Working toward zero waste

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Darlene Pashak
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist


Darlene Pashak
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

In 2012, The Conference Board of Canada reported that the average Canadian household generated 720 kg of undiverted waste per year, meaning it is headed for the landfill and not diverted by recycling or composting. Further, undiverted waste contributes to environmental problems including habitat destruction and contamination of air, soil, and water. Incineration creates toxic substances and landfills emit methane and other gasses that contribute to global warming.
720 kg is about 1,588 pounds. Imagine 1,588 pound of butter. Where would you put it? How would you get it home from the store? How much will you have accumulated in your lifetime? What impact does that have on our environment?
It makes sense to reduce personal waste, to reduce garbage, because it needs to be stored, transported, processed and managed.  A zero waste philosophy aims to send no trash to landfills or incinerators. It may seem overwhelming to achieve, but small steps and planning can lead to big savings in waste. What can you do? Follow the five R’s of zero waste.
First, REFUSE items with packaging, single-use items like plastic bags, straws, bottles of water and coffee cups. Bring your own drinking container to save money. Water is free and many coffee shops give a discount. Added bonus: coffee stays hotter for longer in a reusable mug. Saying no to freebies is harder. Take a picture of pamphlets or posters, refuse “free” things that you don’t need and will only end up in the garbage.
Secondly, consider if you really need to make a purchase and REDUCE your consumption and food waste. Ask yourself: do I really need it? Do I already have something that will work? Can I borrow it from a friend or the library? Can I make it?  Can I buy it secondhand? Buy from bulk stores that allow you to bring your own reusable containers.
REUSE and REPAIR items to give them a second life, and if you can’t reuse/repair, donate them. A group of devoted mat makers in Chapeau welcomes your 3L milk bags used to make durable plastic mats for people in other countries. Repair people welcome old lawnmowers and appliances that they can fix and resell.  Donate your furniture to organizations helping people. Reuse that old necklace for an art project. There are so many possibilities and if you are stuck, Google it!
RECYCLE what little you have left to divert garbage from landfills and
incinerators.
Composting kitchen waste is the last “R”— ROT, and it falls into the reuse
category since it turns into rich soil for the garden. Sending other items landfills to rot is a last resort and can be avoided by practicing the other “R’s”.