Six to Fix Today

Here are six items regularly found in the garbage, that don’t need to be there. If you are looking for where to make a difference today, start with these - six to fix.

Metro Vancouver looks through thousands of tonnes of household garbage. Here’s what we find.

Batteries

Take Charge! Recycle all batteries and electronic devices

Batteries contain toxic chemicals that we want to keep out of the environment. While some batteries are obviously recyclable like the ones you change in a flashlight or cell phone, others are hidden inside a sealed device and either get recharged or are considered one-time use.  These can be recycled too.
 
Everything from broken light-up key chains and rechargeable drills to garden lamps, electric toys and tooth brushes that used to work but don’t anymore.  

All batteries and electronic devices should go to a depot for recycling or safe disposal. In our region, there are 100s of places to drop-off batteries and electronics. Find one near you.

​Food

Why it’s a problem:

About a third of an average household’s garbage is food.

Food scraps rotting in the landfill, without access to oxygen, generate methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gasses cause global warming. 67% of all the methane generated within the Metro Vancouver region comes from landfills.

A lot of resources go into growing food (water, fertilizers, transportation, storage, packaging, energy to cook and clean etc). All this is lost when food is thrown away.

What you can do:

Reduce the amount of food you throw away. Use Love Food Hate Waste to plan meals and use the food in your fridge efficiently. Use a backyard composter or your city food scraps recycling program where available. You will save money too.

Paper

Why it’s a problem:

About 185,000 tonnes, or 13% of the waste is the landfill is paper. Everything from newspapers to flattened cardboard boxes to paper towels. 

What you can do:

  • Find alternatives to disposable paper products. For example, use cloths more in the kitchen instead of relying on paper towels (there’s a bit more laundry, but cost savings overall)
  • Put tissue paper bags, pizza boxes, and bakery sheets in the compost
  • Keep unwanted paper out of your house
    • Avoid unaddressed mail.
    • Post a notice reading ‘no flyers or unaddressed mail please’
    • If you live in an apartment, champion a red dot campaign with your neighbours. Google red dot campaign for ideas.
    • Ask your strata to contact distributors if there are excessive papers and flyers in your lobby. Start with reducing by half.
  • All office and home printers should be set to print double-sided.
  • Stomp cardboard boxes and packaging flat before putting them in the recycling bin. This will save space in the bin, the trucks and at the recycling facility.
  • Avoid paper towel. Choose to use cloths, electric hand dryers and take a towel to the gym.

Plastics​

Why it’s a problem:

About 13% of the average household’s garbage is plastic.

  • Plastic does not go away, ever. At best it breaks down into tiny fragments.
  • A lot of the plastic found in the garbage (plastics marked 1, 2, 4 & 5) is recyclable
  • Often plastic is combined with another material, making it hard to recycle (disposable razors are an example)
  • Plastics are manufactured using fossil fuels, like petroleum or natural gas. Throwing plastic away wastes the fossil fuels that went into manufacturing it. Recycling plastic allows some of this energy to be reclaimed. Find out more about how plastics are recycled 
  • When plastic bags blow away from a recycling bin, they often make their way to waterways and eventually to the ocean where they interfere with wildlife.

What you can do:

  • Avoid single-use, disposable products. For examples,
    • Go to the butcher counter and have your meat wrapped in paper to avoid polystyrene trays and plastic film.
    • Use re-fillable razors for shaving. They cost more initially, but over time save you money.
    • Take your own grocery bags. If you rely on plastic, reuse them over and over.
    • Pack lunch in reusable containers to avoid plastic sandwich baggies and plastic film
    • Refill a reusable bottle with tap water instead of buying single-use plastic bottles.
  • Figure out how and where to recycle plastic food packaging near your home (cheese wrappers, bread and produce bags, rice packaging), set up an easy collection place in your kitchen, and commit to using it.
  • Learn about different kinds of plastic, and try to choose products that will last. The Canadian Plastics Industry Association is a starting place, as is the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers
  • Choose to purchase items made out of recycled material, and support recycling industries. Toys are a great example.
  • When you buy plastic items, check the labelling, and choose an option that can be recycled.

Yard Waste

Why it’s a problem:

Yard waste continues to turn up in the landfill, and represents over 7% of household garbage; a bulky 20,000 tonnes per year. It’s mostly branches and leaves.

What you can do:

  • Use your city green bin all year round.
  • Save time and energy. Recycle grass clippings, or leaving them on your lawn. Start with every-other-mow to get used to it. Google ‘grasscycling’.
  • Separate yard waste from other garbage if coming to a transfer station so each can be dropped at the correct locations.
  • Large properties with large trees produce lots of leaves. Beautiful year round, though a lot of work in the fall.
    • Most cities will pick up extra leaves if bagged in paper bags. Inquire with yours.
    • Do not rake or blow leaves onto the road where they are a slippery hazard to drivers and pedestrians. 
    • Put excess leaves under bushes and on garden beds for natural winter protection and nutrient cycling.
    • Store extra leaves in a convenient place, then use your green bin throughout the winter
    • If you have a gardening service, ensure your recycling program is respected
    • If a neighbour does not garden, ask if you can put your extra leaves in their green bin.
    • If you do not garden, invite a neighbour who does to use your green bin.
    • Reduce the volume. Letting leaves and small branches sit for a few weeks allows them to dry and shrink and take less space in your bin. 

E-waste   

Why it’s a problem:

A waste that has become so prolific it got its own name. Although e-waste is only 2% of the total waste in our landfills, it represents about 22,000 tonnes per year. That’s about 100,000 tonnes in 5 years. Valuable and scarce metals like copper can be harvested from ewaste, instead of mining new sources. Plastics can be recycled. Display units are often disposed, but other parts such as audio components can be reused.

The electronics industry is becoming responsive of the waste associated with making, shipping, distributing , packaging and then disposing of e-waste. Ask questions when you purchase new equipment.

What you can do:

Find out where to take things, and use the certified recycling and safe disposal programs that are available. Speakers, headphones, radios, old phones, batteries, electronic toys and more. Find information at the Electronics Products Recycling Association

Small Volumes – Big Problems

Why it’s a problem:

When asked, most of us don’t think we have hazardous waste at home, but we do. Electronics, household cleaners, fluorescent light bulbs, paint, cleaning solutions and other things we use every day contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

What you can do:

  • Be aware of the list of items that are banned from the region’s landfills, because they are harmful to the environment. 
  • Every year more drop-off locations are added to take back programs across the region.
  • Never flush hazardous liquids down the drain or the street sewer - they will end up in our rivers and oceans. Paint, oil, unmarked solvents you’ve found in the shed all go for safe disposal.
  • Take Charge: Recycle all your batteries and electronic devices. Visit, www.bcrecycles.ca
  • Make the switch to rechargeable batteries. All you need is a couple of different sized chargers, a few spare batteries and two storage containers marked ‘charged’ and ‘needs charging’ to keep them straight.
  • Keep chemicals off your family and out of your home. Choose natural-based cleansers.
  • Starting this summer, get the little green disposable propane tanks out of your life. There are mid-sized refillable containers available at handyman stores , which are easier to carry than a full-sized tank off your balcony BBQ.
  • To find appropriate disposal facilities for any of these materials, and 100’s more use Metro Vancouver Recycles or call the Recycling Hotline at 604-RECYCLE.