Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recycling (and the other two Rs)

Recycling – Not Just for Paper and Plastic
Engrained into the minds of many people early in life as one of the “Three Rs”, recycling is one of the easiest ways individuals can lessen their environmental impact. While the City of Ottawa already provides recycling services with the Blue Box and Black Box programs (combined, they have generated $53 million in revenue for the city in the last 8 years), these programs don’t address many of the larger, and more environmentally damaging items people dispose of.

Major culprits, in terms of damaging disposal, are electronic components – things like TVs, computers, video game systems, tape decks, etcetera. As technology improves and becomes more affordable, households are replacing electronic components much more regularly than ever before – and often tossing the old ones in the trash.

A local company, Twenty Twelve Electronics Recycling (TTER) was set up in 2005 to address exactly this issue. According to TTER, electronic equipment contains toxic materials like barium, beryllium, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, and phosphorus that can leach into groundwater from landfill sites. Many garbage programs will not accept electronic equipment, even at their hazardous waste depots. Recycling these items will save the environment from toxins and comply with municipal, provincial, and federal regulations regarding disposal.

Reduce: Easier than we Think
Even easier than recycling is reducing the amount of waste we generate. While there are a number of ways to reduce our production of garbage, some of the best areas to focus on are our eating habits. A large portion of the trash in landfills is directly related to food: plastic grocery bags, paper plates, and disposable lunch packaging, just to start. A few quick (and mostly free) changes individuals and households can easily make to dramatically reduce the garbage they produce include:

* Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
* Bring your own cotton shopping bags to the grocery store.
* Reuse your plastic grocery bags.
* Use and re-use cloth napkins, towels and rags instead of paper towels.
* Buy serviceable or quality items and avoid single-use items.
* Don't buy produce or baking goods in non-recyclable plastic containers
* Buy products that are made from recycled materials or in recycled packaging.
* Use and re-use regular plates, utensils, and cups instead of paper and plastic.
* Use a travel mug or a thermos for your coffee

Your Input
Community-based change comes from awareness and participation. By keeping these topics easy, effective, and to the point, I hope to encourage exactly that sort of change in a 'ground-up' sort of way. Please feel free to post a comment on whether this has helped at all, or on what you already do to reduce and recycle your household waste


Rich said...

I agree with absolutely everything you said, there should be more real politicians like you. By reading your blog, I already feel more environmentally friendly.

Anyway here's an idea to make the environment better: Harness the waves, we need to figure out a way to generate electricity from the tides on all the beaches of the world. This will likely involve some sort of satellite in space to intercept the moon's gravitational pull and thereby control the tides and ensure regular electricity is generated. To kill Global Warming, we need to fire enough sulphur into the air so as to create a second ozone, block out the sun's rays and lower the world's temperature. I suggest using crop dusters and large commercial aircraft that would create con trails capable of changing the weather.

Anyway this is how I'd put a stop to the most egregious threat facing mankind in our era.

stevef said...

Hi Alex,

After too much delay, our household finally started composting food waste. I am amazed how much this simple act has reduced our household garbage. We have a family of four and routinely have only one or two kitchen-sized bags of garbage a week. We are reducing our landfill footprint, and recyling/reusing this as good compost.


KevinB said...

There are some good ideas there, and now that I have it in mind, I think I'll purchase a cloth grocery bag to replace all those plastic ones I end up throwing in the trash.

As for what I do now, I've replaced all the incandescent light bulbs in my apartment with compact florescent ones, to both lower my energy impact as well as to save a few bucks on the bill when it comes up.

I also try and walk to destinations within walking distance, rather take a motor vehicle. I use less gas, and again, end up saving money. I take the view that using more efficient methods can both help the environment and your bottom line at the same time.