Community Climate Action
It’s Waste Reduction Week in Canada!
This week is the 20th anniversary of Waste Reduction Week in Canada. DYK that locally 10% of our community GHG emissions come from waste?
Ready to reduce your waste? From Monday, October 18 to Sunday, October 24, each day has a ‘theme’ selected by #WasteReductionWeek. Read on for how you can take steps this week and any day of the year to reduce your waste. Let’s get started with Monday’s Circular Economy Kick-off, Textile Tuesday, and E-Waste Wednesday!
Each day from October 18-24, take a few moments to really think about the waste you create, and how you can take steps to reduce it. From what you buy, to what you give, and to how you dispose of an item, each of these decisions can have an impact on climate change and the GHGs that you produce. Now back to that 10% from our Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP). It may not seem like a lot, but GHGs from community-produced waste come in third amongst the top five emitting sectors (1. transportation (54%), residential energy use (24%), waste (10%), commercial energy use (7%), and 5. industrial energy use (5%) approximate values for rounding). This 10% equals about 57,991 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculator lets us see that if this was gasoline, it would equal the use of 26,911,590 litres of gas!
It’s important to remember that recycling itself uses energy. From transporting it to processing – and to the overall running of the facility. Sorting actual recyclables from garbage makes it even harder, and many items don’t make it through this process and end up in the solid waste stream instead of being recycled. That’s why it’s key to reduce our waste, not just recycle.
We’re used to a linear economy. Extract, process and transport, use, and then dispose. A start-to-finish of things we use. A circular economy is when we design products and processes to reuse and reinvest into new products over and over again. With recycling, a company may make a product for people to use, but what happens to it after it’s done isn’t fully considered. With a circular economy, making a product means considering how it can be repaired, reused, shared, last longer, or be returned to the company. We’ve done this a few times with different businesses. Returning empty bottles, for example, gets you a deposit back, and the bottles can be reused. If they can’t be reused, then they’re recycled. There are different ways to improve the circular economy and you can find out more at https://circularinnovation.ca/.
Clothes, blankets, hats… all kinds of fabric or cloth are textiles. We all have seasonal cleaning to do (or think about doing) when the seasons roll around. But when we go through our closet, we realize how much we actually don’t use. Even then, Canadians on average buy 70 new articles of clothing per year, according to CBC. “Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87% is landfilled or incinerated, representing a lost opportunity of more than USD 100 billion annually, we see it about one garbage truck of textiles landfilled or incinerated every second… It takes about 2,600 litres of water to make one new t-shirt.”
Even donating clothes has its drawbacks. Putting your clothes in a donation bin sends them off to be re-sorted and resold at commercial re-use stores. But only about 50% of those donated clothes are of good enough quality to be on the rack, and only half of those end up being sold. So a quarter of what might be donated only gets reused by the local community. The rest might get sent overseas to be reused in other countries, or be reprocessed into other clothes or used as rags. But all that ends up producing more GHGs than would have been used if it stayed local, or didn’t need to be moved at all. Not only that, but it turns out that this is hurting the textile industry in countries where the clothes are sent. Some countries in East Africa even united to try and ban imported textiles. It’s still better to donate than toss them in the garbage outright, and there’s always the potential for them to be reused, as them ending up in a landfill not only increases GHGs but takes up valuable landfill space which can increase the need for new landfills and drive up municipal tax rates. There’s plenty of ways to avoid textile waste. We can:
- Design and buy better quality clothes that last longer
- Wash only when we need to – microplastics in clothing won’t get washed away into the water system as much
- Increase the average number of times clothes are worn
- Swap and share
- Make dog toys out of old strips of shirts and other Do-It-Yourself projects (cleaning cloths, braided rugs, etc.)
- Recycle more – we can show that we want more things recycled, thereby making it worthwhile for businesses to invest in things like clothing recycling
- Read about Textile Tuesday! This event raises awareness of the environmental consequences of clothing and textiles consumption, providing information on how you can extend the life of your clothing.
In 2017, Canada threw out 638,300 metric tonnes of electronic waste or e-waste. The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report stated that the world created 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019. This is the weight of 350 cruise ships or enough to form a line 125 kilometers long. E-waste comes in the form of smart devices and phones, batteries, and fluorescent lights. They’re all made up of different materials to make the technology we use today. Being able to reuse or recycle the materials can go a long way, especially since many of them are non-renewable, meaning they can’t be naturally reproduced fast enough to be replaced. We can embrace a circular economy by having the companies that design electronics make them easy to repair, reuse/refurbish, recycle, return, or generally last longer. The longer we use them or share them, the less e-waste we produce. It’s just as essential to recycle our e-waste when possible, as it can be 13 times cheaper to salvage these recyclables than to mine them fresh from the Earth. You can drop off your e-waste at any Simcoe County waste management facility, free of charge. Visit the County of Simcoe website to find a drop-off location near you.
Visit us again on Thursday this week for our perspective on the remaining Waste Reduction Themes including Plastics Thursday, Food Waste Friday, Sharing Economy Saturday, and Swap and Repair Sunday.
Article submitted by: Nikolas Kuchmij, Climate Action Program Coordinator, SSEA, October 2021