Inspiring groups who show it can be done

1. Individuals –  The Clean Bin project is where three BC residents competed to have the least total garbage for a full  year. They managed to have less than 10kg each by the end of the year (average per capita generation in Metro is over 600 kg) But who won? -check the Clean Bin website for more information.

2. Multi -Family - Quayside Village In North Vancouver has 19 units and NO dumpster. Through dedicated recycling and careful purchasing, they have reduced their waste by 93%.

3. Community – a group of neighbours in the Strathcona area of Vancouver took on the Zero Waste Challenge. In three weeks, they reduced the weekly waste from 23 people from 55 pounds to 16 pounds total each week, a 71% reduction. Another community, Glenbrook in New Westminster also took on the challenge. Cappanori, Italy has reduced its waste by over 80% so its waste composition is quite different -of the remainder, leather and textiles are the biggest component. Great strides have been made by communities offering organics collection and reducing the garbage pickup to every other week -results -35% decrease in Portland, Oregon in one year, 35% decrease in Surrey, BC and Port Coquitlam. Port Moody now diverts 73% of its waste, up from 40%. Calgary residents participating in a pilot decreased their waste by 40% which is similar to the City of Vancouver (see pg. 8 of link).

4. Retailer - Mountain Equipment Co-op works with their suppliers and staff to decrease their waste. The results have been fantastic with 92% materials reused or recycled. Whole Foods was the first Zero Waste certified business in the US.

5. Office towers -“The Hudson’s Bay Company has adopted a number of long-term goals including achieving zero waste at 20 percent of stores by 2012. The Hudson’s Bay Company Simpson’s Tower in Toronto was the first office tower in Canada to be certified by the Zero Waste International Alliance, achieving 96 per cent diversion from landfill. Two additional Hudson’s Bay Company office buildings and sixteen retail locations are also running under the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Zero Waste Program, diverting from landfill approximately 94 per cent of waste generated at these locations”. Source: Ontario Ministry of Environment From Waste to Worth: The Role of Waste Diversion in the Green Economy, 2009.

6. Industry – Many companies are working on reducing their waste, and often save money as a result. Epson Portland Inc. reached 90% diversion by 2000. Xerox – now boasts 87% recycling for non hazardous waste in US. A Taiwan manufacturing plant actually reached their goal of Zero Waste in 2005. More examples can be seen here.

These people and companies have been able to succeed in approaching or reaching zero waste even when the systems surrounding them were not designed to help them.  Don’t think system change can be done? -think of how many people still use horse and buggies for transport. Imagine what could be done if the systems were changed to foster zero waste:

  • If there were recycling and composting available for all families, not just those in single family homes or certain municipalities
  • If manufacturers were held responsible for all their products at end-of-life, and had incentives to design them for the environment
  • If communication programs were set up to assist neighbours in sharing information and working together to reduce waste
  • If all businesses and institutions were encouraged and supported in their efforts to recycle and compost the same way residents are
  • If all construction and demolition projects were required to recycle as much material as possible
  • If fees for waste disposal were set up to fund more waste reduction programs and provided incentives to consider waste in purchase decisions

Some governments have been working on this.  While many cities on other continents have made big reductions in their waste (OptikiNovaraCanberra), in North America we have good example in San Francisco, which has diverted 80% of its waste. Closer to home, the Regional District of Nanaimo, which has been actively pursuing zero waste for a while, has reached over 70% diversion as well. And of course, Nova Scotia is a success story with a provincial rate of 68%. Recently Palo Alto noted a 44% decrease in garbage tonnage between 2007 and 2009. How did they do it -the first step was committing to a bold goal and then getting down to work. They set up composting systems, created incentives to decrease waste and spent a lot of time communicating with their residents and businesses.

Note: Each time these examples are brought up, Metro Vancouver staff say that the community in question is not the same as Metro Vancouver, yet they are comfortable using comparisons with European cities, which are even less comparable. The point is not that each region is the same, the point is that they are making huge strides in waste prevention and a responsible local government would want to find out how.

When you start to look around, you can find people making a difference in many ways, from the woman in Smithers who started making her own yogurt because she couldn’t bear to throw away the store-bought containers, to the man in Richmond who reduced his waste by 89% after discussions with one of our zero waste advocates to the family on the North Shore who cut back their waste to 2.5 kg total for two months.  Richmond councillor Harold Steves reduced his family’s waste by 79.9% when they started trying to reduce waste. It is time to support these champions.

Thank you Zero Waste early adopters for your leadership!