Toronto just announced that the Seabin trial project was a success and now they are expanding the program. Seabins are floating garbage cans that use a solar power pump to collect debris in the water, currently the Toronto ones collect about two kilos of waste per day. It’s crazy to think how much waste ends up in local waters of a city, but at least this project is happening now in the hopes that we’ll eventually taking out more garbage than we’re currently putting in.
To ensure that the Seabins also serve a research and education function, PortsToronto has taken the added step of partnering with the University of Toronto Trash Team on a student-research project led by Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. As part of this collaborative initiative, students from the Rochman Lab will collect and analyze the plastics and microplastics captured by the Seabins to determine the origination of some of these materials. This process will, in turn, better inform the Trash Team’s solutions-based research and community outreach program which ultimately seeks to increase waste literacy and prevent plastics and microplastics from entering waterways in the first place.
Zero waste living seems like an impossibility given the amount of packaging everything is put in. Ordering a small item can lead to 10x the packaging of the item itself. The use of packaging seem so out of control that we can’t avoid it. We can.
Back in 2010 a UK based family created only one bin of trash throughout the year. In 2012 we looked at a town in Japan that already practices zero waste living. In the years since it’s actually gotten easier to practice a zero waste lifestelyl. Stores are popping up that are reducing their waste to save costs and the environment by providing customers with alternatives to recent packaging trends.
For most zero-waste shops, the pitch is simple: Customers arrive with their own packaging materials — jars, tote bags, whatever, or buy one of the jars on sale at the store, weigh them, and then subtract the weight of the receptacle from the weight of the goods added to get the final price. That way, nothing ends up in a landfill, at least on the customer’s end.
For the business itself, however, things are more complicated. Owners, who are responsible for the shipment of all products, are tasked with finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of the complicated process of shipping goods, and some goods are more high-maintenance than others.
Both the food and clothing industry produce tons of waste, waste which has traditionally been dumped into landfills. One company is taking food waste and mixing it with special bacteria to breakdown the food faster to create entirely new products. Another company is sourcing fabrics to create clothing, therefore diverting textiles from entering the stream of waste. Of course, the best way to deal with waste is not to produce any in the first place. Remember: reduce first, reuse second, and if you can’t accomplish the first two then recycle.
Beyond the cutting waste, there’s also the water consumption. “It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one new t-shirt — that’s the same amount the average person drinks over three years. We saw this as an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”
They canvassed local clothing designers and producers to collect gently used or unused textiles that would normally end up in waste streams. They then use the fabric to produce colourful children’s clothing.
While production has been on a small scale to date, Nudnik is poised to scale its operations, Lorusso says. “At a startup demo, we met someone who was going to work for their family business in Bangladesh and was interested in bringing sustainability to the industry.”
Poor waste management presents more than just food waste in food courts located in mass or offices. The waste of time, money, and energy plague most of these food operations. In yet another example of how being more efficient with waste saves more than the planet, the CBC took a look at how some food courts in Canada are dealing with waste. There are easy solutions like better signage and reducing what restaurants need to hand out with every meal and there are more complex solutions like dehydrating the food waste. Of course, the best way to reduce waste in food courts is to bring your own lunch from home.
The food court at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto used to generate 120 bags of garbage a day. Now it produces just three — despite the fact that it serves noodles, fried chicken, burgers and other fast foods to 24,000 customers a day.
The good news is that far more food court waste is recyclable than you might think. Cromie and his team went through a load of garbage collected at a local food court by CBC News and found 86 per cent of the items in the “garbage” stream could actually have been recycled.
Recycling programs still can’t recycle every consumer good, which means that we still need to think about what we put in the blue box (or whatever colour it is where you live). Some plastics are too hard to recycle and some containers too hard to clean. The CBC recently ran a live Q&A (video above) on common concerns around recyclables and what to do about it. Of course, the best thing you can do as a consumer is just buy less stuff and reuse what you can. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are in that order for a reason.
Why they’re a problem
These contain many parts with different materials that need to be separated. In some places, like B.C., the plastic from plastic pods can be recycled when separated. But in other recycling programs, because the pods are small, pieces of them can drop through mechanical screens at recycling plants and contaminate other streams, especially glass.
What are the options?
The plastic parts can be theoretically recovered, provided everything else is separated out. Some brands let you return these. There are also private programs that recycle them.