Waste Reduction Week in Canada is all about encouraging people to do more to reduce waste in their homes, at work, at school and in recreational activities. Of course, to do better we need to know how we are doing now.
A simple information-gathering exercise will provide you with a snapshot of current waste reduction and recycling activities. Use this information in your Waste Reduction Week in Canada news releases. Suggest new things that your community could do to further reduce waste.
Follow these steps to help you rate your community's efforts:
Contact the Manager or Director of your local Public Works Department. He or she is usually the person responsible for garbage collection and disposal and recycling and waste reduction programs. Explain that you would like to get a snapshot of current waste diversion efforts. It is possible the information will already be compiled in an easy-to-read format.
|How much residential garbage is collected and sent for disposal?|
|How much industrial, commercial and institutional waste is sent for disposal?
(NB. In many small municipalities the local landfill or dump may not be equipped with weigh stations so these numbers may not be available. In this case, ask if there is an estimate for the total amount being disposed of, either in metric tones or in cubic metres of landfill space.)
|Has your municipality done a waste audit of what is in the garbage?|
|What is the population of your community?|
|How many households (single, family and multi-unit apartments) are there in your community?|
|Divide the total amount of garbage disposed by your population and households to find out how much each individual or family disposes of in one year.|
Is this a significant amount? You might want to equate this number to something that people can visualize. For example, the amount of garbage each family generates each year weighs more than the family car. Or each person throws out the same weight as seven average adults.
Now figure out how much is being diverted. Ask your municipality to provide the total weight for each material it collected for recycling over the previous year. Use this checklist to see if your community is recycling all it could be.
|Newspapers and magazines|
|Old corrugated cardboard|
|Paper and boxboard (e.g., cereal boxes)|
|Fine grade or writing paper|
|Clear glass bottles|
|Coloured glass bottles|
|Steel food cans|
|Other rigid plastic|
|Aseptic juice boxes (Tetra Pak)|
|Milk/juice gable top cartons|
|Scrap electronic equipment (e.g., computers, televisions, stereos)|
|Large appliances (e.g., white goods)|
|How much does this add up to?|
|How does the recycled amount compare with the amount being sent to landfill?|
How much does this add up to? How does the recycled amount compare with the amount being disposed of from residences? Are there materials that are not being recycled that should be?
Another important waste reduction activity is composting. Because roughly one third of the waste stream is made up of organics - leaves, grass clippings, trimmings, kitchen peelings and food scraps - composting programs can reduce waste a lot.
It is difficult to measure how much organic waste is diverted because it is often done in backyard home composters. As well, your municipality probably does not weigh bags of leaves or grass clippings separately from the rest of the garbage. Still, your works department may have estimates as to how much organic waste is diverted through composting. Here are some questions to ask to determine whether more could be done to reduce organic waste.
|Does your community distribute subsidized backyard composters to residents?|
|Are leaves picked up in the fall for composting?|
|How much leaf compost is produced by your community each year?|
|How is the compost being used? Is it being given or sold back to the community for gardening or is it used on municipal landscaping projects?|
|Does your community ban the disposal of grass clippings in the garbage?|
|Does it promote grasscycling (leaving clippings on the lawn)?|
|Has your community started to implement large-scale centralized composting yet (separate curbside collection of wet waste)?|
|How much is diverted relative to amounts disposed?|
A third type of waste to pay attention to when assessing your community's diversion efforts is that of Household Hazardous Waste or HHW. HHW refers to waste materials like motor oil, paint, solvents, cleaners, pesticides, batteries, and pharmaceutical. Generally these are products that, due to their poisonous, corrosive, explosive, or flammable nature, should not be sent for disposal in a landfill site or incinerator. Ask these questions to determine whether your community is managing this waste stream properly.
|Does your community have a permanent depot(s) for people to drop off HHW?|
|Does your community have special hazardous waste collection days using a temporary or mobile depot?|
|Does your community have an educational program to promote responsible use and disposal or more benign alternatives to HHW products?|
|How much HHW was recovered last year?|
|How much of the total waste stream does this represent?|
Often the waste generated in stores, offices, factories, schools, health care facilities, etc. is not managed by your municipal government. For this reason disposal and diversion statistics are often not available. However, many municipalities do have active programs to encourage diversion from the IC&I sectors. Does yours?
|Does your municipality provide recycling services to IC&I waste generators?|
|Are there any figures estimating how much material was recovered from IC&I sources?|
|How does this compare to the amount of non-residential waste disposed of by IC&I generators in your community?
Note: some businesses have their waste disposed of in other communities so these numbers are often not available.
|Does your municipality have an awareness and/or recognition program to encourage local businesses and institutions to conduct waste audits and implement waste reduction plans? If not, perhaps you could start one as a Waste Reduction Week project.|
|Does your municipality help promote retail take-back programs for a wide range of materials (batteries, computers, pharmaceuticals, garden supplies, tires, clothing, motor oil, paint, etc.)?
Note: An excellent resource in this area is the Ottawa Take-It-Back program.
Finally, many dedicated recyclers and waste reducers are frustrated when they find themselves in a public space without access to recycling programs. It could be a street corner, park, shopping mall, cafeteria, even a municipal building. How does your community rate when it comes to providing convenient recycling bins in high-traffic public areas?
|Do all parks have recycling bins located adjacent to garbage disposal bins?|
|Does your municipality have street side recycling bins in its downtown areas?|
|Are there local bylaws requiring businesses to provide recycling facilities to patrons?|
|How much recyclable material does your municipality recover from public spaces?|
|How does this compare to the amount disposed?|
Once you have collected this information, please refer to the Media Toolbox for suggestions on how it can best be used in your promotional campaign.