Circular systems were the norm in times past: consumable products were delivered in reusable containers, goods were purchased in small markets or produced locally, and durable materials allowed for repair and reuse. But with the rise of cheaply mass-produced plastics, increased levels of consumerism, and planned obsolescence in many products, our modern culture now creates waste on an unsustainable scale.
Formed in 2001, Canada’s Waste Reduction Week (this year falling on October 16-22) is a national environmental campaign designed to promote awareness of sustainable and responsible consumption, encourage environmentally-responsible decisions from consumers, and promote actions to divert waste from disposal in order to conserve natural resources.
Corresponding with the 18th Annual Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival, for the first time, this year’s initiative will also include daily themes relating to different areas of waste production. Here are some things to do each day of the week:
Monday: Circular Economy
Beginning Monday, October 16th and throughout the week, Partners in Project Green in Toronto, a community organization dedicated to helping businesses turn green initiatives into “bottom-line results,” will hold collection drives for e-waste in partnership with Ontario Electronic Stewardship and clothing and textiles with Diabetes Canada, which accepts small household & electronic items, gently used clothing, footwear and toys year-round.
Changing fashion trends and a culture of overconsumption encourages buyers to wear and discard perfectly usable clothing with little consideration for where it will end up or how long it will stay there. While certain naturally-sourced materials such as wool or cotton are technically biodegradable (though without the perfect conditions, organic material will mummify in a landfill), synthetic materials like rayon or polyester are just as slow to degrade as any other plastic item—and much harder to recycle.
Luckily, there is a simple solution: instead of throwing away old clothes and buying replacements, swap them. Visitors to the Pop-Up Clothing Swap in Toronto October 17 will be able to do just that 10 a.m.-3 p.m. All used clothing in good condition can be exchanged for swap tickets, which can in turn be exchanged for “new,” used clothing from others. The money raised during this event will go to waste reduction initiatives in Ontario.
Wednesday: Celebrating Champions and Innovators; Thursday: Plastics
It was announced last week that my company, TerraCycle, the world’s #1 shampoo brand Head & Shoulders, and SUEZ are the recipients of a UN Momentum for Change award. The three companies worked together to put out the world’s first fully recyclable shampoo bottle made with plastic collected from beaches, rivers and other waterways. Thanks to the support of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of NGOs that collected the plastic waste, it is a step in the direction of more innovation for circular economy solutions.
This week, keep your ear to the ground for up-and-coming brands dedicated to sourcing sustainably and designing end-of-life solutions for their products - ditto for large corporations working to make emerging technologies and infrastructure changes available across industries.
Friday: Food Waste
In Canada, $31 billion worth of food ends up in landfills or composters each year. Not only does food waste make no sense in a world of people in need (850,000 Canadians use food banks every month), organic matter, leftovers, “ugly” produce and overstocked foods do not readily degrade unless composted properly, and will mummify in a landfill. Putting forth the resources necessary to reduce food waste and redirect surplus food to people who would benefit from it is essential to ensuring sustainable development overseas and here at home.
Changing societal behavioral shifts are solutions to the problem of food waste. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Region 6 Solid Waste Management will be hosting “Food Waste Friday” at the Sobeys in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The event will include tips for reducing food waste, a chef preparing recipes using leftover food, and a chance to win a special prize pack.
Still thinking about this social issue and want to work on it over the weekend? Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival is screening Anthony Bourdain’s new documentary WASTED! The Story of Food Waste at Innis Town Hall Theatre in Toronto.
Saturday and Sunday: Swap, Share, Repair
Reduce waste by not creating it in the first place. With DIY workshops to help even the most un-handy person feel like they can tackle simple home repairs, Saturday’s Fix-It Fair, held by Clean Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a trade fair of local businesses and entrepreneurs that repair and repurpose. Celebrate the ingenuity, innovation and creativity of businesses that are committed to a local circular economy and a culture of self-sufficiency.
That same day, Boston Terrier Rescue (& top TerraCycle collector) is holding a Recycle for Rescue day at All About Animals Environmentally Responsible Pet Grooming & Supplies in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the group will accept difficult-to-recycle items ranging from electronics and cigarette butts to empty dog food bags and Brita filters—among many others. All About Animals Environmentally Responsible Pet Grooming & Supplies will also provide $5 nail trims, with proceeds going to Boston Terrier Rescue.
Closing out Sunday, Evergreen, a charity in Toronto, will also be hosting a Drop, Swap & Shop event 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Participants will be able to drop off and exchange clothing, children’s toys, sports equipment, household items and more.
This is only a small collection of the events that will be held. For more information, please visit the initiative’s official website. For those who do not live in Canada or are otherwise unable to participate in Waste Reduction Week, look into similar organizations and events within your area throughout the year to help steer us toward are more sustainable future.