Carmen Fennell

NCES evening sheds light on three Rs: reduce, re-use and recycle

15 Revelstokians taking part in Clean Bin Challenge after attending an evening where waste reduction was the central theme.

Fifteen Revelstokians will be taking part in the Clean Bin Challenge after attending an evening where waste reduction was the central theme.

The theme of the night, which was hosted by the North Columbia Environmental Society at the United Church on Wednesday, was the three-Rs: reduce, re-use and recycle. A fourth R – re-think – was also mentioned.

The first – and fourth R – were exemplified in the film The Clean Bin Project, a humorous and shocking look at our society’s waste habits. The documentary followed Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin as they went a year trying to produce as little waste as possible.

The efforts they put into the task produced laughs and admiration, but the movie also featured several segments outlining the amount of garbage our society produces – billions of plastic bottles and cans; millions of plastic cups, countless plastic bags and endless piles of waste ending up in landfills.

Most shocking was the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of junk twice the size of Texas circling the Pacific Ocean. Albatross from Midway Island end up ingesting the garbage, which ends up killing them.

The re-use portion of the evening was emphasized by several products on display. Trevor Kehler (who recently auditioned for Dragon’s Den but was turned down) had his bags made from recycled seatbelts on display. Janine Boggild had a series of bags and wallets made from recycled juice boxes and coffee bags available.

Janine Boggild shows some of her bags and wallets made from recycled juice cartons and coffee bags.

“I would encourage you to look at garbage differently and chances are you can turn it into something else and use it, and turn it into something useful,” said Loni Andersen, who put together a slideshow of different  ways people in Revelstoke re-use and re-purpose things.

The second half of the night consisted of presentations by Carmen Fennell, the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District’s Waste Reduction Facilitator; and Brett Renaud, the co-owner of Bresco Industries, which is running Revelstoke’s curbside recycling program. They went over some elements of the curbside recycling program:

– Plastic bags can be recycled but cheaper film plastics like Saran Wrap can’t. “It’s essentially the quality of the plastic that’s dictating what they take and what they don’t take,” Fennell said.

– Styrofoam can’t be placed in blue bags. Neither can plastic oil containers, but they can be recycled at places that recycle used oil, such as Silverline Transmission.

– Items that provide you with a return on deposit such as milk cartons and pop cans should be brought to the Bottle Depot and not placed in the blue bags. That’s because those items are the responsibility of the producers to recycle and if they aren’t returned to them, they can simply pocket the money, Fennell explained. When they’re put in blue bags, the cost is borne by the taxpayer. “If we’ve paid an eco-fee on a product we need to make sure it’s taken back to where it’s supposed to go because we’ve already paid for it,” she said.

– Blue bags are being used because they make it easier to spot contaminants, said Renaud. They also make it easier to bail the bags when they arrive at the depot.

– The CSRD would like to incorporate apartments into the curbside recycling program but it’s up to the city to decide where to do so. It is also looking at getting businesses on board.

– Pop bottle lids can’t be recycled. “There’s not a good option for those materials right now,” said Fennell. “It’s just one of those products that for whatever reason, they’re not part of the recycling program when you’re returning your beverage containers.”

– Participation rate in the curbside recycling program, at last count, was about 40–50 per cent, said Renaud, down from a peak of 70 per cent earlier this year. He added that the volume of garbage going to the landfill has declined. Fennell added later that recycling in Revelstoke was up by about 20 per cent so far this year.

The box on the left includes items that can go in blue bags. The one on the right features recyclables that should go to the Bottle Depot. The display was put together by James Van Dam.

Fennell also went over future plans – notably that the CSRD is looking into a composting program and will be meeting with the city to discuss it.

“The next logical step is to incorporate food waste as well, so we’re moving forward with that,” she said.

Steven Hui, chairperson of the Revelstoke Community Foundation, announced a new program being launched as part of the foundation’s new environmental initiative. He said students will be stationed in grocery store parking lots asking people if they brought a bag with them.

“What we want to do is encourage youth to participate in the foundation,” he said.

As for the Clean Bin Challenge – the goal is to see who can produce the least amount of waste in a month, starting today, April 26. The winner will be announced in a month.

 

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