While recycling was not mainstream 30 years ago, it has become an accepted business and personal practice. Thirty years ago, as a passionate recycler one had to plead with others to consider the merits of diverting what was once known as trash into the recycling bin.
Today, most municipalities and businesses measure the amount of waste and recycling that is generated. Waste diversion as a percentage (%) is a common sustainability measure across the globe.
Many municipal recycling programs in Canada enjoy a 50% diversion rate; some areas such as the Metro Vancouver region enjoy much higher rates of diversion with 2017 levels at 62%. If we have achieved 65% diversion today, is it possible to dream of achieving 75% or 90%, or how about 100% diversion?
100% diversion would mean that we are creating no waste at all. That’s right, none. Is it possible to dream of Zero Waste?
The Zero Waste Global Alliance defines Zero Waste as a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
The City of Vancouver has taken an active and ambitious approach to waste diversion and is committed to being Zero Waste by 2040. This journey to Zero Waste is a long one, however the City has taken an important and decisive step in embracing waste minimization and waste reduction by introducing a “made-in-Vancouver” strategy to ban Single Use Styrofoam Cups and Plastic Straws by the Fall of 2018.
The Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy includes actions from now until the year 2025 to reduce waste from:
- Plastic and paper shopping bags
- Polystyrene foam cups and take-out containers
- Disposable hot and cold drink cups
- Take-out food containers
- Disposable straws and utensils
Please refer to two recent articles relating to the City’s commitment to developing a regional Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy:
If we are ever going to win the war against waste, we will have to embrace regulations such as the Single Use Container ban and perhaps even show a bit of initiative on our own to eliminate waste in our lives. Is it going to be easy to change? It never is. Change is always difficult on many levels. It is difficult to change your daily routine, it is difficult sometime to understand the communication or expectation- change is always work!
Businesses that currently use Single Use containers are going to have to change their processes, purchasing of supplies and delivery of service. This will mean significant change in both behaviour and costs structure to their supply chain.
Consumers are going to have to be prepared to pay more for services and products; increased supply chain or collection costs will definitely translate in a higher costs for consumables.
Residents and users of Single Use containers are going to have to remember to bring their own take out containers to work. Collection containers on streets will have to be modified to accommodate a different type of take out container.
There is no doubt the change will be significant and painful, but the outcome hopefully will be to create a significant impact on the war on waste and waste minimization for our region and beyond. On the road to achieving zero waste, we all have a role to play in ensuring the City’s strategy succeeds at reducing waste from single-use items.
To find out more about the City of Vancouver’s commitment to developing a regional Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy: