October 19-25 is Waste Reduction Week in Canada. This week is less of a celebration and more of a week of action. As Canadians, we are some of the highest waste producers in the world. Each one of us produces 700-800kg of garbage per year. That is twice as much as Japan!
Waste diversion in Ontario is regulated by the Waste Diversion Act. Residential waste is mandated by the provincial government and carried out by local municipalities. From there, local municipalities create their own programs like curbside collection, community drop off centres, organics and yard waste collection. The industrial, institutional and commercial sectors (ICI) must also comply with waste regulations and stewardship responsibilities.
The three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) are common language in any environmental discussion. We pretty much have the Recycle thing figured out, although I am sure that many of us could use a refresher. Regardless, we understand that certain items don’t go in the garbage and get made into something else if we put in the blue bin. What we need now is to focus our efforts on Reduce: the first and most important of the R’s. Reduce simply means LESS: less packaging, less garbage, less recycling, less waste, less space in a landfill, less collection trucks on the road.
Our society is dependent on the convenience of single-use, disposable items from water bottles to wash cloths. It’s hard to know what you can do to reduce your consumption of these items when often there are few alternatives or they aren’t as glamorous. My suggestion: choose your battle.
You don’t need endless supplies of reusable containers or to buy your entire week’s’ worth of groceries at a bulk food store. Choose one single-use item that you currently use and make that your focus. If it’s a paper cup, challenge yourself to a week of lugging your own reusable mug. If it is Ziploc bags, try packing your sandwich or snacks in a container. Start small and be realistic. As a consumer, you have an impact on the environment. It’s your choice to make that positive or negative. Reducing your packaging and changing what you buy will have a positive impact on the environment.