guest blogger: The Clean Bin sister says RETHINK!

First of all, I should let you know that I by no means follow “the rules” of the Clean Bin Project. I am, however, fairly conscious of the environmental and social impacts of my consumer choices, and fairly concerned about how much garbage I produce. That being said, there are some things I think are more important than packaging, and honestly, some plastic wrapped things I just love too much to give up (such as cheddar cheese and fair trade chocolate mmmmm).

I live in Ottawa, which sadly is miles behind Vancouver as far as recycling goes. We currently have a diversion rate of about 35%. Compare this with Vancouver’s rate of 52%, and Markham at 70%, and you see our capital city is in a bit of a pathetic state. (these stats are a couple years old, but if anything the gap has only widened)

soup-cup I live with two other students, who, despite much eyerolling, have obviously been affected by my recycling obsession (perhaps the trickle down effects of Jen and Grant’s project?). The other day my roommate Little Miss G came home with a load of prepackaged groceries, and proudly informed me that this time she checked that her individually packaged plastic soup cups were recyclable.

Much to her disappointment, I informed her that the symbol or number on the bottom isn’t really important; just because something is technically recyclable doesn’t mean that we can guiltlessly throw it in the blue bin. In fact, there is tons of “recyclable” stuff that the city of Ottawa doesn’t accept (some of which Vancouver does!), simply because there isn’t anybody in the area willing to actually process it.

Sometimes we get carried away with the action part of things and forget about the learning  and knowledge part. I don’t think the problem is a lack of concern on behalf of society – I really don’t find too many people who just flat out do not recycle. It’s just that they aren’t recycling the right things. Admittedly, this is a huge problem on the part of the city. People just don’t know what they can recycle and what they can’t.

egg-carton1 Sometimes we even end up over recycling. I recently realized that plastic egg cartons aren’t actually recyclable, and I had been tossing them in my blue bin for months. We are so focused on how much of the stuff we put in the garbage could go in the blue bin, but who knows how much of the stuff people put in their blue bins actually goes to the landfill?



Filed under consumerism, recycling

4 responses to “guest blogger: The Clean Bin sister says RETHINK!

  1. I totally agree with this post!! 🙂

    Mum & I have been quarrelling over what is and isn’t recyclable in the area, seems I’ll have to ring someone in charge to find out proper?!
    /Not even sure who that would be!!/

    It would be SO much easier if all that info were available online, for communities worldwide..
    (specific info, including brands and symbols and all..) As it is, it’s a bit hit and miss, and even people who want to do the good thing can still do it incorrect just because of not being informed!!

    It’s so odd that Ottawa is so behind Vancouver or Markham or other places.. Any particular reasons for that? (politicians and students don’t like to recycle? hm!)

    Great to hear of your recycling obsession!! 🙂
    I fear my cousin may be tormeting her flatmates at the Uni a bit too!! 🙂

  2. I just looked up Ottawa’s recycling policies and they seem fairly similar to where I am from (Waukesha County, Wisconsin). Here is a link for what is recyclable in Ottowa:

    Reducing product use is the most important step in handling refuse. This is because for every bin of refuse (recycling or trash) that you put on your curb, 70 bins have been put on the curb of the factory. Buying in bulk, using reusable bags & food storage containers, etc. are all good places to start.

    As far as the recycling goes, availability to get things to market usually dictates what is collected by a municipality. This can be affected by many things including demand for recyclables from manufacturers, the distance and cost of shipment, and the amount of materials that would be collected. There are thousands of different types of plastic that the industry groups into 7 larger categories, the numbers we see on the bottom of the jar/jug/etc. Per the website: If it’s not a plastic bottle, jug, jar, tub, or tub lid – IT’S NOT RECYCLABLE! One of the best things we can do to ensure markets for recyclables grow is to purchase things with recycled content. Post-consumer content means it actually was purchased from a recycling center and is not just an extra from manufacturing, so post-consumer recycled content is best.

  3. Steve

    Fantastic post.

    If those picking up recycling would actually NOT take products that can’t be recycled, awareness on the amount of garbage we send to landfill would increase dramatically. Instead everything goes for sorting and householders think they’ve diverted waste.

    • It’s true. There are actually stats about how communities that have curbside recycling actually produce MORE of those recyclable goods than communities that don’t have any pick up. That’s because people get a false sense of security about the fact that it’s ok to buy excessive packaging because it is going to be recycled. Reduce shoudl really always coem first. Any I agree with Recycle Raccoon too – we as consumers have to support things that have recycled content. If we recycle plastic, but never buy recycled products, where the heck do we think it’s all going? That’s a good point about the amount of garbage produced in manufacturing as well. I always forget about that. One more readon why buying things from the source (ie the farmers market) is always a good bet.

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