Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's hear from you

Just a couple weeks to the public consultations in April on Metro Vancouver's solid waste management plan.

Between now and the first consultation session (Tuesday, April 8, in Surrey), have a look at our Zero Waste Vancouver slide show.

Tell us what works, what doesn't. Are we speaking your mind?

During the month of April (and probably beyond) we hope to take the slide show to every municipal council in the Lower Mainland. It's time to start a serious conversation with our elected leaders about waste in our region. This is an election year, and they will all be paying attention.

If you would like to work with us to deliver the slide show to your municipal council, let us know.

We're also keen to talk to any community groups interested in thinking about whether they support spending $3 billion on waste incinerators.We'll all use them and pay for them if they're built, whether we want them or not.

The Zero Waste slide show is a living document. Help us grow it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Zero Waste ready to take action

This past weekend was the pilot. Now we're ready to go full-scale.

Next month Metro Vancouver begins public consultation on its proposal to build up to six "waste-to-energy" incinerators as part of a new $3 billion dollar waste management plan for the region. Is this what citizens want?

We have produced a simple slide presentation for citizens that will soon be posted on this website. It looks closely at Metro Vancouver's proposal. It provides helpful tools for evaluating options. And it presents practical recommendations for consideration.

Our goal is to work with local citizens and have this presentation shown to every City Council in the region. We think it's time for citizens and political leaders to have a conversation about the future of waste management in our region.

We are at a cross-roads. Our region can choose the 19th Century waste technologies that gave rise to the Throw-Away Society ~ or we can re-tool our waste management system so it provides corrective action over time leading us towards a Zero Waste future.

If you would like to see this presentation or arrange a viewing for your group or your City Council, contact us at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No free ride in the Blue Box

Our province was the first in North America to require beverage producers to take back their empties for cash refunds. It's a great system that has been getting containers off the roadsides and into recycling for almost 40 years.

Ten years ago we expanded the system so that more beverage containers would be worth money-back at a store or depot. All beverages except milk have refundable containers. That put literally billions of nickels into the hands of entrepreneurial recyclers.

But in between, we introduced "Blue Box" recycling.

It's a little-known fact that this recycling system was proposed by the Ontario soft drink industry. It was a successful ploy to get out of paying out deposits on their empties in Canada's largest province (Ontario and neighbouring Manitoba are the only Canadian provinces without deposits on beverage containers).

Under the Blue Box recycling system, empties are collected at significant cost to the public. Containers are the only thing that loses money in our recycling system. Not only are the container materials of very little value ~ they break and leak and ruin the other materials.

But here in BC we have two recycling systems in competition to one another.

The Blue Box trucks are competing against the Little League teams and entrepreneurial binners for the deposit money that was paid out on the containers. And more often than not, they're winning.

The beverage industry is laughing all the way to the bank as refundable containers are smashed in recycling trucks, and the unclaimed nickels and dimes remain with the industry instead of helping with the recycling.

Brazenly, the company the industry established to manage the bottle return program is now encouraging consumers to use their Blue Boxes instead of returning empties for refunds. Write them a note telling them to stop asking for a free ride in a Blue Box.

As long as they keep this up, your taxes go up and recycling goes down.


Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm coming to stay with you in September

That was the message on a notice sent out to residents of Newmarket ON to introduce "Binny," the container that the city would use to collect food waste in its new composting program.

The program started in September 2007. By November the town was diverting 78% of its waste from the landfill.

Can we do this here?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Plastic bag recycling about to get much harder

The Chinese government has just announced a ban on the import of used plastic bags, according to an article published today in a plastics trade magazine.

This highlights the shaky basis of the globalized recycling industry, as the industry comes under increasing scrutiny by environmental regulators.

China is the world's largest market for used plastic bags. Many "recyclers" in North America and Europe rely on Chinese markets to take the used bags that we collect and recycle them.

Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Maple Ridge, Surrey and Langley District all collect plastic bags in their curbside recycling programs. Now those bags may have to find another recycler or go to the landfill.

So why would the Chinese government ban the import of plastic bags? Environmentalists and human rights groups have been reporting problems for over a decade relating to the export of plastics and other wastes to developing countries for recycling. An international treaty was signed in 1992 to protect poor countries from becoming dumping grounds for rich countries' wastes.

Since then, there has been a move to strengthen the treaty so that rich countries couldn't ship waste to poor countries even for recycling purposes, because it is recognized how hard it is to enforce environmental and social welfare protection in poor countries.

China's plastic bag ban import ban follows an earlier ban on shipments of electronic wastes (computers, TVs, etc.). Investigations by environment and human rights groups were published as videos exposing appalling conditions in the recycling facilities.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government's ban preventing stores from handing out free plastic bags to customers has also had an impact.

CBC reported last week that China's largest manufacturer of plastic bags has laid off 10,000 workers and shut down in anticipation of lost business when the ban takes effect in time for the Beijing Olympics.