CBC's The Hour recently completed their challenge for Canadians to do "One Million Acts of Green". Kudos to all participants. This challenge is still ongoing. For more information check it out here.

The new challenge for Canada, is to reach Two Million Acts of Green. According to the website, they are hoping to reach this new goal by summer. Many businesses and individuals are participating in this effort. Good luck to all. If interested in learning more click here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Okay, I can't end like this -- I have to address NIMBY

After my very first post, our prof told me that I should have talked about the not in my back yard issue. Yes, it is an actual syndrome. Using the acronym NIMBY. It even has a listing in Wikipedia. According to the listing in Wikipedia "The term was coined in the 1980s by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment." So it's been around for almost three decades now.

I found information discussing how it presents challenges to companies and industries. Check out the article here discussing the topic. This particular article talks about energy -- solar and wind. This article acknowledges that the NIMBY opponents are a minority but still a very significant minority. It also indicated that even though people do not want these energy facilities near them, the preferred two types of energy are wind and solar.

Another article that I came across is about how to live with the NIMBY syndrome. It is from the Ethical Spectacle. A very interesting article that talks about many instances throughout history that could possibly be considered akin to this syndrome. It presents the impression that NIMBYism has been around for much longer than when it was coined in the 1980s.

No matter how we look at it, it's been around for a long time, it's not going to go away. Keep plugging away at the things you feel worth fighting for and use every means of advocacy that you can. Get the word out. Get the activity going and don't back down from the challenge. Good will prevail from these efforts!

If you thought recycling only reduces waste, think again. It can help reduce energy use!

While gathering information for my last post, which I thought would be the last post since class is winding down, I came across some information that I just have to share. Recycling material actually saves money in energy costs. Apparently, it's cheaper to manufacture products from recycled material than it is to create from new. Who knew?

I checked out a few of the items that I googled and was surprised to learn that yes, indeedy, energy can be saved by using products made by recycled material rather than from new ingredients. A website from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has a brief outline about recycled paper, steel and aluminum. The Energy Kids Page also had information regarding how manufacturing a product is less expensive than using new materials. If this is the case, why hasn't this been brought to our attention a long time ago? All this time, I thought recycling was simply a means to cut waste.

Just as I thought I had presented a diverse selection of information regarding recycling, why and how -- I'm suddenly confronted by an area that I thought nothing about previously. And that is the use of energy. Is it recyclable? -- we know for the most part it's not really a renewable resource. So I thought maybe just before things end, I should take a quick peak at this, since it seems to be related to the other.

We are continuously hearing about the importance of finding alternative sources of energy. We need to get away from fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal) and move to areas that might be considered renewable. This would fall in line with wind and solar energies. After all, as far as we can tell, the sun will come up every day and the wind should continue to blow. So what is all the fuss about? Well, just like I mentioned in my very first post where I referred to the not in my backyard attitude (which, at the time, I didn't realize was actually a noted syndrome) people are rejecting the usage of these alternatives. They don't want the wind turbines.

They don't want the large expanses of solar panels. Yet, a good number of these people are probably amongst those criticizing and saying "We have to do something!" My one post about methane gas actually touched on this subject, since the S.C. Johnson company was recycling the methane gas from a landfill and using it to create energy to use in their plants. It is possible, just a little creativity and ingenuity and off we go.

I wish that I had made this connection several weeks ago, because I really think this could become a good post if I had more time to research it. Letting everyone know that it's not just waste that we're saving by recycling, but energy too! We need to do everything that we can in an effort to clean up our act and make things work for future generations. Yes, that our kids and our kids' kids etc.

It's really not that difficult, just making a change in the way we buy, trying to eliminate the extra packaging etc. If we are planning on living green or going green, we really need to make a greater effort. We can do it! Look at all that's been accomplished so far -- there are a lot of pluses. We just need to be more conscientious and continue to work at reducing and/or eliminating these issues. We can do it if we collectively put our minds to it!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Out of the old comes the new . . . some of the products that are made from recycled material

Having worked in the printing industry for many years, I was very familiar with recycled paper. When I left the industry in 2004, the highest percentage of recycled fiber content in paper was around 60-70%. And even papers that are not considered recycled fiber have some small portion of recycled pulp. It's interesting but I think it's more interesting to find out what else is made from all those products that we recycle. There are so many items that we recycle, it's hard to imagine just what gets made from all that stuff.

Well, let's take a look. Tires, for years these have been a big problem. You can't throw them out. You can't recycle them with other items, they have to go to a special location. Someplace that will accept them and dispose of them properly. Plus you have to pay to leave your tire. And goodness only knows you don't want to be around them if they catch on fire.

So here's what I found out. I knew that tires could be used to make landscape materials because I bought these things that went around trees to help keep weeds down. They were brown in colour, very heavy, maybe about 1" thick and sort of made to look like a weave of some sort. They were effective until the tree trunks got too big. But anyway, apparently, trash cans can be made from recycled tires; door mats (see photo at right), low-noise pavement and how about this... recycled sails and bicycle tires are made into bags. Yes, bags. Visit and read how Teamwork Bags is done.

My french linguistics prof likes to collect sayings in English, that while they make sense in one regard are not grammatically correct. He had an environmentally friendly shopping bag that claimed "I used to be a pop bottle". I wasn't surprised by the saying, just that they made a fiber that looks like cloth from plastic.

Plastic pop bottles are really interesting. I visited and saw an item about Fortrel EcoSpun, a new fiber made from recycled plastic pop bottles. I guess that's what was used to make that shopping bag. The page also has a list of other items that are made from the different types of plastic. It's pretty cool, really.

Apparently, glass has been recycled for years, melting it down, making new bottles etc. But it's also used to make the glass squares for tile, decorations -- it can be made to look recycled or like new material.

So many things can be done with these products that we discard. For an interesting take on creativity, visit Popgloss. They have numerous photos of very creative ways of using materials, such as crocheted grocery bag shoes (left) or necklaces made with recycled bottles. All kinds of interesting items. Granted these are not regular recycled products but it does show what can be done if the desire is there.

The list is probably endless as to the new products created by the old discarded products. Just keep on recycling or better yet, try not to use products that create so much waste. Remember to Reuse whenever possible!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.... oops, I meant the milk man, the bread man, the Fuller brush man & the sheeny man!

As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, there was a milk man, a bread man, a Fuller brush man and a sheeny man. The first two are pretty self-explanatory.

The third was a door-to-door salesman who sold brooms, mops, brushes etc.

Now for those unfamiliar with the last name, this was the man who used come down the alley with his horse and cart (yes, this was in the city) and collect the things that you wanted to get rid of, instead of throwing in the garbage. He is the connection to reuse in the 3Rs of recycling. Anything and everything that might have been junk was welcomed by the sheeny man.

The above picture is from the Walkerville Times collection of Ford City photos.

As kids we couldn't wait for him to come down the alley on Saturdays. We would listen for the clopping of the horse, his call of Sheeny Man and I think he might have had a bell also. Mostly, we waited because we wanted to see the horse. My husband had a different experience with the Sheeny Man. He lived in an area that didn't have alleys, so when the man came to the neighbourhood he just went down the street. Randy also told me that they had a man that would come through the neighbourhood to sharpen knives. So as you can see, things did not go to waste.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that local Essex County artist Ron Suchiu has done several paintings to commemorate the Sheeny Man. Totally impressed! These paintings show the relationship between the Sheeny Man and the neighborhood.

As I've said before, it didn't seem like there was as much, OK, I know there wasn't as much waste. Some of this was because our milk bottles and pop bottles did not end up in the garbage unless they were broken. Some was because the Sheeny Man would come by and collect a lot of what might have been thrown into the garbage if it wasn't donated to the Salvation Army. I guess another reason might just be because things were made in a way where it was cheaper to repair than replace. Also, products were packaged much differently. Individual packaging was very rare.

Looking back on the past, it really doesn't seem that bad. I don't think things were that much behind the times. In fact, I think we were more conscientious and less likely to waste back then. It would be good if we can get to a place in our lives where we realize that sometimes the old way, is the better way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The things that used to come in reusable containers might surprise you!

When I was a little girl, it was important to start keeping a hope chest. For those not familiar with the term, it was a collection of items that you saved for when you got married. I always wanted one like the picture but we didn't have a lot of money, so I just used one of my dresser drawers. My collection started with food items that came in reusable containers. Think it's funny! Wait until you hear about the items that were common way back when.

Peanut butter and jam used to come in glass jars that were actually glasses. My first set of glasses came from saving the peanut butter jars in the late 1960s. They were large tumblers and had a pink & white art deco design. I used them when I left home in the 70s and I still had them when I got married in 1986. Another set of glasses that I still have packed away someplace, have a small stem with a gold & white pattern. Some of those glasses were really cool. Plus they were practical. They didn't need to be recycled because they were reusable.

Not only were there glasses in all shapes, sizes and decorations but I have thermal bowls, glasses and cups that were distributed in the 1960s by the Borden Company. Remember Elsie the Cow? I have one of those too! These bowls were filled with cottage cheese. They have reusable plastic lids and were very durable. Obviously, since I still have some 40 years later and still use them.

Kraft used to have peanut butter in decorative jars (sculpted glass), some even had slits in the lids to use as banks. I still have some of these jars, there were several different styles of teddy; some were plain, some he wore a bow tie, I think there was even a girl teddy jar. (Right after I typed this, I went and checked mine, yes one is plain and one has a bow tie) My jars were all clear glass. I don't know if someone painted the one in the picture or if it actually came that way. Either way you get the general idea of what it looked like.

Regardless of how you want to look at this, it was a pretty good marketing idea and it was good for the environment. There aren't many items sold today that come in reusable containers. Wow, all this talk about food made me hungry. Grabbed some cottage cheese to eat while typing but unfortunately, it's from one of those plastic tubs that will have to be RECYCLED! Oh well, c'est la vie!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Other changes that have created more garbage over the years

Changes, changes and more changes. That always seems to be the way of the future, not the way of the past. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how some things in the area had changed, specifically the introduction of fast-food restaurants to the area, and the effect they had on waste.

Several classmates have mentioned that they enjoyed hearing about some of the items from the past, so I've been thinking more about what has changed. Styrofoam and plastic bags came to mind.

Throughout my youth and my first job, which was in the cafeteria at the K-mart on Huron Line (now Zellers -- which used to be across the street where Canadian Tire is now), I cannot recall any plastic bags other than garbage bags. Every thing was put in a paper bag. Sometimes, really big bags, sometimes little bags -- but all were paper.

The cafeteria used Chinet plates and paper cups for coffee (although I think styrofoam was introduced at some point). When you had a take out order, it went into a lightweight cardboard box or was simply on the paper plate with foil wrapped around it. Even Chinese food was in paper containers. Not much in the way of styrofoam at all.

Then all of a sudden it was everywhere. Styrofoam that is. Plates, cups, containers, little shipping nuggets. Just about anything related to take-out used styrofoam. Pizza however, always used cardboard.

Beverages were another story. Plastic didn't appear until maybe the late 70s in big bottles. Pop bottles were always made of glass, clear or green, maybe the odd brown bottle with something other than beer for contents. Plus you could get money back for them. Every kids dream, collect the bottles and turn them in. Cans weren't very popular at that time. That's been within the last three decades.

Most of the food containers were either glass or cans. When I was in grade school, way back in the 60s, we had a milk program just like the schools today. But our milk containers were way cooler than what you seen with the decorated cartons today. We actually had little milk bottles. They had cardboard pull-tabs and were sooooo cute. Just like the bigger milk bottles only smaller. Yes, we had a milk man, a bread man, the Fuller Brush man and a sheeny man. But that's a completely different post to come.

Even bread didn't come in a plastic bag. It was cello-wrapped, come to think of it sandwiches were in that same material. I remember the kitchen at K-mart had a hot plate to seal the cello-wrap after they made the sandwiches.

Plastic grew in convenience and waste. Unfortunately, this material does not decompose well. It takes forever for it to break down. That's the problem, but even that is slowly changing. Researchers including some in Canada are working on bio-degradable plastic bags. It would be great if this is successful because I hesitate to get rid of these bags since I know they only end up in landfills. The bottom part of bathroom closet is overflowing with all these plastic bags. After all you can only reuse so many. In some ways they're like rabbits, they just keep multiplying. Only difference, rabbits are cute!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recycling has gone to the toys! And the clothes and whatever....

Recycling ideas as well as waste. A recent news article on Fox 2 News indicated that one of the dolls discontinued by Mattel is being brought back to life in an effort to keep costs down. The toy in the news clip was PJ Sparkles created in 1988.

An article from the Wall Street Journal Marketing & Media dated March 3, 2009 explains the reason behind this and other toy manufacturers' decisions. It is titled Toy Makers Reach Into Product Attic.

There were many toys that were perfectly good but discontinued. Granted they might not have had tons of bells and whistles to make them super-contemporary; but kids need to use their imaginations and simple toys are one of the best ways to accomplish this. By bringing back pre-existing designs companies are reintroducing good products that were discarded, possibly too early, to new generations. By doing this, they keep design costs down and perhaps eliminate some of the waste that comes with producing a new design.

The interesting part to the concept is that it reaffirms the old saying "Everything that goes around, comes around" or "What's old is new again". No matter how you look at it, retro can be a good thing. Get back to basics. Forget about always being the better or the best, do what works. It could be a cost-saver and it could be good for the environment as well.

Another example of what I call variant-recycling (because it doesn't deal with waste) is shown with Vintage Clothing. A number of posts on this topic can be seen on Infashuation. Again, there was a recent article (click here) in the Windsor Star about the trends in clothing and referred to those who bargained shopped in the resale stores etc., as Recessionistas. Cute term!

Another way to recycle old clothing, if you are so inclined, is to use the fabric from old clothes to make something new. You definitely end up with one-of-a-kind designs because no one else will have that particular material. It can be fun! I just wish I had the time and energy to do it again.

Yet another use for old fabric was very common when I was a kid; people used to make quilts, potholders and hooked rugs from left over material. I recently found a Chatelaine article (August 2007) that dealt with this specific topic. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the article online. But, a group of women in Newfoundland have created a cottage industry by creating hooked rugs.
Each one different from the next; each one telling a story about the history of the area. The photo shown is by Deanne Fitzpatrick (featured in the article) titled Safe in the Harbour.

A lost craft perhaps, but hey, why not give something different a try. You might just be surprised by what you created and at the same time have done something good to help reduce waste.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another word for organic recycling is 'Composting'

Composting is an effective process to recycle organic material. It is easy and can be done in your own backyard. Common household waste from food preparation and yard waste from gardening can easily be composted into soil. This includes egg shells; vegetable and fruit peels; paper can and bottle labels; paper towels; leaves and grass; dead plants and small twigs are usable materials. The exception is meat or any animal based product because it could attract animals.

The composting itself takes little effort. In some respects it is probably easier than gathering up all the materials for regular recycling. As you prepare your meal, any organic waste material should go into a separate container (most people keep this container under their sink). Once that container is full, the contents are transferred to a backyard compost bins.

Many varieties of compost bins exist varying from homemade to store bought. A review of several different composting bins can be viewed here, it includes the model that we use. We have the Soil Saver Backyard Composter. When EWSWA first began the recycling program and included composting, these containers were available for purchase at a very low price. EWSWA also has a composting program where they have compost available for sale. The photo shown above, of a compost bin available through EWSWA, illustrates how easily it can be incorporated into any backyard setting.

If you do not want to purchase a commercially made compost bin, one can always build their own. Lowes has a site with instructions on building a two bin compost system. These systems work very effectively and if you are an avid gardener it is advantageous to have one in your backyard. Not only will you be growing your own plants and vegetables, but you will be creating nutritious soil for use in growing them.

Mulching is another effective means to recycle your yard waste. Rather than bagging grass clippings, have a mulching blade on your lawn mower. The clippings remain in the grass and provide nutrients to help ensure the health of your lawn. Leaves can also be mulched. Put leaves into a container and chop them up with your grass trimmer. After that they can be placed on plants in the garden or added to your compost bin. Or better yet, when leaves are sitting on your lawn, just go over them with the lawn mower and leave them.

For explanations about the differences between compost and mulch, visit EWSWA. They no longer sell mulch but the site still has the comparison between mulch and compost.

Most landfills do not accept yard waste any more; so if you are able to mulch or compost, it is a good contribution to helping the environment. If you are unable to compost or mulch, Windsor and Essex County do have yard waste recycling days.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What do parks have in common with methane gas?

In the late 1970s, while I lived in London, ON, there was an explosion in downtown London that was caused by methane gas. It was frightening since one of my co-workers lived in the area. Fortunately, her home was not damaged, but others in the area were not so lucky. This was my first understanding of what methane gas was, where it came from and what it could do. Landfills are the connection between parks and methane gas. Old landfill sites are closed and eventually sculpted into parks. In some instances, such as the case in London, homes are built on former landfills. Over time, gases build as the debris decomposes. Venting is necessary to allow the gases to escape, in order to prevent explosions.

The top two photos
are Malden Park and
the bottom photo is
Little River Park.

In the Windsor area there are two parks that have been created from closed landfill sites. One on the west side of Windsor and one on the east side. These sites have been closed for decades and the City of Windsor has painstakingly sculpted these two areas so that the public can enjoy them. For those unfamiliar with these parks -- they are Malden Park also referred to as Malden Hill and Little River Park (or Suicide Hill for those who enjoy sports such as biking; the park is unsupervised).They were formerly known as the Malden Landfill site and Little River Landfill site. The City of Windsor worked on converting these two sites and now they are essentially the only "hills" in a relatively flat area. Albeit man-made, at least it offers a safer environment for children tobogganing.

When I was a kid, if you wanted to toboggan it was usually down the side of the overpasses for 401. Not necessarily the safest way to go. These parks are open to the public, for hiking, cycling and picnicking. There are extensive trails, the Little River Park is near the Ganatchio Trail which is another favourite spot for hikers, runners and cyclists. Malden Hill has an extensive trail system but is not close to any other trail system. If you have the opportunity, it is truly an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Malden Park is not far from the University, there are ponds, some areas to sit and during the summer there is a pavillion, washrooms etc. Check it out, you might be pleasantly surprised to see what garbage can do.

To close, I would like to discuss the methane issue from a different perspective. Last year my husband and I were having a discussion about methane gas and its effect on the environment when he mentioned something about methane retrieval. He had heard or read an article about a company that was collecting the methane produced by landfill waste to use for energy. The company is S.C. Johnson and the article is attached here. The article which appeared in The Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee, May 2, 2003 discusses the efforts to which the company has gone, in order to be environmentally friendly and the amount of money saved in energy costs. It is interesting to note that the landfill is not on their property. At the time of the article the annual savings after startup and operating costs were estimated at $2.4 million dollars annually.

It is nice to know that some companies are being proactive regarding the environment. In a way, it's ironic that a company that manufactures items that could be harmful to the environment has taken such steps. But after all, S.C. Johnson has always been ahead of their time. According to the article, they were the first company to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons from their products before it was mandated by the government. Way to go! Hopefully, many others will follow suit in an effort to clean things up for the future.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recycling makes it way into mainstream TV

Hubby and I watched CBC TV this week. Only a couple of shows but none the less, we hit them at the right times.

The first show was The Hour -- not our usual viewing fair but occasionally something is on and it's interesting. A video clip was shown regarding a man from Los Angeles who had a personal challenge pertaining to waste and recycling. This was the first time that I've heard about "Sustainable Dave"; the man challenged himself to see how much garbage he uses in one year. The interview was very interesting and is available on THE HOUR website. It's surprising to see what one can do if one puts their mind to it. After I found the video on the TV show website, I continued to check things out and discovered Sustainable Dave's website. Although his one year challenge is over, he has continued trying to enlighten others. I enjoyed his slogan "no one can do everything but everyone can do something". Talk about a simple way to say it won't work without you! I also discovered numerous YouTube videos about him from the various interviews he has done.

A couple of nights later we watched the Rick Mercer Report. We've enjoyed this guy for years (since his days on This Hour has 22 Minutes)-- especially his talking to Americans (2000). You had to love it when he talked to then presidential candidate George W. Bush about his reaction to his endorsement by Canada's Prime Minister Jean Poutine. But reminisces aside his recent clip on Canada's Recycling program was good. Got a good laugh. Hope you do too!

Although some aspects of his video are extremely exaggerated it shows that recycling is being done and has grown to include many items. Just a reminder -- we all need to do our part. It's the little things that drive home the point that we all have to do something to help make things better for the future. But I don't need to tell you that right!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is that waste, garbage? No, wait it's WASTE ART!

My sister in California sends me many interesting emails; I recently received one pertaining to recycling. I had not spoken with her recently so she knew nothing about this blog. When I looked at the slide show, I knew I was on the right track.

A group called GIA -- Grupo de Impacto Ambiental created a powerpoint slideshow about an artist named Chris Jordan. It is titled Waste Art, and yes, it does pertain to recycling. It shows us how wasteful we have become. This is why we need to change our habits. Not just for ourselves but we need to set good examples for the youngsters in the next generation. After all, kids learn by doing what they see. If they witness adults doing the right thing, there's a greater likelihood that they will as well. This show can be viewed here.

Chris Jordan is an American photographic artist with an idea towards making a difference. It appears he is both appalled and awed by the amount of waste produced in the world today.

The photos that appear in the Waste Art show were taken from Jordan's exhibit Running the Numbers An American Self-Portrait which ran from 2006-2009.

In his words he describes this exhibit:
This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming

Some of the photos that intrigued me most are:
Depicts 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months.

Blogs that I've located relating to this artist and the work he is currently doing -- Inhabitat, Clean the Air and Stalkmarket

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's not just at the grocery store when asked "Paper or Plastic?"

Just before paying at the grocery checkout, the cashier sometimes asks (depending on the store and their policies) "Paper or plastic?". When allowed this choice, I always chose paper! Why -- because its RECYCLABLE. You should ask yourself the same question when separating your recylcables. Those plastic bags are just garbage. So if you get paper it can go into your RED box.

RED boxes are for paper products. That means not only those notes that you don't want to hold on to anymore, but also those paper coffee cups you got from your last visit to Tim Horton's. The lids of course are garbage. These should be removed before you put the cup in the recycling bin. When you have multiple bins beside each other. Just pop the lid into garbage and the cup into the paper bin beside it. It's pretty easy, really! If you bought a cookie or a muffin from Tim's as well, that little paper bag can go into the RED box as well! The muffin wrapper should go to the garbage and if the bag is all sticky with frosting it's garbage.

Phone books, catalogues, magazines -- these are all RED box items. Have been for years. But egg cartons and other molded trays can be recycled. Better yet, if you received one of those trays with your order and you go there often, EWSWA suggests that you keep the tray and REUSE it. Just another one of the ways we can implement the 3Rs.

For a complete listing of RED BOX items visit EWSWA Red Box Recycling Guidelines.

Try to avoid plastic items as much as possible. I know it's hard to do because they are everywhere. At my house, it's like the plastic bags multiply in the closet. I try to reuse them for bathroom garbage or small garbage cans, but there are so many stores that use plastic bags nowadays that it's extremely difficult. The other problem with reusing plastic bags is that they sometimes harbour bacteria. This bacteria can then be transferred to other items. Sometimes even washing them doesn't get rid of the germs. See clip from CTV (November 27, 2008) about Mould and Bacteria. A durable cloth bag such as those sold by Canadian Tire or Zehrs is a practicle solution. It's reusable and washable.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just what is recyclable these days???

When the recycling program began, individuals were limited to what was considered recyclable. It started with just a blue box, the next step lead to a red box. It will be interesting to see what follows. The program varies from area to area. Originally, I thought it was the same everywhere with the boxes, red and blue, but I soon found out that's not always the case. A friend in the Toronto area indicates they have a blue box and a gray box. She also informed me that some areas simply have a large gray box for everything. So I guess it depends on the individual companies in the region.

Back in the early 90s, Guelph implemented a program for recycling. No garbage at all. They had dry recyclables and wet recyclables (basically kitchen and bathroom waste). This meant tissues and all other materials that we would normally put in the garbage were being sorted and recycled. Views on the success of this program were varied. To the best of my knowledge it is still in operation today (I think mostly because of the cost that would be involved to change things back -- that's just my opinion), but I'm not certain if it has been implemented in any other areas and if it has, I don't know how long or how well it is working.

Fortunately for us, we don't do it that way. Our blue boxes began with cans and paper. Wow, has that changed. Today we can recycle many items. Cans, glass (only container glass), plastic bottles, empty aerosol cans, empty paint cans and many other items. The red box collection has grown to include cardboard and boxboard as well as magazines and catalogues.

NEW ITEMS to the BLUE BOX include:
This information was provided by the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority in the fall issue of EnviroTips. This newsletter is produced several times a year to keep residents up-to-date with the changes in the industry.

Polycoat beverage cartons: these include the milk cartons, juice cartons and the liquid egg cartons. Just rinse out, get rid of the cap and toss into your blue box.
Aluminum Foil: Sheet foil and aluminum trays and plates. They ask for the plates and trays to be rinsed and placed flat while the foil should be rinsed and rolled into a ball before being placed in the blue box.
Plastic tubs and lids: It's good to know that those plastic containers for margarine, chip dip, sour cream or cottage cheese are no longer garbage. Just rinse these out and put the tub and its lid into your blue box. It only takes a few minutes to rinse these items out with hot water.

Please note that the clear plastic containers, such as the containers that sandwiches or salads are often packaged in are not recyclable. These items are still considered garbage.

For a complete listing of allowable plastics visit the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority -- plastics information page.

Please keep the following information in mind when recycling, especially in public places. During a recent interview on AM800 with the spokesperson for EWSWA, a question was asked if all materials put into recycling at fast food restaurants are actually recycled. The answer was NO. The reason being, the restaurant determines if the materials are recycling or garbage. If individuals are not being conscientious about putting garbage in the waste container and recyclables in the proper container; when the mix appears to be more garbage that recycling -- it is garbage. So always keep that in mind. If it is dirty (full of food material) it will be garbage. But the place mat on the tray, unused napkins or paper packaging are all recyclable. It doesn't take that much effort to do it properly. Just a few minutes to sort it better.

If we want recycling to work, we all need to do our part. Believe me, I screw up when I'm out in public and often put recyclables into the garbage. At home, it is much easier. But I'm working on this and trying to be more careful when I dispose of the items.

My next topic will deal with the red box items and some of the things that we don't even think about recycling or reusing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why do I call this the "Green Rule"?

I don't know how many of today's generation are familiar with the song "School Days", but it mentions the three Rs as part of the Golden Rule. Since it pertained to school, it was Reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. This was the standard for learning or so it seemed at the time. Many years have passed and as I mentioned in my previous post, we have because a society that does not think twice about discarding items. We therefore needed a new rule...The Green Rule. The 3Rs of recycling.

While discussing this situation with my husband, I asked what has changed so much from when we were kids. The obvious changes which weren't discussed include the proliferation of fast food restaurants. I was in high school when the MacDonalds on Huron Line opened. It was take out only -- no place to sit and eat. From that point in the early 1970s, it was one fast food restaurant after the other. Today, it is unusual to be at home for all of your meals in one week. Yet when we were younger that was the way it was. Mom cooked all the time, baked desserts -- basically she did it all. It doesn't seem to happen that way in this day and age. There is too much to do and convenience takes precedence over everything else. Unfortunately, when there is convenience, there is waste.

Now, as current generations see the error of the ways of the last few decades, it becomes increasingly obvious that things need to change. As organizations and people rally together to improve the state of our earth (caused by many years of disregard) -- the new catch word has become GREEN. The implication is that green is good. Anything that you do for the environment that is good will be considered green. Kind of reminds you of those veggies that you didn't want eat, you remember the green ones, spinach, broccoli or brussel sprouts -- they are good for you but many kids didn't like the thought of eating something green. Sometimes we have to do things we don't like because it's for the greater good.

Recycling was born. Their slogan Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is common sense but how can it be applied to such hectic lives. Before the past few decades, reducing waste did not appear as necessary as it seems to be today. People definitely reused things in the past. There was little waste with food and once something had outgrown its usefulness with one family it often was passed on to another family -- remember the term hand-me-downs. When something was finally discarded, it was because it was broken and could not be fixed not just because it needed to be replaced. Don't get me wrong, many people still practice the basics of these principles but many others don't consider it when they get their garbage together.

Perhaps this careless disregard came from the prosperity that was realized after the second world war. I recently saw an article that had been published about 4 or 5 years ago by the Canadian government honouring the veterans of previous wars. It was a short article and it was about how people recycled during the war. This was done out of necessity but none the less, they did it. Why can't we do the same? The thing is we can. We have been and we will endeavour to continue. Things are improving. More and more items are becoming recyclable and new uses are being found for their products. The new horizon does indeed look green; but only if everyone cooperates and does their part. It is not impossible. It is attainable.

My next post will include specifics about the products that are currently being recycled. There are new additions to the list of items and it continues to grow. I will include items recently included in the last edition of the EWSWA newsletter. 'Til then, happy recycling!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The 3Rs

The most important item concerning our future is Recycling. Over the last several decades, society has become more and more wasteful. Everything is disposable. In many instances, the attitude is -- if we don't need it anymore, we throw it away. Landfills have become full; areas to locate landfills are becoming difficult to obtain because of the not in my backyard attitude.

Whether we like it or not, we need to become more conscientious about what we do with our waste. Recycling programs have become prominent and are continuously making advancements in recycling new materials. Individuals need to become more familiar with the 3Rs. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

This blog is my way of helping a new generation develop good recycling habits and also a way to help those of previous generations change their ways. After all, the acts of one affect everybody.

Future posts will include information about items that are recyclable today. Links to local organizations and government organizations devoted to recycling will be provided and helpful hints will be given to assist in preparing items for recycling at home.

The logo above is one commonly used by the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority.