Thursday, January 3, 2008

Garbage Just Isn’t What it Used to Be…

When I was fourteen years old, I wrote a letter to a local orange juice company in Montreal, Quebec, where I lived at the time. In the most erudite language I could muster, I informed them of the benefits to the environment of recycling; then I rather imperiously let them know that I would not buy their product again unless they embarked on a recycling program similar to one that other progressive Montreal companies had adopted—recycling was pretty scarce then and handled only by a few intrepid visionary companies. I surprisingly got an answer, requesting a face-to-face meeting to discuss possibilities. I went to the meeting, but when the manager saw me, he was obviously taken aback; I was just a teenager with a big mouth and a fast pen! Nothing happened. I was devastated. But ten years later, I saw the birth of a city-wide recycling program that mandated curb-side recycling with full support by the city. It just took time…like everything…

So, let’s fast track to the present…
I just read in the local newspaper that my town has recently introduced tougher restrictions on tossing out recyclables in the garbage to reduce filling up the landfills. Effective January 1, 2008, Metro Vancouver has adopted an enforceable (by hefty fine) Zero Waste Challenge, a material disposal ban that prohibits items once included in regular garbage pickup because they can be either recycled or are considered hazardous. What’s neat about the program is that for every restriction the city provides an option, an alternative place to dispose of hazardous household materials and options for composting (either private or community composting). Here’s the list of things we’re not allowed to leave in the garbage for people who live in Metro Vancouver, like me:

  • Glass, metal, and plastic containers
  • Yard and garden waste
  • All beverage containers (except milk)
  • Lead-acid (car) batteries
  • Medications/pharmaceuticals
  • Paint, solvents, flammable liquids, gasoline and pesticides
  • Tires for cars and small trucks
  • Motor oil, oil filters and empty containers
  • Electronic waste (personal computers and printers, televisions and keyboards)
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Newsprint
  • Office paper
  • Gypsum drywall (gyprock)

Pretty impressive list, huh? But one item that’s still missing is kitchen scraps. I’m told that in Halifax, Nova Scotia, kitchen scraps, which are compostable, are not permitted in garbage...Well, I guess it will just take everything...

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Mark said...

Hi Nina,
Good to see that it is happening all over now, If you want an alternative to composting have you thought about using a Bokashi bucket. There are several posts on my blog about them.
All the 4 Wednesday wandering pictures are up and running now.

Cheers Mark

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Nina, it looks like your actions then were very influential on yourself. They must have been surprised to see a young girl who had written so well.

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Mark! I'll have to check your blog about the Bokashi bucket! We do compost all our kitchen scraps in our back yard...
Jean-Luc, very insightful comment! Yes, it was a memorable experience for me...