Floating Trash Bins a Great Success, May Influence Policies

ocean shore

We’ve been following the installation and study of Seabins in Toronto for a while now. Good news just keeps happening from these floating garbage cans!

Floating trash collectors were put in the Toronto harbour a few years ago and the research team behind the project keeps finding interesting things. The University of Toronto’s Trash Team has realized that beyond keeping the water clean the bins can help identify sources of pollutants. With this increase in knowledge of how trash flows in water we can craft better policies to protect nature from human waste.

Since the Seabins were first installed, it’s been U of T Trash Team co-founder Chelsea Rochman’s job — along with team members like U of T student Cassandra Sherlock — to comb through what comes out of them.

Rochman is working on guidelines for classifying the waste that will eventually be put to use in communities around the province.

“Any type of trash trap does one thing really well… divert our plastic waste out of the Great Lakes,” she told CBC Toronto.

“But it also can involve policy because what we find tells us something about the source.”

Take those pre-production pellets that Fisher found all over an island beach in Lake Superior, which Rochman says also turn up regularly in the Toronto Seabins after blowing away from industrial sites.

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Bike Lanes Save Lives in Toronto

Here in Toronto we’ve seen little to no changes in our urban space during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other cities have been closing streets and making more room for people while in Toronto we’ve closed a couple streets on the weekend and gave up sidewalk space to private enterprise. Neighbouring communities have done a lot more (and I’m jealous).

The biggest development in Toronto was to catch up on the scheduled installation of bike lanes. Without a doubt these bike lanes are popular and there was clearly bent up demand for safe, sustainable, transportation. Ryerson University in Toronto has shown that not only are the lanes popular they have been saving a lot of lives!

  • Fully separated cycling facilities (like cycle tracks) could reduce the number of injuries along Bloor-Danforth by 89%. This could mean 153 to 182 fewer serious injuries over the next decade, depending on ridership
  • Fully separated cycle tracks are significantly safer and prevent more injuries than other types of cycling infrastructure, like partially separated lanes and painted lanes
  • The availability of safer cycling infrastructure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could have a “safety in numbers” effect, attracting higher cycling volumes and preventing even more injuries
  • Removing temporary cycling infrastructure could have a “bait and switch” effect, actually leading to more injuries; temporary infrastructure attracts new users to the route, but when this protection is removed, the number of injuries could increase from pre-implementation levels

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Decolonize Games at the Toronto Biennial

This coming Saturday (Nov. 23) from 2-5pm you can play a game which challenges the colonial narratives present in too many games. Presented as part of the Toronto Biennial, Unsettling: Settlers of Catan uses the bases of Settlers of Catan to get players to think about all sorts of assumptions on games. The game was made by Golboo Amani who creates art around and about our social interactions. It’s a really fun game and you should go play it!

Unsettling: Settlers of Catan is a playful, discursive intervention into the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. Artist Golboo Amani disrupts its colonial narratives with methodologies of treaties, collaboration, and allyship, inserting new game pieces, cards, and rules. With these new tools, players develop strategies of building on and repatriation of the colonized landscape, offering the opportunity to play out strategies for radical, social, political, and industrial change.

Biennial visitors can play the full game set with facilitated guidance from card dealers and the artist. Free ticket registration is required to play the full game, or join at any time to watch, or participate by tag-teaming.

Check it out!

Toronto’s Food Waste Powers its Garbage Trucks

fruit store

Toronto’s garbage trucks are being fuelled by the very thing they are picking up on their routes. The trucks pick up food waste (in a separate bin from recycling and trash) and transport them to a holding facility where the food further decomposes.

Since 2015, Toronto has been working to harness the biogas emitted from organic waste. After partnering with Enbridge to build a processing facility on the Dufferin site, biogas is now ready to fuel the majority of Toronto’s collection trucks. It’s one of the first cities in North America to do this.

The switch to biogas or renewable natural gas (RNG), will reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Khan says. The trucks that pick up your waste will drop it off at the plant and then go to a station where they will be fuelled with the biogas.

“It’s one of the most significant actions the city can take… because we’re not using resources to withdraw and clean fossil fuels, we’re using the waste that’s already produced,” said Khan.

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Floating Garbage Bins Succeed in Toronto

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.

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