Canada has a dirty secret. Believe it or not, this country leads the developed world in the per capita production of garbage. There is so much waste produced in this nation, despite Canada’s push for environmental values and its lofty ambitions for saving the planet. So what can we do about it? Well for starters, better waste management begins at home. If you’ve been recycling and composting for decades, good for you. But there’s so much more you can do to help reduce all that waste.
By making conscious decisions about the items we buy and the packages in which they come — we can significantly reduce Canada’s garbage output one household at a time. Here are our 5 tips for cutting down on your family’s trash.
Tip #1: It all starts with segregation
Better waste management begins with an effective waste segregation system. Garbage is easiest to manage when it’s separated at the source. This means you’re doing it at home, instead of leaving it to a waste management facility to take care of. When you correctly segregate your trash into the appropriate bins, you’re allowing municipal workers to spend time and energy on more meaningful tasks. Your waste can be divided into a few categories, such as:
The next step is to use separate bins for each category. If your municipality has a recycling and compost program in place, use your city-issued bins to properly categorize your waste. Place leaves and garden clippings in brown paper bags so they can be converted to fertilizer. Meanwhile, be sure to remove wet, organic waste like food scraps from your home once a day. Otherwise, your place will smell like wet garbage.
Tip #2: Get some reusable shopping bags
Plastic bags are a major headache for the environment. Not only are they ugly to look at when littered in parks — but they’re also hazardous to wildlife as they can be a choking or suffocation hazard. That’s why so many municipalities have banned the use of plastic bags at retail stores. If they’re not outright banned, citizens are forced to pay for each bag as a way to curb its use. Consider using reusable shopping bags to cut down on household waste. They’re not only environmentally-friendly, but also sturdier than the plastic ones.
You may be left wondering though what you’ll use to line your garbage bins if your family decides to cut out plastic bags. Well the truth is dry trash doesn’t require a bin liner because it’s not messy. And wet trash would mostly be food scraps, which would be thrown into the compost anyways. So in the end, there really isn’t a need to line all your bins with plastic bags if you’re segregating your trash correctly.
Tip #3: Decrease packaging
One of the most dramatic ways to reduce trash is to decrease the amount of packaging you use. Avoid packing up leftovers in single-use containers. Store all food in tupperware that you can wash and use over and over again. Instead of purchasing bottled water, use a lidded tumbler and fill it up yourself for a drink on-the-go. Another way to decrease packaging is to reuse any plastic packaging that store-bought food was packed in. Tofu containers, yogurt tubs and condiment jars are excellent places to store last night’s dinner.
Tip #4: Donate used items
Instead of throwing away that side table or tossing your workout gear in the trash, consider donating these items instead. Organizations like ‘Habitat for Humanity’ have a program whereby you can donate furniture to help decorate their charitable homes. Or gather your used books and children’s toys for a donation drop-off at the Salvation Army. In today’s consumer culture, it’s tempting to constantly amass clothes, trinkets and other useless belongings. Manufacturers are continuously destroying the planet as they pump out more and more ‘junk’ that ends up in our landfills. Help alleviate the problem by allowing others to make use of items that were once of value to you.
Tip #5: Cancel unnecessary mail
Is your mailbox constantly brimming with coupon envelopes, flyers and brochures? Do you immediately throw these materials in the trash without giving them a second glance? If so, it’s time to cancel that newsletter subscription to Chico’s. Or put up a sign that reads ‘no junk mail please’ for your mailman. Sure, it’s a bit annoying to try and put a stop to that unnecessary mail. But your once-cluttered coffee table will thank you for it, plus you’ll cut down significantly on all that paper waste.
Paper is the recyclable material that gets thrown out the most. Although unsolicited mail is a huge part of the problem — paper towels, tissues and cardboard boxes are also a huge source of waste. Consider using rags that can be washed over and over again. And instead of cardboard boxes, use plastic storage containers for all your belongings instead.