Think Before You Throw

Since October 17 – 23 marks the 15th year that Waste Reduction Week has been celebrated across Canada, I thought I’d use this opportunity to ask those using our city buildings and outdoor spaces to think before you throw and place your waste in the right bin.

In 2009, the City of Burlington piloted outdoor side by side recycling and waste stations at Tansley Woods Community Centre. This project was deemed a success as less litter was present and the frequency of collection was reduced due to the large size of the underground bins. There was also minimal contamination (mostly coffee cups incorrectly placed in the recycling stream) so the program was expanded to major parks in 2010.

Outdoor large capacity bins in city parks
Outdoor large underground recycling and garbage containers at major city parks.

In 2012, the city in partnership with Halton Region introduced three stream waste bins in many of our buildings such as City Hall, community centres, arenas, etc. To minimize confusion, all bins were colour coded according to generally acceptable standards (green for compost, blue for recycling and black for garbage) along with appropriate signs over each bin to help explain what goes where.

Indoor three stream recycling at city facilities.
Indoor three stream waste containers at city facilities.

Earlier this year, we carried out a three day waste audit at Tansley Woods Community Centre. Perhaps some of you are wondering what is involved in a waste audit. Well, all waste generated over a three day period was collected and set aside in one location. On the fourth day, the waste was sorted into 54 categories to determine how much waste was generated and whether or not it was disposed in the proper bin. The raw data was provided by weight for the three days and then also extrapolated for the entire year. Unfortunately the results are not very good.

  • The actual diversion rate is 21.3 per cent (percentage of waste that is kept out of the landfill)
  • The potential diversion rate is 57 per cent (material that could be recovered and kept out of the landfill if it was properly sorted)
  • The capture rates (the waste that ended up in the proper bin) were:
    • Blue Box – 52.8 per cent of all recyclable material actually ended up in the Blue Box
    • GreenCart – 28.9 per cent of all compostable material actually ended up in the GreenCart
    • Overall – 37.3 per cent of all waste ended up in the proper bin whether garbage, Blue Box or GreenCart

The following charts show the composition of material in each container illustrating what should and should not be present:

Garbage: 41.6 per cent of the waste in the garbage container should not be there including plastic bottles, boxed drink containers, paper coffee cups, metal food and drink containers, food waste, tissues and toweling, and more.Tansley Woods Waste Audit 2016: Garbage Composition by WeightBlue Box: 41.9 per cent of the waste in the Blue Box should not be there including food waste, coffee cups, tissues and towelling, plastic bags, Styrofoam and more.

Tansley Woods Waste Audit 2016: Blue Box Composition by WeightGreenCart: 4.8 per cent of the waste in the GreenCart should not be there including boxed drink containers, plastic bottles, plastic lids, diapers, Styrofoam and more.

Tansley Woods Waste Audit 2016: GreenCart Composition by WeightAs you can see from the numbers, we obviously have a long way to go to ensure we try to keep as much waste out of the landfill as possible. Since we cannot possibly have a staff person physically stand at each bin to help residents choose the correct bin, I am asking that you please take a moment before you throw your waste and ask yourself if you are putting your waste in the right place.

Here are some common mistakes we have found from our audits:

  • Paper coffee cups go into the GreenCart
  • Plastic coffee cup lids go into the Blue Box
  • Tissues and paper towels go in the GreenCart
  • Food waste goes into the GreenCart
  • Diapers go in the Garbage

Still not sure of what goes where? Halton Region has a great online tool called Put Waste in its Place. All you have to do is enter a keyword and you will quickly have your answer.

Take Action Burlington! Collectively we can make a difference.

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2 thoughts on “Think Before You Throw

  1. Good summary. Thanks for doing the yucky waste audit. Margaret Small

    On Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 9:26 AM, Take Action Burlington wrote:

    > TakeActionBurlington posted: “https://youtu.be/1rNAL5gkCjE Since October > 17 – 23 marks the 15th year that Waste Reduction Week has been celebrated > across Canada, I thought I’d use this opportunity to ask those using our > city buildings and outdoor spaces to think before you throw an” >

    Like

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