From Movember to Love your Leftovers

December 13, 2016

For another year Waste Reduction Week/Month has ended and with it the opportunity to evaluate the hard efforts of four gallant staff at the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). Adam, Jamie, Johannes and Marianne signed up for a WasteWise challenge in which they lived a zero waste lifestyle for the whole of October.

Armed with just a 1.5 litre Mason jar and links to what some moderately well known “Zerowasters” have learned along the way, the four participants and their immediate families went home and found a whole manner of hurdles in the way.

First reflections show candy bar, cereal bar and chip bags were the main offenders in the Mason jars. There are some sweet-toothed individuals at the FVRD and in their families. “With two kids, snack bars are quick and easy lunch fillers” said Jamie Benton. “We quickly realized that our jar would become inundated and so thought of alternatives. Homemade bars cut down on packaging and had significantly less sugar, yet only lasted a week. Instead, we opted for more cut vegetables and hummus.”

Organics account of the most weight in a typical garbage bag. All participants in the WasteWise challenge live within the City of Chilliwack. An organics diversion program is on its way in May 2017 for single dwelling residents. So, until then, what did our participants do with food and yard waste – the compostable material? Three out of the four already did home composting in their yards. Johannes lives in a condo so he brought his food waste into work, but meat waste continued to be an issue for them all. That is why the organics diversion program cannot come fast enough to Chilliwack as meat scraps will be also collected.

Packaging from the kitchen caused the most headaches. Styrofoam is a tricky material. There are facilities that recycle it but currently it is not collected. Why you may ask? It has to do with there being an end market or not. It is used for take-out foods and is typically contaminated with food waste and so not recyclable. Clean Styrofoam or other foamed polystyrene is not collected in sufficient quantities to warrant an end market at this time. Which begs the question, how much has to be collected to make it sufficient for an end market? A participant noticed that it is collected in Washington State but not here.

Food processors need to stop using this number six plastic, or find an alternative which does have an end market. Until then, bins will continue to fill up. For our participants, it encouraged changes in behaviour. Take-outs were ranked according to the type packaging they used. Offending outlets saw reduced custom from the FVRD participants. But it would have to take a wider change in people’s behaviour to change the majority of companies.

With Movember having whiskered by, another hot topic was razor blades. Are they recyclable or not? They are, but in some areas, it is illegal to recycle them. Health and safety is a legitimate reason to not recycle!  Continuing to grow facial hair is, for some men, a legitimate reason in Decembeard.

Overall, the FVRD participants found the challenge hard. All of them would have lost the challenge if they accounted for truly all waste that they disposed of in October. Despite not meeting the challenge, all participants came away with a greater appreciation of what they and their families throw away. Johannes continues to bring his compostable waste to work; Marianne is buying yogurt in bulk and using a reusable jar each day; Adam is buying bulk items to cut down on excessive packaging and Jamie’s son has stopped wearing diapers at night. As an old Chinese proverb goes, “it is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble back.”

And on that note, we encourage you all to Love your Leftovers this Christmas and do something little to reduce food waste over the festive period. Watch out for some festive tweets heading your FVRD way.