Community Climate Action
Reducing Waste = Reducing Your Climate Impact
The problem with plastics is becoming more evident every day. On Thursday, look around your home and make a quick list of what is made of plastic. It’s likely a lot. And, a lot of that plastic will still be around 100’s or possibly even 1,000’s of years from now.
There are alternatives, and although they may cost just a little bit more, they don’t require replacement as often. Choose metal, glass, bamboo, or other more sustainable items that will last. Look to local shops and stores for these items, you’ll be surprised at the variety to choose from.
Plastics are found everywhere in our daily lives. Unfortunately, they’re found in places we don’t want them to be as well. About 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each year – one garbage truck’s worth every minute. “Only nine per cent of the 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste Canadians produce each year is recycled… This is a lost opportunity of $7.8 billion CAD for Canada in 2016.”[ii] Plastic being as versatile as it is, can be used for a lot of different things, even when recycled, shampoo bottles can become plastic lumber for decks!
Even still, there’s different types of plastics, and some of it is contaminated with other materials, making it unrecyclable or too expensive to recycle.
Some general habits to adopt when reducing plastic waste include:
- Buy products with less plastic packaging
- Buying sustainable, reusable, or biodegradable alternatives
- Reusing the plastic products, you currently have as much as possible, if safe to do so
When organic waste gets tossed in the garbage it produces methane gas – a GHG twenty-five times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the atmosphere. Emissions from Canadian landfills account for 20% of national methane emissions and are a big contributor to climate change. Food waste also costs Canadians over $17 billion a year. Need a visual? Check out this video from Waste Reduction Week in Canada. A scary stat for the month of October…almost 40% of the food produced in Canada is wasted. Eeek. It’s time to do better.
Take action to reduce your food waste by:
- Planning meals and making a grocery list
- Storing fruits and vegetables properly so they last longer
- Getting creative with leftovers
- Compost leftover organics
- Adopting a healthier, more sustainable diet
- Organizing your cupboard or fridge to make sure the older food is upfront
Buying local can also help reduce food waste, as there’s less food loss along the way. Food loss is the food that ends up being unusable during transportation. With more miles to go, the more potential there is for food to be lost along the way – it can fall off a truck, be bruised in moving, etc.
SSEA’s Local Climate Change Action Plan includes an action to “Undertake a municipal waste audit in each respective municipal facility to identify opportunities for reduced GHGs contributions through improved recycling and green bin/organics participation at these facilities and during municipally-led events and festivals“. Even though events have been limited recently to COVID-19, we will again start enjoying indoor and outdoor events where we gather and celebrate. When we do so, there is usually food made available. It’s important to make sure each type of waste, including food and organics, is disposed of in the proper stream. This is an action item that we have been working on with our partners, and hope to make even more progress in 2022.
The sharing economy means switching from ownership to access. Renting cars or using rideshare apps, streaming movies and music, and renting suits are all examples of the sharing economy. Libraries especially come in all shapes and sizes, often public libraries offer more than books to check out, offering TV shows and movies, 3D printing sessions, and some places even becoming tool libraries where one might go check out a tool for a single task.
The final piece to Waste Reduction Week is connected to the sharing economy – swap and repair. Figuring out how to extend the life of the things we buy and own is essential to waste reduction and the circular economy. Repair Cafés are becoming more popular, where you can meet other people and learn about how to repair things you might have around the house. It’ll help save both money and the environment. Habitat for Humanity is another well-known organization for reusing products that don’t need to be thrown out.
There’s plenty of repair resources out there, here’s some things you might not have known you can repair in under 10 minutes!
- Broken eyeglasses
- Flip flops
- Running toilets
Some of these things may be cheap and easy to buy again, but think about where that product will end up. Buried, burned or recycled a few times? Repairing makes it last longer and reduces our waste, helping the environment and the fight against climate change.
SSEA works in partnership with our local municipalities to respond to climate change. Midland, Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay, Severn, Tiny, and Tay know that we need to reduce our waste, and this is reflected in their Municipal Climate Action Plans. By approving these plans, these municipalities are working to figure out how to reduce their waste now and in the future. By learning about new approaches, developing pilot projects, and evaluating and celebrating our successes, SSEA and our local government partners are taking steps to reduce their GHGs and deliver on their climate change commitments.
For more waste and recycling facts, check out Straight Talk on Recycling, hosted by the Midland Cultural Centre!
Also, visit the Waste Reduction Week in Canada website for fascinating facts and videos all about waste and what we can do to reduce it. Share your comments with us on how you reduced your waste this week!
Article submitted by: Nikolas Kuchmij, Climate Action Program Coordinator, SSEA, October 2021