12 Plastic Items to Replace at Your Own Pace

In our last blog post, we discussed the on-going debate of reusable vs disposable items, including but not limited to coffee cups, bags and containers. This debate is complex and multi-level (read our last blog post if you haven’t!) but there are some key items that the average ‘sustainable’ consumer should integrate into their everyday lives. Specifically, reusable items are pertinent when the alterative ends up in the landfill. Some items and practices are more easily integrated while others require some adjustment and alternative thought process. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make these adjustments at your own pace. Changing your entire lifestyle overnight is not going to set you up for long-term success. Some swaps are easier than others, and somethings work better for some people more then others. The key is to find what works best for you and your family.

  1. Items packaged in excessive plastic

When possible, opt for unpackage or limited packaging items. If this is not possible, try to choose items that have recyclable packaging – such as glass or metal (i.e. soup).

  1. Disposable cups

Whether you are going to your local coffee joint or getting a drink from the water cooler at work, bring a reusable cup or bottle. Do not use the little water cones and stop buying bottled water. The key to this is to only buy one (i.e. do not over consume reusable bottles/cups) and stick with it. It will become habitual. I promise.

  1. Single use cutlery

Bring a set of metal, reusable, cutlery with you wherever you go. This may sound a bit extreme or ridiculous but standard disposable cutlery goes directly to the landfill. Some restaurant establishments offer compostable cutlery as an alternative which is certainly better than their disposable counterparts, but reusable is the best option! They have convenient carriers for this now, that keep the cutlery contained, discrete and clean.

  1. Disposable straws

Along with your metal, reusable, cutlery, bring a long a straw! This falls into the same category as disposable cutlery, in the way of landfill garbage. Not recyclable in anyway, unless of course its paper or made of an alternative compostable material. However, reusable is the best option!

  1. Plastic lunch/freezer bags (i.e. Ziploc bags)

These are made of recyclable material, but not recyclable due to the ‘zipper’ locking component. A compostable option is to use a brown paper bag but a better, reusable option is a glass container or even a beeswax wrap – which brings me to the next point

  1. Plastic wrap

Best alternative that actually works – beeswax wraps! Buy these already!! I have brought them up in many of my blog posts because they are the best reusable & compostable product out there! Plastic wrap is terrible for the environment. It is used in access, unnecessarily, for convenience and goes directly into the landfill!

  1. Disposable or plastic food storage containers

This can be difficult if you get takeout or take leftovers home from a restaurant but try to eat at places that offer the compostable take away containers vs the Styrofoam versions. Spend your money where I counts. Your money is a vote towards something you believe in! If your favourite restaurant doesn’t offer compostable versions, maybe ask to speak with a manager to get that changed. Otherwise, at home – use glass or metal containers instead of plastic. Of course, if you already own plastic ones, do not throw them out just to buy glass or metal, use them until they’ve reached the end of their life.

  1. Liquid soaps

Although liquid soaps are enticing with their pretty packaging, unique scents and varying bottle designs, they utilize excessive plastic packaging (that is recyclable at its end of life) that use excessive natural resources. Rather then use liquid dish, laundry or shampoo soaps, try bar and powder soaps instead! You can even make your own with customized scents, etc and they come in limited to no packaging.

  1. Disposable plastic sponges/dish cloths/scrubber

Instead, use a natural sponge or loofah. Another options is a reusable silicone scrubbing pad. Although the silicone version is garbage at its end of life, it has a fairly small waste footprint comparatively and will last for years.

  1. Household Cleaners

Always an option to make your own for bulk items, or opt for ones that are in glass, metal or cardboard.

  1. Plastic Cutting Boards

These are a staple in my house, but they are not great for the environment. They are so convenient and do last an exceptionally long time due to their durability. This is one of the last items I have converted to a sustainable source because I feel bad throwing them out prematurely. If your plastic cutting boards are nearing their end of life, consider replacing them with a bamboo or wooden cutting board. Better for you and the environment!

  1. Fabric softener/dryer sheets

Organic wool dryer balls are a great alternative to these! The best part is that you can scent them with your favourite essential oil for a fresh smelling load of laundry, every time!

As we stated before, these changes are just suggestions that assist in making reducing your waste output footprint. These are some small changes that can get you started on the path of sustainability and really are just the ‘low hanging fruit’ on the sustainable lifestyle adjustment. Are there any items we missed or amazing alternatives? We would love to hear from you!

 

ABOUT US: Established in 1996, Davidson Environmental is a waste haulage company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1996, James Davidson, Owner & CEO of Davidson Environmental, decided to explore an area of waste management that would be new to the Niagara Region- recycling organic materials through composting. Starting with a trailer and 12 totes at a flower shop, James has built a company that today employs over 30 Niagara region residents and runs 24 hours a day. Although we are a diverse company serving all the waste needs of businesses of varying sizes, we have kept our primary focus on food waste organics. Our service area encompasses the Regions of Niagara, Hamilton, Haldimand, Halton, Oxford, Brant, Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey, Middlesex, Lambton, Chatem-Kent, and Essex. We are also able to service Toronto by using cooperative services with another organics company. We have 10 trucks, capable of servicing any waste disposal need your business may have. Today, Davidson Environmental is proud to offer a variety of cost-effective, clean, simple and environmentally responsible methods of disposing of the waste produced by your business in Southern and South Western Ontario.

Reusable vs. Disposable – What is truly better for the environment?

As we move away from single use plastics here in Canada (the Trudeau government plans on banning single use plastics by 2021), many companies have chosen to provide their customers and clients with alternative product counterparts that are either reusable or biodegradable/compostable/degradable. While we are all for the biodegradable/compostable/degradable products, we question the sustainability of more reusable products entering the marketplace, such as bags and water bottles.

Reusable items have their time and place – do not get us wrong. When used in the right ways (which we will explain in this post), reusable products could be immensely important in protecting the environment. However, when used in the wrong ways, reusable products could cause detrimental affects to the environment – diminishing large amounts of natural resources and creating more garbage. To produce a reusable bag or water bottle (or any other reusable item for that matter), many natural resources need to be used to create that product. There is no product on this earth that does not have an impact on the environment.

In our current society, we largely rely on ‘throw away’ products (especially in the age of Covid-19) and the over consumption of goods. Even when we are not in a pandemic, it is arguable that for the majority of society, throwing things out prior to the end of their life, is normal. This is largely due to the fact that the next new, bigger and better versions are available. This is the largest issue with reusable products that replace their disposal counterparts – if the reusable product is thrown out prematurely or not used enough times before its end of life, then reusable products are actually more harmful to the environment. This, coupled with the large amount/variety of reusable items per household, validates the concern regarding the sustainability of our current consumption patterns of reusable products.

I, myself have fallen victim to marketing gimmicks that claim I ‘need’ this new reusable bottle/bag/coffee tumbler because it is ‘more ecofriendly’ (or just fancier) then my current one. Although that may be the case, buying that new one to throw out my old one is not environmentally sustainable at all. It is still in perfectly good condition, but marketing sells and then the cycle continues. Eventually, before I know it, I have more reusable water bottles in my house then I have plates. I know that I am not the only one that this happens to, and its all in the name of marketing and the process of ‘thinking’ you are doing better for the environment. This is not sustainable spending or environmentally responsible.

The same case stands with plastic bags vs reusable bags. How many reusable bags do I have in my house? Too many. I know that for the majority of Canadians, this is the case. Sometimes you get them for free with a purchase, or maybe you have bought a set from your local grocery store. Either way, if you are anything like me, you will end up leaving them in your car or at your house when you go to do groceries and end up needing to buy plastic bags anyway. This is not sustainable. According to a study in Denmark, you would need to use the reusable cotton bag over 7,000 times for it to be ‘worth’ the amount of resources used to create it. 7,000 times! That is a lot of groceries.

The issue with all these reusable items is that we over-consume them, do not use them enough to warrant their natural resource impact and then at the end of their lives, they are landfill garbage. 99% of these products are not recyclable or compostable. This is where the reusable vs single use (or a few use) plastics debate gets tricky. Here in Niagara, we are actually able to recycle polyethylene, the type of plastic regular grocery bags are made of, fairly efficiently. Water bottles, styrofoam and aluminum are also all recyclable here in Niagara. Coffee cups from your regular fast food joint are not recyclable in the Niagara Region system, however here at Davidson Environmental, coffee cups are compostable in our recycling stream. So from a waste generation perspective, reusable is not better because as stated above, most reusable items are designated for the landfill – unless, of course, you use the item enough to warrant the disposal of it. But how many times do you need to use it to make it worth it? There does not seem to be a clear answer. Although I do not believe we can necessarily put a value on natural resources, we all know how important they are for us and the environment. Given this, consuming less natural resources per person is beneficial.

However, another level of this debate to consider is that even though all these single use plastic items are recyclable, in some way or another, are they being disposed of properly, every time? No. Water bottles, coffee cups and plastic bags are ending up in our waterways, oceans and lakes, effecting our livelihood and the animals that live in those conditions. This directly falls onto careless consumers and again, the ‘throw away’ life style we mentioned earlier in this blog post. In this case, when not disposed of properly, reusable items are far better from a waste generation perspective because at least they don’t get constantly littered.

In sum, there are so many things to assess when you buy a reusable item that are far reach the span of the average consumers thought process when making a purchase. We are not saying that all reusable items are bad or that you should stop using them. Our hope is to provide you with guidelines that help to influence your choices when making your next ‘reusable item’ purchase.

Here are some things to consider:

If you already have reusable items:

  • Use them until you can no longer use them (metal ones can last decades!)
  • Do not purchase more until you have fully used your previous ones (throwing items out prematurely is just a waste of natural resources and takes up space in the landfill – you do not need the next new thing! Yours still works!)
  • When it comes time to purchase a new one, consider the below guidelines

If you are in the market to purchase new ones:

  • Look at the company you are purchasing the item from – do they have ethical or sustainable values?

 

 

 

ABOUT US: Established in 1996, Davidson Environmental is a waste haulage company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1996, James Davidson, Owner & CEO of Davidson Environmental, decided to explore an area of waste management that would be new to the Niagara Region- recycling organic materials through composting. Starting with a trailer and 12 totes at a flower shop, James has built a company that today employs over 30 Niagara region residents and runs 24 hours a day. Although we are a diverse company serving all the waste needs of businesses of varying sizes, we have kept our primary focus on food waste organics. Our service area encompasses the Regions of Niagara, Hamilton, Haldimand, Halton, Oxford, Brant, Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey, Middlesex, Lambton, Chatem-Kent, and Essex. We are also able to service Toronto by using cooperative services with another organics company. We have 10 trucks, capable of servicing any waste disposal need your business may have. Today, Davidson Environmental is proud to offer a variety of cost-effective, clean, simple and environmentally responsible methods of disposing of the waste produced by your business in Southern and South Western Ontario.

The Year of Disposables – How to Keep the Environment in Mind During these Unprecedented Times

With Stage 3 around the corner for us here in Ontario, individuals and businesses have had to rethink how they conduct everyday tasks to protect their families, employees, customers, and clients from contracting or spreading COVID-19. With these safety protocols in place, many businesses and individuals have chosen to switch to disposable products to ensure the highest precaution is taken to detain the virus. This includes, but is not limited to, disposable disinfectant wipes, cutlery, take out containers, plates, masks, and everything in between. Although its obvious we all need to prioritize stopping the spread of the virus, we need to also keep in mind our increased wastefulness. For almost every disposable product, there is a more sustainable alternative. This blog aims to provide you with some suggestions on how to decrease your wastefulness as we continue

Masks

The use of masks has proven to be an effective approach in decreasing the spread of COVID-19. Given this, they are an encouraged item to wear when you go uptown to do groceries or fulfill other essential needs. Some stores, hospitals, and other establishments, have chosen to offer disposable masks at their entrance ways (great example of this is Costco – who requires you to wear a mask while shopping in their stores).  These masks are great in a pinch, but have a very limited life cycle. Once you use it once (maybe twice depending on duration of use), it is considered garbage. They are not recyclable or reusable, and therefore go straight into the landfill. An alternative to this is to purchase, or make your own, reusable mask. These can be used several times over the course of the year and are machine washable. Additionally, they are relatively low cost and are just as effective as disposable surgical masks.

Take Out Containers, Plates & Cutlery

Restaurants across the country are focusing on take out options more then ever before. This means more “to go” containers, disposable cutlery and disposable napkins going out the door in place of their reusable versions. Restaurant owners need to consider curbing their environmental impact by using compostable versions of these types of products, in which all exist & in some cases, are more cost effective then other types. There are many types of containers, including some that are garbage and some that are recyclable. Although the recyclable ones are much better then those that are considered garbage, they are most likely more costly then those that are compostable, in comparison. Given this, the most economic and environmentally friendly thing to do is to focus on a completely compostable “to go” type products.  

Disinfectant Wipes

When the pandemic first started, it was difficult to find disposable wipes anywhere – shelves were cleared in what seemed like seconds. Although these do a great job at disinfecting, and are convenient, they are full of chemicals and go directly into the landfill after their use.  An alternative to this would be plant based, eco-friendly disinfectant solution (there are lots of brands, however, 7 Generation and Method brand both make amazing ones), sprayed/put on paper towels. This is just as effective as any disinfectant wipe, but healthier for you, your family and the environment. Paper towel with an eco-friendly, plant based disinfectant can go directly into your compost bin. For convenience on the go – coat paper towel with the disinfectant and place inside a reusable container or bag. An easy zero waste and harsh chemical free solution!

Hand Sanitizer

Although hand sanitizer is necessary during these times, there are better ways to go about purchasing it rather then in multiple tiny bottles. Although we all need hand sanitizer on the go, a more sustainable option would be to buy a larger bottle of it and continuously refill smaller containers you already own. Perhaps these containers are reusable containers or even just hand sanitizer containers that have run dry.

Overall, there are lots of things we as a society can be doing to reduce, reuse and recycle – even in the midst of a pandemic. We should not make the pandemic an excuse to increase our waste outputs when there are plenty of viable, sustainable solutions to meet the needs of everyone. Individuals and businesses alike need to consider the long term affects that extra or excessive garbage will have to our earth and our communities if we do not make the right choices now. I hope that this blog has inspired you to rethink how you go about your waste generation while staying healthy in the current pandemic.

Littering Food & Food Waste: It is Still Littering!

All food decomposes like any other living organism through the growth of bacteria and fungi. As food decomposes, it is reverted back into organic soil nutrients to allow the cycle of growth, decomposition, and nutrient replenishment to continue. All this would lead you to believe that throwing a banana peel out of the window of your car would then not be considered littering because “it will decompose and replenish the earth back with required nutrients” or maybe even feed a hungry squirrel or raccoon. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Littering food waste is still littering, here is why:

To begin, all food decomposes at differing rates. No food decomposes overnight or instantly, which is the majority of the problem. The process of decomposition takes time through the growth and formation of bacteria, which in some cases, could take years to become soil. The average apple core takes approximately 2 months to biodegrade and a banana peel takes over 2 years. Obviously compared to plastic products, which take nearly 200 years to biodegrade, the problem of littering food is almost a non-issue. But that doesn’t mean it is morally correct to do so. If your banana peel is sitting on the ground for over 2 years, it is not good for the environment. One should also consider that most of the fruit peelings that may be littered likely have a plastic sticker on them. Therefore one is not only littering peelings, but also littering plastic, unintentionally. Yes, a sticker is very minor in the grand scheme of littering, but there is no reason or excuse for it.

Additionally, regardless of the fact that it isn’t great for the environment, it isn’t great for humans or animals either. One may think that littering a half eaten apple will help a hungry squirrel or raccoon, and it will – but to a fault. Over time, these animals become reliant on human sourced food and then all of a sudden those animals become pests to you and your garbage (or organics, recycling, etc) bin, yikes! This can escalate quickly when those animals that are reliant on human sourced food are now bears and you are on a hike or in a tent. That may sound drastic, but that is the leading cause for human-bear interactions.

Food and food waste littering is one of the most tolerated forms of littering.  We see someone throwing a plastic water bottle on the ground; we inherently know it is wrong. But for some reason, we see someone throwing an orange peel on the ground, our initial thoughts are “it can’t be that bad – it will decompose or be eaten.” We need to alter our way of thinking in regards to food littering because of the reasons that are listed above.

The best way to dispose of your food, or food waste, is through an organics program. Put the peel in your pocket until you get home, or wrap your apple core in tissue and put it in your purse. There are simple ways to get around not throwing your food on the ground – just hold onto it until you find a garbage bin, or better yet, an organics bin. Professionals, like us, know how to properly handle food waste so that it decomposes at quicker rates then it would in the natural environment, while also being able to capture methane gas for energy and create a high nutrient soil. Contact Davidson Environmental with any food waste questions or concerns, we are here to help! 

 

 

ABOUT US: Established in 1996, Davidson Environmental is a waste haulage company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1996, James Davidson, Owner & CEO of Davidson Environmental, decided to explore an area of waste management that would be new to the Niagara Region- recycling organic materials through composting. Starting with a trailer and 12 totes at a flower shop, James has built a company that today employs over 30 Niagara region residents and runs 24 hours a day. Although we are a diverse company serving all the waste needs of businesses of varying sizes, we have kept our primary focus on food waste organics. Our service area encompasses the Regions of Niagara, Hamilton, Haldimand, Halton, Oxford, Brant, Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey, Middlesex, Lambton, Chatem-Kent, and Essex. We are also able to service Toronto by using cooperative services with another organics company. We have 10 trucks, capable of servicing any waste disposal need your business may have. Today, Davidson Environmental is proud to offer a variety of cost-effective, clean, simple and environmentally responsible methods of disposing of the waste produced by your business in Southern and South Western Ontario.

Still Good? Best Before Vs. Expiration Dates Explained

Someone in Canada, right now as you read this, is throwing away a perfectly good food item because it has surpassed its best before date. Throwing out food prior to its expiration has negative affects on the environment and humankind alike, due to the heavy agricultural use and excess greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, Canadians throw out 6 million tonnes of food each year. Of that annual wasted food, 2.2 million tonnes is still considered edible, according to the National Zero Waste Council. This is largely due to the fact that consumers often mistake the ‘best before’ to be the same as the ‘expiration’ date.

To begin lets first break down the two terms. A ‘best before’ date is primarily a quality indicator stating that the food is best if consumed prior to the date listed, but that doesn’t mean that the food has gone bad. It just simply means it is past its ‘prime’, so to speak. You’ll find best before dates largely on dairy products, canned food & boxed/bagged food (such as crackers).  The ‘best before’ date is meant to guarantee certain properties, such as taste, aroma, freshness and even nutrients by that given date. Given this, the best way to tell if the food has in fact spoiled is through smell, taste and sight. Mold is a key indicator!

‘Expiration’ dates on the other hand are considered to be that of its namesake, an expiry date.  Thus, food with an expiration date should not be consumed after the specified date. The product is no longer safe to consume after the date, usually due to bacteria growth. You’ll regularly find ‘expiration’ or ‘use by’ dates on meat, fish & poultry products. Often, to extend these dates, consumers will freeze and then thaw food, which does increase the longevity of the expiration date significantly.

Throwing out food prematurely is one of the leading reasons for excessive food waste in Ontario and the globe. Not only is this not good for the environment due to excess water use & land use for agriculture but it is also simply just a waste of money. According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, the average household in Canada spends approximately $1700.00 on wasted food. That’s a lot of food (& money)!

Of course, food waste is a natural part of food consumption and at times cannot be avoided. The best solution for this is to ensure that you are disposing of food waste in the correct manner. This means ensuring your waste goes to an organics facility, like ours here at Davidson Environmental, for either composting or biogas (or both!). Food waste that goes into the landfill produces un-trappable methane gas, which when exposed to air is 25 times more harmful to the environment then carbon dioxide. Ensuring your wasted food or food scraps goes into the correct waste stream is vital to reducing your carbon footprint.

So the next time you go through your refrigerator to purge those ‘back of the fridge’ items, make sure you know the difference between expiration & best before dates. By curbing the amount of waste you throw out to begin with, the more you’re doing your part for the environment & for your wallet!

Organics Recycling in Your Office – Set it Up for Success

With the Ontario organics ban set to come into affect in 2022 (if you don’t know about this yet, please refer to our previous blog posts), its time to start getting employees and co-workers on board with organics recycling practices.

Being in the organics business ourselves, we have heard all kinds of excuses as to why businesses choose not to have an organics-recycling program – “its too smelly,” “it’s a pest attraction,” or “it is too hard” are among the most common.  With organics recycling becoming mandatory in the next few years, it is imperative that businesses get on board with organics recycling in the work place sooner rather then later. Not only because the ban will make it mandatory, but because at the end of the day, it is also the right thing to do for the environment.

We have come across many customers who have excellent intentions of starting the program, but shortly after launching it, fail because they can’t get coworkers/employees to participate because of the reasons listed above.  Depending on how important this initiative is to you or your company, there are several different ways to implement successfully.

Before Launching an Organics Recycling Program

When launching the program initially, the initial success of the organics recycling program relies on a few measures that need to be in place beforehand. Firstly, you need to decide whose responsibility it will be to ensure the organics bins go outside for collection & the bin brought back in once emptied. Depending on the size of your company, you could have maintenance workers in place already that take out the garbage as required, so adding this to their list of tasks would be simple. For smaller sized companies where regular employees are in charge of taking out the garbage on a rotation or on a volunteer basis, this might be a bit more difficult. Our suggestion is to either establish a rotating schedule or find the environmental leader in your employee group – hopefully they are willing to take on the task. If this fails, perhaps offer an incentive the employee that offers to take it out/in.

Secondly, you will want to do some preliminary training to ensure everyone is on board with the program. If you are signing up for our program here at Davidson Environmental, we are happy to provide you with guidelines, posters and education to help get your employees trained. This will give you an opportunity to explain what the program is, when it is coming to the office space and your expectations.

To start the program, you’ll want to make sure you have enough bins in the correct areas to ensure a high diversion rate. Depending on the size of your office, you’ll need to decide the size of bin you’ll require (32 gallon or 64 gallon) & how many you’ll need. The best part about that is that our team at Davidson Environmental can help you with that part based on other customer outputs & on office size. We also offer smaller, counter top organics bins, which take up less room for less active areas. We can design an organics program that works for you. Making sure you have enough bins, in enough places in the office, is key to making the program as successful as possible.

Launching an Organics Recycling Program

Once you have decided on the organics bin locations & number required, its time to put up the posters. Its imperative that you hang the ‘what goes in this bin’ poster directly above the organics bin to help to guide people (who might not know otherwise) what is accepted in the program. We know that a lot of programs aren’t successful because people miss this small step.

It might even be helpful to establish a ‘green team’ in the early stages of the program (depending on the size of your company), to help guide people who aren’t as committed to the program as others. For instance, you could consider having someone from the team at each organics bin during lunch hour to help discern what goes in the bin & help people better understand the program.

Long Term Success of the Organics Program

A good way to keep employees motivated in organics recycling is to provide bi-annual metrics (we are able to pull reports for you) of your current diversion rates. You could even consider making it a ‘game’ of sorts. For instance – “if so many kilograms of organics is diverted in the next 6 month period, everyone gets a pizza lunch.” Something to keep your employees interested & motivated in participating is your key to a successful organics-recycling program. 

As organics recycling becomes more and more common in the household, it will become second nature in the office. Until then, training, meetings and posters will help to guide employees to participate in organics recycling. Some of these steps might seem time consuming, difficult or costly, but they are necessary (and will be mandatory in 2022) to ensure a successful organics program.

Do you have any questions? Please reach out to us to get your office on board!

Camping Season – Creating a Low Impact Camping Experience

Camping is a fun, seasonal, summer activity but it does impact the environment in ways that one might not consider – waste. Not only do you break you and your families recycling routine by adjusting to new city program, but many things that are considered ‘camping friendly’ are heavily packaged (usually in non-recyclable material).  This blog will address the gaps in the current campsite recycling system and list some ways you can make your next camping experience low impact.

Recycling at Campsites   

Generally when you are going camping, you are likely entering a different district or area that has a completely different set of recycling rules that differ from those usually followed for your curbside collection. It is always important to get all of the recycling details from the campground attendants, as usually flyers or brochures are available. If they don’t provide these resources, it is important to look at the ‘garbage station’ that they have on-site before throwing anything out to make sure you know what is and is not recyclable. I cannot emphasize this enough – know how the waste system works before you assume – they are SO different from district to district.

Something that I have noticed doing some out of district (and district) camping myself, is there is NO organics recycling. With the proposed changing to waste legislation occurring in 2022 (food waste ban), campgrounds in Ontario will have to get on board with organics recycling whether they like it or not. However, I think a large draw back, especially for those in Northern Ontario, is the fear of enticing bears to the property through this process. To those people, I argue that the food in the landfill dumpster is just as much an attractant to bears as organics alone would be. There is still food waste, out in the open, buried and on top of other types of garbage – easily still something to attract bears. However, if the organics ban does go through in 2022, the waste industry will need to be innovative in creating a bear proof container that locks in food waste in such a way that does not entice bears, to make campground owners and campers feel more safe about their garbage disposal practices.

Waste Free Camping Ideas

As said earlier in this post, it is easy to pick up food and items for camping that are considered to be that of ‘convenience packaging.’ Through this, you naturally create more garbage and unrecyclable material that otherwise you wouldn’t purchase or buy. However, there are some things that you could buy, do or use alternatively that may help to curve your waste generation while camping. Here is a small list of things that may help you get closer to nature without impacting.

  1. Beeswax Wraps

Since you are generally packing light when you go camping, you likely won’t be bringing along many containers for left over food. To make up for this, you likely will bring a roll of plastic wrap to keep and repackage food. This plastic wrap just creates more garbage and is not reusable. Alternatively, try beeswax wraps! These wraps are a material that is (usually) hand coated in beeswax. They are easy to clean, store and use, AND make a great alternative to plastic wrap! Vegan? They make vegan friendly ones too! Check your local eco-store or order online. You won’t regret it – they are awesome!

  1. Aluminum Foil Alternative

Instead of bringing along a wasteful roll of aluminum foil to cook things in the fire, consider bringing cast iron or fire safe pan to do your cooking. Use oil on your pans instead of lining with aluminum foil. This is a ‘convenience’ item and is not necessary during camping or everyday use. 

  1. Reusable Plates & Cutlery

A lot of people choose to bring paper plates and plastic cutlery when camping, for again, convenience. The problem with this is that there is usually no organics recycling at campgrounds, and therefore all paper plates and even ‘compostable’ cutlery is considered garbage. However, if you are using your paper plates as part of your fire starter, you are likely able to get away with using them, while still being eco-friendly. With that said, never put plastic utensils, or plastic plates, into your fire. Plan ahead and bring regular utensils and plates.

  1. Leave no trace

This is a big one. So much garbage, recycling and food waste is generated while camping. I have seen it so many times when people leave their campsites; they leave empty beer cans, plastic bottles or garbage bags out on their campsite. Be responsible for the waste you generate. If there are no garbage cans or recycling bins around, bring it home.

  1. Bring it home if its not recyclable

If you headed home after your camping trip and you notice an item is not accepted in the recycling program at the campsite, you can bring that item home to be recycled. For example, many districts and areas don’t accept plastic bags in their recycling system, but Niagara does. Bring the plastic bags home and simply recycle them in your home recycling/garbage program. It doesn’t take much effort and it is one way to do your part in low impact camping.

  1. Pick it up on a trail

This is my favourite initiative on here. When camping, you generally do a few trail/nature walks or beach visits. If you see garbage around, pick it up and throw it out (or recycle it). It takes minimal effort and you can clean up the environment for others to enjoy it. You can’t stop people from littering, but you can help curb the impact by doing your part.

Even though camping season is coming to an end, these act as simple reminders that we can enjoy the great outdoors without impacting it. Are there any tips and tricks you have come up with? Let us know!

The Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act, the Waste Free Ontario Act & the Waste Diversion Transition Act – What They Mean for You, Your Business & The Province

Looking towards the future of waste and its direct correlation to natural resources in Ontario, the provincial government has designed & released a Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act, the Waste Free Ontario Act, as well as the Waste Diversion Transition Act, which will significantly affect the way business and residential waste is handled. In addition to these acts, the provincial government has designed a “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario,” which outlines key goals and details that are excluded in the acts. We thought it might be beneficial to our readers to outline exactly what this legislation aims to do and what/who they will affect. They are vague in some areas and very detailed in others, but this should give you an outline of exactly what the future holds for waste in Ontario.

Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act

The Ontario provincial government initially created the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act as a declaration that there is value in protecting the natural environment through innovative waste disposal & reduction methods. It is the aim of this act to decrease the need for waste disposal through various methods of waste reduction, including but not limited to: recycling programs, increasing product life cycle, decreasing packaging & even decreasing hazardous/toxic substances in products/packaging.

One of the most interesting pieces to this act is that Ontario government aims to “hold persons who are most responsible for the design of products and packaging responsible for the products and packaging at the end of life.” This means that the Ontario provincial government aims to place responsibility on those producing packaging and products on the recyclability, reusability and life cycle of products in comparison to those in their industry. This establishes legislation for government-enforced compliance for producers to consider end of life, and incorporate recovered materials. By putting the onus on the companies that design, produce and market these products and packages, the provincial government is targeting the source of the problem.  This holds the producers of these goods environmentally and financially responsible. This alleviates some of the pressure of recycling, reusing and reducing from the consumers and waste disposal facilities, while establishing a circular economic framework. This will also allow for industry consistency and innovation. 

The Waste Diversion Transition Act

To accompany the above act, the provincial government released The Waste Diversion Transition Act. The Waste Diversion Transition Act is an act that’s purpose is to promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of products and goods in the Ontario marketplace in conjunction with the other two acts. It also provides guidance for the operation of waste diversion programs, as well as outlines available funding.

The Waste Diversion Transition Act outlines a lot of the funding available for the diversion programs that need to be in place in order for strategy’s in the act to go live. This is where the word ‘transition’ is key in the acts title name, as it is providing a way for businesses, waste industry leaders and environmental stewards to transition to waste efficient facilities through government funding. This is a great tool for waste diversion programs that need the extra funding to set up new machinery or markets for the incoming/outgoing recyclable waste.

The Waste Free Ontario Act

Further to the above two acts, The Waste Free Ontario Act is an act that has been created to enact the details within the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act (and to repeal the previous Waste Diversion Act of 2002). Therefore, these acts are intrinsically connected and aim to meet similar goals in order to protect the natural environment in relation to waste reduction.

The Waste Free Ontario act provides further detail into the responsibility of corporation holders that design, produce and market products or packaging to sell in Ontario, including that of convenience packaging and waste generated from the transportation of goods. It details and incorporates most of the key goals that are included in the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act in relation to increasing recyclability, reusability & life cycle of products and packaging. All in all, the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act & The Waste Free Ontario Act are constructed to meet the same goals, with the Waste Free Ontario Act setting the details of the goals.

Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy

However, along with these three acts comes a “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy,” released in conjunction to the acts to reinforce the provincial commitment to reducing waste across Ontario for the betterment of the environment. The strategy provides a more detailed description of the acts, including key strategies & goals that directly build off of the Waste Free Ontario Act. This is certainly a great piece to accompany the acts and provides more insight into the rationale in the creation of these acts.

The ultimate goal of all three acts and the strategy is to one day achieve zero waste and zero greenhouse emissions for the waste sector in Ontario. As the Ontario government focuses on producer responsibility they are tackling the current waste problem directly from the source.

As the strategy states, the current waste diversion rate is only about 25% of about 11.5 billion tonnes annually. With the acts and strategy in place, the Ontario government is aiming to divert 80% of waste by 2050. They aim to then establish a zero waste goal continuing from 2050. To achieve this goal, they have steady milestones between now and 2050 to ensure they are meeting their diversion & reduction targets. This strategy even provides an outline of 15 different actions to achieve these waste diversion and reduction goals.

One action that we find particularly interesting is – “Implement an action plan to reduce the volume of food and organic wastes going to landfill.” At the center of what we do here at Davidson Environmental, keeping food out of the landfill is our main objective. Given this, we find this action extremely interesting as it could mean big things on the horizon for us as an organics service provider, and for the environment. In this strategy, the Ontario government has committed to banning organic waste from landfills starting in 2022 and is creating “The Food and Organic Waste Action Plan.” We will be sure to have an entire blog post on this action plan alone, but for now, this is seemingly something that needs to be noted and is a huge step forward in the waste management industry.

Conclusion

As the provincial government continues to put funding and support into waste reduction and diversion, Ontario residents and businesses alike should expect a shift in their current recycling practices as we transition into a waste free province.

Residential

Residents in Ontario, for the most part, already participate in recycling programs and therefore the paradigm shift should not be too major. For those cities, like London, Ontario, that do not currently have organics recycling, there may be a learning curve and transition period for those who are not familiar. However, recycling has become pretty standard for most Ontario residents and therefore, these acts likely won’t affect current recycling programs.

Businesses

At all levels, these acts really do directly affect businesses. Whether the business produces products/packaging, or disposes of products/packaging from retail stock, transportation packaging or returns, strong waste diversion and reduction programs need to be implemented. This would include blue box recycling programs, along with organics recycling. For smaller sized businesses this may not be difficult but for large based corporate businesses, this may take time to transition into.

Needless to say, this is an exciting time for the waste industry!

Summary

The Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act is based on a producer responsibility framework and establishes:

  1. Provincial interest in the environment through waste reduction strategies.
  2. Producer responsibility (environmentally & financially) for end of life materials (including recyclability and reusability)
  3. Resource productivity & recovery authority to closely monitor and enforce producer compliance

The Waste Diversion Transition Act has been designed to create a transition from the current waste diversion programs to the new ‘producer responsibility framework’ and establishes:

  1. That there is funding available for environmental stewards, waste management leaders and businesses alike to ensure a seamless transition
  2. The need for promotion, marketing and education to assist in altering the current residential mind set regarding waste in Ontario

The Waste Free Ontario Act was created to enact the above two acts and repeal the former Waste Diversion Act of 2002 and establishes:

  1. Provincial interest in the environment through waste reduction strategies.
  2. More detail into the producer responsibility framework

The “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy” provides a more developed rationale and understanding of the current waste reduction goals and establishes:

  1. Goals and milestones for waste diversion rates in Ontario, with the goal reaching towards 80% diversion by 2050
  2. 4 objectives and 15 actions to reduce waste in Ontario

This strategy is available for reading here: https://files.ontario.ca/finalstrategywastefreeont_eng_aoda1_final-s.pdf

Food Packaging: The Implications of Food Packaging on Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion

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!

 

Plastic Free July

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:

  1. Reusable Water Bottle
  2. Reusable Coffee Cup/Mug
  3. Reusable, preferably metal, Straw
  4. Plastic free containers for food
  5. 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?

http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/