Derived from naturally occurring oils/grease/fats, biodiesel one of the safest, cleanest and most sustainable types of fuel on the market. Its biodegradable composition makes it much less harmful to the environment, and it produces less air pollutants in comparison to petroleum-based diesel.
Although Biodiesel often contains some part of fossil fuel derived diesel, this fuel type will always be safer, cleaner and more sustainable then their 100% fossil fuel derived counter parts. Generally, the most popular blend of biodiesel is B20 – composed of 20% biodiesel and 80% petrodiesel. The reason for this blends popularity is because it is the highest amount of biodiesel to petrodiesel ratio that can be used in diesel equipment with little to no modifications. Of course, biodiesel in its pure form (referred to as B100) can be used but it is not as common as it usually requires certain engine modifications to avoid maintenance and performance issues. In Canada, it becomes difficult to run B100 in regular engines, solely based on climate. The cold weather hinders biodiesel performance in all aspects, so the blend is necessary.
We are excited, as a company, to be utilizing fats and oils that we already pick up from our customers to take a step towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious business model. Making and utilizing the biodiesel for our own trucks and diesel fueled equipment is just another way we are doing our part to help curve our environmental impact!
With the holidays quickly approaching, it is important to start thinking about:
1. How much food waste you are generating this time of year, and;
2. How you are disposing of your fats, oils and greases you inherently create while preparing holiday meals for the family.
Time and time again, we will remind you how important it is to properly dispose of your food waste, ensuring it goes into the organic waste stream, rather than the garbage. The reasons for this go beyond the scope of this blog post, but for more information on proper disposal of food waste, please see our other blog posts!
In this post, I would like to focus on fats, oils and grease disposal, which often goes un-discussed. Fats, oils and grease, also commonly known as FOG, are naturally created through preparing meals- especially meats and poultry.
When I think of FOG, I always instantly think of the most common meat that creates excess FOG- bacon! The problem with this type of FOG, is that it liquefies when it’s hot, making it seem like an ‘okay’ substance to put down the drain. But as it gets colder/room temperature it solidifies and hardens, making it an absolute mess in the sewer drains. It has the ability to build up overtime and clog your plumbing and sewers- which could even lead to your basement flooding!
Given this, it is always important to dispose of your FOG properly, either putting in your organics bin or bringing it to your local landfill depots. Although this would differ from municipality to municipality, most have local collection programs for FOG or if you are a commercial business, we would be happy to assist in the collection! Look online for local collection programs!
For example, the city of London has launched an FOG collection program in partnership with us. Having collection of FOG at their local landfill depots, they have dramatically decreased the amount of FOG going into their sewer lines. Check out the latest CBC interview regarding the new program.
What can and cannot go into your organics bin can be confusing. It becomes even more complicated when different organics bin programs accept different material. Although all organics bin programs differ from municipality to municipality and business to business, there are some standard items that are accepted across the board.
For the majority of organics programs out there, the following is accepted:
Every organics & composting program will accept food waste. Rotten produce (fruit and vegetables), produce peelings, bread, coffee grinds, egg shells, and all other edible food products can be disposed of in your organics bin. Most will also accept all meat and animal by-products (dairy), such as meat trimmings and bones. If you are composting at home, it is unlikely that you would want to compost meat products because they contain some unhealthy bacteria, and have a higher likelihood of attracting vermin and pests. However, in industrial composting or bio-gas facilities, meat and meat by-products are easy and safe to process.
Further, napkins and compostable paper products are generally accepted in your local organics program. These are things like paper towel, tissue, moulded paper (egg cartons, coffee cup trays) and paper take-out containers. Since these materials have been recycled so many times, they are no longer accepted in the paper recycling stream, but break down well in the organics stream and provide a material for excess moisture, liquid and oil to reside.
Animal fats from cooking various animal products release natural fats/oils that assist in the cooking process. When you are done cooking meat and poultry, there is often grease, fat and oil leftover from the cooking process. This end product can be put into the organics stream. Putting this product down the drain is a common mistake that could cost residents and business owners in the end, as it causes severe draining issues after build up occurs. Given this, it is very important to dispose of grease and fat properly.
Wooden utensils, skewers and popsicle sticks are all able to go into the organics stream. This is a great alternative to plastic utensils that would otherwise go into the landfill.
There is one other item that not all organics programs support, but we do at Davidson Environmental. Coffee cups!
Coffee cups are only compostable in some facilities that have longer, more industrious composting processes. Coffee cup material is absolutely not recyclable in the paper stream, which means if it is not composted, it is garbage. Think about how many coffee cups go into the landfill each day if they are not being composted. A lot! At Davidson Environmental, we utilize all of our organic material for bio-fuel, which is an extensive and lengthy process which gives the coffee cup material enough time to break down into compostable material.
Although this list is extensive and provides you with a good foundation of what goes into your organics bin, you should always check with your local municipalities guidelines if you are getting service directly from them as what can and cannot go in your bin may differ. For those who work directly with us, do not hesitate to contact us at any time if you have questions about what goes into your bin. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us anytime.
It is widely discussed amongst environmental scholars, waste management professionals, business owners and residents that diverting organic material from the landfill is the ‘right thing to do.’ But why is it the right thing to do?
Organic waste is something that we inherently create as humans through our consumption patterns. Making sure it goes into the right recycling stream is important because:
1. Less waste = less garbage in the landfill = better for the environment
The most simplistic and basic answer to this goes back to learning the three R’s in grade school. Reducing, reusing and recycling our waste means that less garbage goes into the landfill, which in turn, is better for the environment. It is important to keep in mind that properly disposing of your organic material saves valuable space in our landfills that could otherwise hold actual garbage material. By decreasing the amount of material entering the landfill, fewer landfills will need to be constructed and this means that less environmental resources will become derogated (land, trees, animal habitat, animals, etc) to build new landfill sites.
In addition, by keeping organic material out of the landfill, the impact on climate change is reduced. When organic material is put into the landfill, it decomposes and produces gases, primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. Methane gas is the leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Given this, if you properly dispose of organic waste and divert it from the landfill, you are decreasing your impact on climate change and assisting further in protecting the environment.
2. Saving money on waste disposal costs
In most municipalities, it costs extra to dispose of excess garbage. For example, for us here in the Niagara Region, we are limited to 1 bag of garbage per week with unlimited recycling (including organics). If you exceed the 1 bag limit, you are to buy ‘garbage tags,’ at the cost of $2.00 a tag per extra bag. Although there are reasons beyond not recycling properly that require the purchase of these tags, the majority of residents exceed this limit and have to buy tags because of improper recycling methods, especially organics. By properly recycling, less waste goes into your garbage bag, which can ultimately save you money!
This also holds true for commercial waste disposal. Commercial businesses that use dumpsters to dispose of their waste highly benefit from properly recycling practices since less waste within the dumpster means less frequent pick-ups, which equals decreased waste disposal costs. This is also helpful for odours which can develop over a period of time if organics are left unhandled.
3. Creating & Replicating forms of Natural Resources
When you properly dispose of your food waste, there are various resources that can be generated as its end product. Two of the most common resources generated are:
Bio-Gas, Bio-Fuel, & Bio-Diesel
Using an anaerobic digestion process, microorganisms break down biomass to generate Methane gas. This methane gas is then captured to generate Biogas, which is then able to create electricity and power the local grid. Harnessing Biogas is a clean energy alternative that maximizes the value of food wastes. Food that can longer create the gases needed to capture biogas is then turned into fertilizers and soil conditioners to help grow more fruits and veggies. A continuous, renewable cycle!
Creating rich, natural soil through the decomposition of food waste is another alternative to food waste recycling. Composting can be done at any level, residential or industrial and both involve the same process -worms, heat and decomposing food. With these three ‘ingredients,’ coupled with an extended period of time, nutrient rich soil is the result which can be used to continue growing new fruits and veggies.
Did you know that approximately 50%of the average garbage bag is made up of organic waste that otherwise could have been composted? Of that average garbage bag, approximately 14% of the material is considered recyclable. This combined makes up a lot of waste that could otherwise be diverted from the landfill and repurposed for other goods. Given this, there is a lot of potential to improve recycling and composting practices within businesses and homes alike.
The concept of ‘zero’ waste is something to strive for, but it is often met with low expectations (as it is ‘too hard to achieve’) and no plan of action. Keep in mind, becoming zero waste is not something you can implement overnight, but there are some small but big changes you can implement to lead the way. Obviously, the best way to minimize your environmental impact through waste disposal is maximizing your diversion. By optimizing your waste disposal streams, you can in-turn divert more, or even everything, from the landfill.
Offering both diversion streams (recycling and organics) within your business is the first step to increasing your diversion. Most municipalities offer these services to commercial business owners, but there are many private companies (like ours) that will handle the disposal for you. Private disposal companies make doing the ‘right thing’ easy for you as the business owner. This way you do not need to rely on employees to bring it to the curb, or clean the bins- it is all taken care for you.
Although it is definitely not hard to implement a good diversion plan, it can, at times, be challenging. The number one reason that businesses fail at achieving ‘zero’ waste is lack of employee buy-in. Generally, the majority of employees do not want to (or do not see the need to) go above and beyond for their workplace. This includes proper disposal of their waste. However, there are things that you can put in place that can help achieve this, depending on the level of commitment you as a business owner have at achieving this waste disposal standard.
Perhaps you as the employer could offer incentive based rewards for those who are keen on recycling properly or encouraging the ‘zero’ waste concept.
Most employees will blame their lack of diversion on ‘no training.’ Train them to properly divert in each stream, what goes where and why. Use visuals, like posters, above each bin as a reminder.
Although it’s important to incentivize and train, it is also essential to encourage and engage them in supporting your efforts. A few ways to engage employees on creating a ‘zero’ waste environment are:
– Encourage ‘litter-less lunches’
o Litter-less lunches contain no waste. Instead of packing pre-packed foods, encourage the use of containers. This also goes for their reusable lunch bag.
– Have a refillable water bottle station
o This could be an extensive filtered water dispenser or could just be a water cooler. Anything to encourage them to bring a reusable water bottle to work rather than plastic.
– Start a coffee club
o Instead of having your employees stopping for coffee every morning at the local coffee chain, start a coffee club. This would entail each employee to bring a reusable coffee mug from home, and coffee is provided at the office for a small charge.
– Encourage the use of ‘GOOS Paper’
o GOOS paper, also known as good on one side paper, reduces the amount of paper you throw out or recycle. Encourage employees to write on both sides of the paper before disposal. Not only will this initiative help the environment, but will cut costs for you.
Implementing a good waste diversion plan within your business will not only decrease your environmental impact, but will also increase your bottom line.