*** Some of these suggestions may be impacted by COVID-19 - please check websites prior to visiting.
The Canadian Government recently announced that some single-use plastic products will be banned by the end of 2021. The ban is focused on items that have been found in the environment, frequently not recycled, and have alternative solutions. These include plastic grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings for beer, cutlery, and foodware. According to StatsCan, only 9% of plastic waste gets recycled leaving the majority in landfills or in the environment.
Reducing Waste and Improving Recycling in London
There are many ways for Londoners to divert as much waste from the landfill and recycling facilities as possible. The easiest way is to reduce the use of everyday plastics; from reusable coffee mugs, containers, bags, or shopping at zero-waste stores like Reimagine Co. Reimagine Co. uses zero single-use packaging; asking shoppers to bring their own sanitized containers and reusable bags. The first of its kind in London, Reimagine Co. offers the same products as a regular grocery store and much more. With food making up 45% of waste going into landfills, Reimagine Co. wants shoppers to be able to buy as much or as little as they need. There are many stores that reduce single use waste (although many have changed their procedures due to COVID-19), such as Bulk Barrel, where you can usually bring your own containers, or the various farmer's markets located throughout the city.
When it comes to recycling there can be many doubts as to what can be included and what cannot. To help mitigate these questions, the City of London has an app called Recycle Coach where users can search specific items and find more information. For plastics that cannot go through the City’s regular blue bin program there are alternative ways to responsibly recycle plastics rather than throwing them in the garbage. Metro, at 1030 Adelaide Street North, has started collecting plastics like clear bread bags. Londoners can find the collection bins located at the front and back of the store.
Another program is the London Hefty EnergyBag Pilot Project. This project collects single-use plastic and converts it into plastic furniture, composite lumber for decks, or as a potential fuel source. The goal of this project is to divert more plastics from landfills, reduce the amount of mismanaged plastic, and work towards a more sustainable plastics economy. Although this program is limited to certain areas of the city, you can check out the program site for more information on ways you might be able to get involved.
For many people, including myself, old electronics tend to find miscellaneous drawers to clutter. Luckily, there are many locations in London to drop off and recycle old devices including local EnviroDepots. Working electronics can also be donated to Goodwill Donation Centres, Salvation Army Thrift Store, Talize, or Value Village. To learn more about recycling and reusing technology visit Ontario Electronic Stewardship.
London is one of the last and largest cities in Ontario without a composting system. To reduce the amount of organic waste London has proposed the “Green Bin” waste diversion plan. This strategy aims to divert 60% of London’s waste by 2025 with improved recycling options for textiles, wooden furniture, and bulky plastics. A large percentage of what’s in the garbage could be composted/digested or recycled. To find out more about this exciting, new initiative visit 60% Waste Diversion Action Plan.
When it comes to recycling and reducing single-use plastics small changes can make an impact; building your own backyard composter, using reusable products, donating old clothes or electronics, or visiting plastic-free stores. Think about all the plastic items you use in one day, it can really add up. Switching to alternatives may take some time but can be easily implemented into regular life, we promise!
Looking to be plastic-free? Here are some tips for a more plastic-free lifestyle:
1.Shop with reusable bags
Many grocery stores sell reusable bags. They are durable and last a long time. Plastic bags are often used once but will take hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to break down. Keep reusable bags in your car so you are more likely to remember to use them.
2. Stop using plastic water bottles and switch to ones made out of stainless steel
There are many great reusable water bottles. Try bottles that are completely recyclable, including the lid. They are perfect for traveling, bringing to outdoor events, and keep your water cold.
3. Shop at local farmers markets
Buying local and seasonal food means less distance traveled to get your food from farm to table. In Canada, the average distance food travels to get to your plate is 2,500km. That adds up to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions!
4. Buy bread in paper bags
Did you know that the clear plastic bags that are sometimes used to package bread are often not recyclable through municipal recycling programs? Using paper bags or reusable bread bags keeps those plastic bags out of the landfill.
5. Use bulk bins that allow for customers to bring in containers
Bulk Barn Canada allows, although halted due to COVID-19, customers to bring in their own containers. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own mason jars, containers, or cloth bags. Containers are also available for purchase inside stores as well.
6. Switch to bar soap instead of bottled
Packaging, especially for cosmetics, are typically wrapped elaborately in several layers of plastic. On average, people will go through 10 bottles of shampoo per year. Switching to bar soap is quick and easy. Not only does it eliminate plastic, but some soap brands can help reduce the amount of chemicals and additives that end up in our water.
7. Compost, even at work
A lot of companies are now offering eco-friendly work environments. For those that are not, collecting your own organic waste can be easy. Bring a glass jar to work with you at the beginning of the week. Any compost material that you collect can go right into the jar. At the end of the week bring the jar home and empty it into your composter.
8. Try beeswax wrapping to keep food fresh instead of plastic wrap
Beeswax wrapping is a great way to store leftover food. Don’t believe us? Try it on an avocado, it will have you convinced otherwise. Beeswax wrapping usually lasts up to 200 uses before it needs to be replaced. Think about all of the cellophane or zip-lock bags that will be saved!
9. Make your own granola bars or condiments
Although some condiments come in glass containers, making your own food can be both fun and delicious. Experiment with different recipes, change it up with different ingredients, or keep with an old faithful. Either way, you can reduce your plastic waste output.
10. Shop at thrift stores
Thrift stores have great surprises, like name brand, never been worn clothing. For myself, I often go for household items like picture frames that are ridiculously cheap compared to brand new ones. Spruce them up with some fresh paint or stain and a new photo. You’ll free great saving money and creating something personal.
Author: Nicole Braden
Nicole is the Digital Database Coordinator at the London Environmental Network. She has been involved with numerous non-profit organizations throughout Ontario and is thrilled to be working with the London Environmental Network. Nicole will continue to write on localized environmental issues and address frequently asked questions.