Waste Reduction Week

October 20th, 2022

A coloured waste system with garbage (black), compost (green), and recycle (blue).

An example of a commercial waste system designed to maximize waste diversion, meeting the criteria highlighted by Alec Cooley of Busch Systems. Colour-coded bins, restrictive openings, bins placed close together, and clear signage are all identified as key opportunities to increase stream separation, resulting in less material headed to landfill. (Photo courtesy of Busch Systems)

By Emily Twomey, Program Assistant – Green Economy Peterborough

Not only is it Waste Reduction Week in Canada, but the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)’s Small Business Week also falls at this time of year. In recognition of the significance of this week, Peterborough region’s sustainability hub, Green Economy Peterborough, challenges local businesses to look for opportunities to lower organizational waste.

The City of Peterborough is one of Ontario’s leaders in landfill waste diversion – at a rate of 53% of waste diverted overall. However, a 2021 report from the Auditor General of Ontario estimated that only 15% of waste was being diverted within the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Sector in the province. Improving waste management in this sector is key to meeting the province’s target of 80% diversion by 2050, as well as averting a potential landfill shortage.

An event hosted earlier this year by Green Economy Peterborough, Wasted Opportunities! The Business Benefits of Waste Reduction, brought together guest speakers and members of the business community to discuss the changing landscape of waste reduction for businesses in the Peterborough Area.

A movement to mandate businesses to take responsibility for their waste is clearly underway. New legislation in Ontario makes producers responsible for managing the waste generated from their products and packaging, reducing the burden on the consumer and placing the onus on the corporate sector.

The Province has directed municipalities to begin transitioning recycling to an Extended Producer Responsibility system by 2024, providing a business case for producers to examine waste reduction sooner, rather than later.

“Everybody produces waste, there’re always opportunities,” said Laurie Westaway in the Wasted Opportunities! event, owner of local waste management business Wasteaway, “We’re shifting from trash to value. We’re changing the linear model of take, make, and dispose to a circular economy, where products and packages are designed and produced and considered for their end of life.”

Laurie Westaway, owner of waste management business, Wasteaway smiling and wearing a colourful shirt that reads "GG Garbage Girl"

Laurie Westaway, pictured, operates her own waste management business – Wasteaway – founded to identify, develop and implement waste minimization programs for organizations, while keeping them informed of regulatory changes in the space. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Westaway)                                                          

A circular economy is a framework designed to minimize waste, regenerate nature and recirculate products. Rather than disposing of products and materials at their end of life, they are reused, repurposed, remanufactured, or recycled to circulate back into use.

Wherever products and materials are being recirculated, there are business opportunities to be found.

Scott Anderson, co-owner of Chop Value’s Toronto East Micro-factory, located here in Peterborough, finds value in turning waste into resources under a circular economic model by giving disposable chopsticks a second life as fine wood products.

“It’s our mission to operate within a circular economy and show that a profitable business can emerge from the waste cycle system,” said Scott.

Waste management also offers businesses the benefit of a trusted sustainability marketing brand. The Global Sustainability Study of 2021 found that in the past 5 years, 85 percent of consumers have shifted their purchasing behaviours to companies that are more sustainable.

To add to the list of benefits, waste mitigation allows local businesses to stay ahead of legislation. Ontario will soon ban organic materials from landfills, which will lower the production of methane resulting from the breakdown of food waste, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

 

With the City of Peterborough launching its city-wide organic waste collection and processing program in 2023, and the organic material ban, organizations should prepare for the local shift ahead of time. Services like 1.5 Degrees Composting Solutions can help businesses make the switch to composting now.

Across all waste categories, a successful system has three elements: knowledge, motivation, and routine.

“Recycling is really a behavioural driven process,” said Alex Cooley, Senior Advisor at Busch Systems, a waste system manufacturer and retailer, “Unlike trash where you set out a bin, recycling is much more complex.”

Research indicates that placing bins side by side reduces contamination, and shows that other aspects of design are also crucial. A University of Michigan study found that using different coloured recycling bins increased recycling from 52% to 88%. Colour-coding bins also reduce cross-contamination of waste streams.

“Colour distinction is a visual prompt. Getting people stop having to think about it or having to read anything to get this basic understanding that [recycling and garbage] are not the same.”

Cooley mentions implementing restrictive openings to recycling containers. In a 2008 Rutgers and Indiana University study, restrictive lids increased recycling by 34% and decreased trash by 95%.

A student group conducts a waste audit at Peterborough Golf & Country Club.

A student group conducts a waste audit at Peterborough Golf & Country Club. Not sure where to start for your organization? Waste audits are an effective way to target where you may be able to improve. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Westaway)

“Changes (like that) can help people to slow down long enough to actually focus their attention on what they are doing.”

Routine then comes with time, and with successful implementation of the model.

Waste management can be integrated into every aspect of your business, making it a wasted opportunity not to build sustainable business models.

Green Economy Peterborough (GEP) can help your business find an accurate picture of how waste factors into your organization’s impact. GEP is currently recruiting members for 2023 – and is offering an early bird rate to those who join before November 1st.  Visit www.GreenEconomyPeterborough.ca or contact Hub Coordinator Natalie Stephenson at natalie.stephenson@greenup.on.ca or 705-745-3238 ext. 223.

Posted in Waste Free

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