A Zero Waste Afternoon

Thanks to all who came out to the Zero Waste afternoon on November 29th!  If you weren’t able to join in, we’ve uploaded our Zero Waste presentation slides, and below, have included the videos shown so you can view and share them at your leisure.   This Zero Waste event included:

  • What Zero Waste is all about (video link to Paul Connett, author of The Zero Waste Solution)
  • A review of the current MMBC recycling program
  • A time line of the new items that will be accepted at select recycling depots (video about cork recycling: ReCork).
  • A presentation on avoiding Food Waste & on Larger Scale Composting possibilities in Powell River
  • The possible formation of a Resource Recovery Park in Powell River through a collaboration including local businesses, organizations, vendors and artists. (video link to Gibson’s Recycling facility)
  • A presentation by guest speaker, Jill Doucette, founder of Synergy Systems (specialist in ‘Greening’ Businesses)
  • Local guest speakers: Melissa Call, owner of Ecossentials (speaking about the challenges of ‘greening’ a business), and Chloe Smith & Guadalupe Dufour, who are upcycling barley bags from Townsite Brewery into 6 pack totes and more!
  • Introduction to the concept of the ‘The Sharing Economy‘ which can facilitate the sharing of our resources and thus decrease the waste we produce.

Closing the Loop Study

A recent study from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives delved into the issue of zero waste.  The study titled; “Closing the Loop: Reducing Green House Gas Emissions and Creating Green Jobs Through Zero Waste in BC” highlights that we are consuming at an unsustainable rate and need to regain focus on reducing and reusing.  The full length document is 45 pages while a summary report is offered through 8 pages of stimulating reading.

Our April 11th episode of our Let’s Talk Trash radio show features a 20 minute interview with one of the author’s Sue Maxwell.  Sue helps to explain the core issue of moving waste management policies from a linear system into a closed loop system where designing for the environment is taken into consideration along with the increase in repairability of products and an economy that can be stimulated through this change.

While this report has just been released it will be interesting to see what policy makers choose to do with the provided list of eleven recommendations outline in the study.  It’s stated that a provincial policy mandate for zero waste creates an important opportunity to develop a localized economy better positioned to weather global changes climate change, market volatility and resource scarcity—that are gathering on the horizon.  This paper looks at the prospects for closing the loop – a transition from managing wastes to recovering resources that feed back into production – and considers the intersection between climate action and zero waste policies.  From waste to resource….

Trash Related Films

There have been some great films out there being produced with a focus on waste.  Some of these films focus on the great burden that we as humans have been creating through our ‘disposable society’ and others are highlighting the ingenious effort some folks are making that take the concept of reuse to a whole other level.  These films are informative, inspiring and jaw dropping with some of the truths that they unveil.  If you know of a film that is trash related we’ve love to know about it.  Send us an email!

– Trashed –
In the new documentary TRASHED, a Blenheim Films production, produced and directed by British filmmaker Candida Brady
Trashed_Poster_OFFICIAL_US_LORES_27X40 (Madam and the Dying Swan), which was selected to receive a Special Screening at the Cannes Film Festival, academy award winner Jeremy Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from scepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope.  Brady’s narrative is vividly propelled by an original score created by Academy Award winning composer Vangelis.

– Landfill Harmonic –
This upcoming feature-length documentary is about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where the musicians play instruments made from trash, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings.  The filmmakers lives were changed in the making of this movie and they hope that you will forever be changed as well after seeing this incredible film.

landfill harmonic– Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? –
  American use 60,000 plastic bags every five minutes – single-use disposable bags that we mindlessly throw away.  But where is “away”?  Where do the bags and other plastics ebagitnd up, and at what cost to our environment, marine life and human health? Bag It follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world. Jeb is not a radical environmentalist, but an average American who decides to take a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. Jeb’s journey in this documentary film starts with simple questions: Are plastic bags really necessary? What are plastic bags made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? Jeb looks beyond plastic bags and discovers that virtually everything in modern society-from baby bottles, to sports equipment, to dental sealants, to personal care products-is made with plastic or contains potentially harmful chemical additives used in the plastic-making process. When Jeb’s journey takes a personal twist, we see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up with us and what we can do about it. Today. Right now.

Wasteland –
Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.wasteland There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.  This film offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

– Garbage Warrior –
What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you’re renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of “Earthship Biotecture” by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.


Commercial Waste Audit

During the first week of October 2012, the Let’s Talk Trash team conducted a Commercial Waste Audit of 16 local businesses.  The intention of this waste composition study was to glean information on waste habits and patterns and identify opportunities for improved waste reduction.

Benefits to local businesses for participating in this waste composition study include:

  • Reduction in Waste Disposal Costs
  • Improving Internal Waste Disposal and Recycling Systems
  • Maximizing Resource Recovery

Thank you to the local businesses for providing us with this opportunity!

The Coffee Cup

Do you use a travel mug?  Do you have one but often forget to bring it?  How often do you find yourself holding a disposable cup?  This simple action of choosing to use a reusable mug versus a disposal cup makes a significant difference in waste reduction.  I was in our local Starbucks and inquired as to how frequently the staff had to empty the garbage cans.  Every other hour with the vast majority of waste being to-go cups!

Most one-time use cups are manufactured with 100% bleached virgin paper.  The estimate of how many disposable cups we use each year is in the billions! These disposable cups affect the environment negatively.  Beside creating a steady supply of waste, they also demand a large consumption of natural resources and emit high levels of climate-changing green house gases.  Fortunately, there are alternatives.  Waste, natural resources and damage done by greenhouse gases are all decreased by reusable cups after only 24 uses!  View this quick clip for a visual incentive.

Travel mugs and reusable shopping bags are two key items that are handy to always have stocked in your vehicle or daily bag.  Once you invite a reusable cup into your habits you’ll never look back.  Not only will you feel empowered in contributing to the zero waste movement, you’re beverage will stay warmer and most cafes often have a discount when you provide your own mug.

Drink responsibly.  Bring a cup.

British Columbia Recycling Handbook

The Recycling Handbook serves as a great resource to learn more about all the products and things that can be recycled.  We currently have local drop-off depots for all of the listed products thanks to the many businesses who provided us with these services.  If you come across something that you’re unsure about, find the appropriate category that your item falls under and use the contact information to make an inquiry.  In my experience in contacting some of these folks, my inquiries have always been answered promptly.

As Product Stewardship evolves the Let’s Talk Trash team will work to keep you and industries informed.  The most recent addition in the Stewardship program was the addition of bike tires and tubes.  It is now possible to take your bike tires and tubes to Suncoast Cycles for recycling.  This new addition falls under the Tire Stewardship sector.  Next up on the workbench of BC Product Stewardship is Printed Paper and Packaging.  Many forums have been taking place where industry, recyclers, local government and educators have been creating dialogue to discuss this new initiative.  Once the details have been ironed out the information will be disseminated.  It will be interesting to see what this new recycling program will include as packaging continues to be a large contributor to the waste stream.

Styrofoam Round-Up Pilot Project

Congratulations Carol on your new 'plot pot'!Congratulations to Carol Stanley!

Carol is the winner of the Styrofoam ‘plot pot’.  She completed the Let’s Talk Trash team survey at the Powell River Film Festival and was selected in the drawing from all 76 applicants.  Thank you to everyone for completing our survey and providing us with valuable information for the Powell River Regional District.  Carol is pleased to have a ‘piece of her contributed Styrofoam’ back home and out of the landfill.  You can hear her surprise and enthusiasm on the latest podcast of the Let’s Talk Trash radio show on CJMP, 90.1FM, your community radio station.


The Styrofoam pilot project was borne through reflection of our societal trend during the Christmas holidays of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Unfortunately, in with the new often comes with excess packaging, much of that being Styrofoam. Most packaging Styrofoam is recyclable but in Powell River we currently do not have any recycling facility that accepts this material. Upon visualizing white mountains of Styrofoam piling up in our landfill over this holiday season, the Let’s Talk Trash team made it a mission to collect as much of it as possible to transport down to Gibsons Recycling Depot on the lower Sunshine Coast where it would be recycled.

For four weeks (Dec.14-Jan.14) citizens of Powell River were able to and encouraged to drop their Styrofoam off at Augusta Recyclers on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the Let’s Talk Trash team would be manning a Styrofoam collection station. Close to 350 large and extra large plastic bags full of Styrofoam were received, well over predicted amounts. This collection culled the amount down to just over 300 bags after removing contaminated pieces such as wet or dirty pieces and then a large portion of un-recyclable Styrofoam, which is constructed with un-recyclable plastic (all Styrofoam is made from plastic and like plastic some is recyclable and some is not). Citizens of Powell River seemed enthusiastic about this project and participation rates were astonishing.

On January 17th, 2012, three days after the completion of the pilot project the Let’s Talk Trash team along with a transport driver from Augusta Recyclers delivered the collected Styrofoam to Gibsons Recycling Depot.  The workers at this facility gave us a warm welcome and educated our team further on exactly what types of Styrofoam are and are not recyclable. Therefore one last sorting cull took place leaving a final tally of 304 large bags of Styrofoam.

Styrofoam meat trays, egg cartons and the packing peanuts currently do not have a resalable market but these items are recyclable to the creative minds at Gibsons Recycling Depot have created an upcycled product out of these materials. Once they have been processed in the densification machine the condensed product that spews out the mouth of the machine are formed into various shapes of planter pots. These pots have been named ‘plot pots’ and four were brought back to Powell River. The team hopes to place a few of these pots around the community for demonstration. If you see them around we encourage you to fondle them as they have made quite the transformation from when you last saw this material in the form of a meat tray, egg carton or packing peanuts. The marketable Styrofoam will be sold and shipped out by the depot for future use in the manufacturing of crown moldings, pictures frames or coat hangers for example.

Styrofoam Round Up Pilot Project Summary Report has been submitted to the Powell River Regional Board detailing this project in its entirety.

Waste Reduction Week

What can I do to make a difference in the waste that I generate each day?

This is a question that strikes me every morning – as we are in the position of waste management educators and talkin’ trash around town.  Thoughtfully considering my purchasing decisions, I often have the opportunity to make significant changes in my overall consumption habits.  This is not something that comes naturally, but with practice and with intent.

Imagine a world where we don’t ship our garbage to a landfill in another country, by barge and by rail.  Imagine a world where we aren’t constantly bombarded with ‘disposable’ packaging in nearly every item we purchase.

Consider the coffee cup that you throw away after one use.  The aluminum lined wrapper of your mid-day snack (healthy or otherwise) or the unnecessary plastic packaging on any number of household items.  When I consider these I have to also consider the alternatives.  The to-go coffee mug is an easy one and simply building the habit of carrying it with me everywhere I go is a simple recommendation that I share with others.  But the snacks and the ‘items’ may be harder shifts to change.  Buying in bulk has helped me make this shift on my snack routine and leaving my packaging at the store at least limits what goes into my recycling pile, but it still doesn’t eliminate the fact that the packaging is created in the first place.

Product Stewardship is an important movement in making the manufacturers take responsibility for the incredible amount of waste that they generate through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).  The Let’s Talk Trash team is working with the Product Stewardship Council and will encourage Powell River’s retailers to work with EPR programs as they roll out over the next few years.

According to a waste audit conducted in 2009, nearly 40% of our waste stream is composed of organic material.  Reducing our food waste from going into the landfill is the question that is currently being considered by the Composting Advisory Committee and promoting backyard composting is the main objective of the new Compost Education Centre.

We all know that the younger generations will inherit what we leave behind and we have a grand opportunity to help them understand the impact of our current waste habits.  This was the task at the recent launch of the Destination Conservation workshop at James Thompson as our community youth joined together to perform a waste audit of a school trash bag and consider their consumption and recycling habits.

These initiatives all meet the objectives of the Let’s Talk Trash team, which is to promote waste reduction and move our community down the path to zero waste.  This week launches Canada’s Waste Reduction Week and we officially launch the letstalktrashpr.com site.  We hope that you’ll find this website and blog as a valuable tool and we welcome your feedback.

Volunteers clean up garbage: Mass cleanup shows extent of illegal dumping

The Powell River Regional District has initiated the first steps to move as a community off the wasting path and onto the zero waste path.  Zero waste is a philosophy that many regions have adapted in response to the astounding amount of waste being generated and the increasing cost associated in “transferring” this waste.  The visionary goal of zero waste encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused and reintroduces ethical and moral components into the equation.

The bottom line is, we must all take individual responsibility for the waste that we create. » Read more

The Journey Towards Zero Waste – No Time to Waste!

The Powell River Regional District has initiated the first steps to move as a community off the wasting path and onto the zero waste path.  Zero waste is a philosophy that many regions have adapted in response to the astounding amount of waste being generated and the increasing cost associated in “transferring” this waste.  The visionary goal of zero waste encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused and reintroduces ethical and moral components into the equation.

The bottom line is, we must all take individual responsibility for the waste that we create. » Read more

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