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Diverting Recyclables from Landfills

By Larraine Roulston:

Your blue box and recycling bins found on city streets, and in parks and community buildings collect food packaging consisting of plastics, metal, glass and paper. There also are many other progressive ways to eliminate even more recyclables from landfill.

Most residents can take household hazardous waste and e-waste to their local recycling depot. Many depots also offer areas that gather clean drywall off-cuts, scrap metal, wood or hard plastic. The City of Markham (near Toronto) is one area that recently launched a textile recycling program that to date has diverted more than 1.4 million kilograms (3.1 million pounds) of clothing waste from landfill in less than a year. Jack Heath, chair of the Waste Diversion Subcommittee stated, “We collect garbage through clear bags, and that allows us to see if proper sorting is taking place. If someone throws one sock out, it’s okay, but if they throw out an entire bag, that won’t be picked up.” Instead, people take clothing (including shoes) and stuffed toys to any of its 75 special container boxes placed throughout the city. By partnering with the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Diabetes Canada and Value Village which collects the donations for reuse or recycling, Markham saves money on curbside collection.

As early education is an important avenue to pursue, many recycling fundraising projects have partnered with students. In a school’s designated area, containers can collect plastic bags, textiles, inkjet cartridges, spent felt markers and aluminum can tabs. Students, as well, have had fundraising drives in their neighborhoods to collect household items for thrift store sales, and scrap metal for recycling. Recycling stations located in offices and at retail stores can accumulate what is generated within their workplaces. Committed to keeping batteries out of landfills, Call2Recycle collects cell phones and batteries weighing 5 kg (11 lb.) or less from consumers through businesses, government agencies and licensed recycling services. Since 1997, from Canada’s more than 9,200 participating retailers, Call2Recycle has collected more than 13.5 million kg (29.7 million lb.) of batteries. To find your nearest drop-off location, visit www.call2recycle.ca or call 1.888.224.9764

Recycling of the infamous coffee pod is one of many projects that TerraCycle has successfully tackled. Albe Zakes, global vice president of communications, said, “First, we sourced every type of capsule we could find: K-Cups, T-Discs and aluminum pouches with plastic caps. Then, we took these packages apart and discovered that, once separated, the various components could indeed be recycled.” Its program requires the user to purchase a collection box online for $52.96. When full, they call UPS for a pickup. Atm TerraCycle’s warehouse for K-Cups, pods are weighed and aggregated. After sorting, they are sent to the TerraCycle processor in Fergus, Ontario, to be manufactured into plastic lumber and paving stones. Nearby farms use the residual coffee grounds as compost. TerraCycle has 20 programs in Canada alone collecting items such as plastic gloves and cereal bags. With each of its members, the company offers points that are redeemable for donation to schools, charities or nonprofit groups.

Recycling has become a vibrant and valuable industry. Investigate the location of your depot and which items it collects. Support local school environmental fundraisers. Search Earth 911, a site that maintains one of North America’s most extensive recycling databases. By looking for ways to keep recyclables out of landfill, we preserve resources and create many jobs in the process.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated books on composting and nature’s pollinators. Fun and Factual.  Visit, www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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