Green Venture is committed to educating Hamiltonians about sustainable living and reducing our city’s climate vulnerability. We have created this blogpost (and an exciting giveaway!) to cover some of the common mistakes made by residents when sorting their waste and highlight some potential solutions and strategies for improvement. While individual actions are not enough on their own to create change for the planet, they are the first step towards larger changes and are worth undertaking.
In addition to properly sorting your waste, this blogpost, and more content this month, will focus on practical ways to reduce and repurpose waste in your daily life. These two practices go hand in hand, but we know that it can feel daunting and overwhelming to make so many changes. We are hoping to make the process easier and give you some incentive to get started! We are hosting a community contest for the month of August focused on waste reduction and sorting! Details are included at the end of this post. As with anything related to waste reduction, the best practice is simply to try your best. It is likely that none of us can produce zero waste but any efforts to reduce and reuse are still important.
Why does it matter? The facts about waste in Hamilton.
- 52% of recycling from apartment buildings ends up in landfill because of contamination or improper sorting.
- Almost everything from city parks/bus stop recycling bins ends up in landfill due to contamination.
- Approximately 25% of materials from residential recycling bins in Canada are too contaminated to be recycled and still end up in landfill and only 9% of all plastics are actually recycled.
- The majority of our organic waste still ends up in landfills each year, despite being compostable.
These stats are why we, at Green Venture, have created this resource for Hamiltonians to easily assess what they can do to improve their waste disposal habits. We’ve broken it down into common mistakes (and what to do instead), the process of implementing the 5 R’s of waste, and how you can incorporate these changes into your life.
Common mistakes and what to do instead
- Wishcycling by guessing which bin an item might go in based on where you think it should go or putting a recyclable/compostable item into the garbage because you aren’t sure where it goes.
Instead: Download the city’s recycle coach app to search any item you are concerned about to find out where it goes. This is a quick and easy way to check any item you’re concerned about. Right now, there are changes to what might go into your compost because of COVID-19 concerns. For example, tissues and napkins are currently going into the garbage. We have also included graphics in this post detailing what goes into your recycling, compost, and yard waste bins.
- Putting ‘contaminated’ (not washed or greasy) containers or jars into your recycling bins.
Instead: Clean your containers! Materials that have residue on them can contaminate the containers or paper around them, making the entire bin unusable and ultimately destine them for landfill. To avoid this, put greasy paper such as pizza boxes into your green bin instead of paper recycling. Rinse out your containers and jars before putting them into the recycling bin so they don’t contaminate the other containers around them. By rinsing containers and sorting out oily paper, your recycling will be much easier to process.
- Putting recyclables in bags or not sorting them into two separate bins.
Instead: Similar to the last mistake, this practice can cause problems at the recycling facility. In Hamilton we have a two stream system which means paper and containers have to be separated. Mixing paper and plastic into one recycling bin or bag can mean it will ultimately end up in a landfill. If you have concerns about sorting your recycling, you can visit the city’s website to see what goes where or follow the graphics we’ve provided for each.
- Putting yard waste into your green bin, i.e. sticks, leaves, plant matter.
Instead: Rather than going into the green bin, yard waste (organic materials from outside your home) in Hamilton must be placed into a brown paper bag OR a hard plastic garbage bin with no lid and a yard waste sticker on the side. Stickers can be picked up at any Municipal Service Centre or Recreation Centre. Yard waste can go out with your garbage each week.
- Putting compostable items in the garbage, causing them to build up in landfills without the ability to break down.
Instead: If you do not have a green bin you can request one here. If you’re unsure about what goes into the green bin you can download the city’s recycle coach app or follow the graphic we have provided below. The more we compost, the less will end up in landfills.
Do you do any of these things? Take a look through your green and recycling bins to see if you find any of these mistakes!
The 5 R’s and how they fit in
Building on what we’ve learned about recycling and composting, the next section of this blogpost will ask you to examine your waste behaviours more broadly and give some suggestions for how they can change.
You may be familiar with the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle. The 5 R’s is an expansion of that – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. It is a framework for looking at your needs and determining what changes you can make to your life based on those needs. We’ve taken each of these concepts and explained how they fit into waste management in your home and reducing waste in your life more generally. We know this isn’t an overnight process, but rather an ongoing self-assessment which takes a lot of hard work so don’t feel pressured to master all of these but rather take the ones that fit into your life and slowly implement them. Each component has a suggested action item and we encourage you to see if those changes feel right for you.
Refuse: In addition to proper recycling and composting, it is good practice to refuse the things you do not need. Oftentimes we are offered things for convenience, i.e. freebies at an event, extra sauces and plastic utensils with takeout, flyers, etc. It seems silly to turn down something free but next time this happens, ask yourself; do you need it? Is it going to add value to your life? If yes, then absolutely take it! If no, leave it behind.
- Action: go through your junk mail and junk emails – are there any you can unsubscribe from?
- Action: bring your own container and utensils when eating out or on the go to avoid takeout waste.
Reduce: The next R is for reducing your waste. This doesn’t mean you have to purge your whole house but instead gradually find ways where you can swap in more Earth-friendly solutions. A good place to start might be our zero waste swaps in our social media, which show easy swaps you can make over time in your life.
- Action: try out a zero waste swap for a week to see how you do. This could be using dish towels rather than paper towels or bar soap rather than liquid soap.
- Action: use up your existing products before buying a new one, see if there is a lower waste option for that product, for example a shampoo bar or dryer balls.
Reuse or Repurpose: Rather than the single-use of a product, think about whether there is a way you can give it a new life. Upcycling is a great way of reusing your household items before recycling them.
- Action: Turning worn out clothes into kitchen rags.
- Action: Repair clothes, shoes, electronics, rather than throwing them out.
- Action: Upcycle jars and containers for a new purpose. For example, empty pasta jars work great when bringing your own container for shopping at the Mustard Seed Co-op or Dundurn Market.
- Action: For those with children, use empty containers and scrap paper for crafts. Egg cartons make great dragons and used paper can be used again for colouring.
Recycle: This one is fairly self explanatory. This component emphasizes recycling everything that can possibly be recycled rather than putting it in the garbage. This is not just limited to plastics and papers but clothes, housewares, beds, toys. See if there is somewhere in the city (or even a neighbour on Facebook Marketplace) that will take it rather than tossing it in the garbage.
- Action: audit your waste for common mistakes listed above.
- Action: use the recycle coach app to find out what goes where.
- Action: see if something you’re getting rid of is being asked for, for example, used children’s toys can go to https://tinytoyco.com/
- Action: search TerraCycle to see if they’ll accept the item you’re hoping to get rid of.
Rot: This R means actively composting organic waste rather than putting it into the garbage. In Hamilton, you can compost pretty much any organic material. If you need a green bin or are wondering what can go in it, visit the city website here. If you want to take a more hands on approach to composting, you can create your own worm composter.
- Action: use your green bin for organic waste.
- Action: use a yard waste bin for outdoor organic waste.
- Action: investigate having your own compost, either outside or inside (with worms).
What you can do now
Hopefully the information from this post has you thinking about what you can do to improve your waste management! If it has, we have compiled a list of actions you can take now in order to do so.
- Learn how to correctly sort your waste by measuring yourself based on some of the common mistakes we have listed above. Are you making those common mistakes?
- Download the city’s recycle coach app for detailed information about where items should be sorted as well as updates about changes to service and pickup schedules.
- Have the city audit your waste! Sign up to have them check your recycling bins, compost, and garbage to win a gold bin!
- Show us how you’re doing! Green Venture will be hosting a contest from August 1-17 to encourage waste reduction and proper sorting.
We know that implementing the 5 R’s in your life and properly sorting waste can be hard, so we’ve partnered with businesses from the EcoHamilton collective to put together a reward for that work. This month, when you tag Green Venture in a photo of you sorting your waste correctly, trying out one of the 5 R action items, or doing a zero waste swap, you will be entered into our giveaway!
- Follow @green_venture and @ecohamilton.
- Like the Green Venture Instagram announcement post.
- Tag @green_venture and use #GVWaste101 in a photo or story or send us an email of a zero waste swap, 5 R action or waste management change you’ve made (each photo/story counts as an entry).
Here is a little bit of information about each of the businesses that have donated to our giveaway!
Park Market: Park Market & Refillery provides low-waste living solutions to consumers and businesses. They carry refillable home and body care products to help folks skip on single-use plastic and packaging. Currently, they provide contact-free delivery service and host pop-shops. They also have a permanent refill station at The Painted Bench on Ottawa Street in Hamilton and have a small storefront coming soon! You can learn more at www.parkmarketandrefillery.com or by giving them a follow at @parkmarketandrefillery. They’re giving away compostable patch bandages and a $25 gift card.
Waste Knot Co: Waste Knot makes sustainable textile pieces like bags and scrunchies from scrap fabric from local GTHA designers that would otherwise end up in landfill. You can follow them at @wasteknotco. They’re giving away a medium scrunchie and a produce bag.
Earthology: Earthology handcraft organic beeswax wraps, as well as a 100% vegan (plant-based) version. Their beeswax is all locally sourced and sustainably harvested from small independent beekeepers and their vegan wraps use only eco plant based waxes. Earthology Wraps are designed to keep foods fresh up to 8 times longer! You can follow them at @earthologyfoodwraps and check out their website at https://earthologywraps.com. They’re giving away a 3 pack of Beeswax Food Wraps.
All Wrapped Up: @allwrappedupto focuses on eco-friendly events and activities for kids. They focus on reducing the amount of waste at kids parties through decor rentals and low waste activities. Nature play and talking about the environment from a young age is a fantastic way to prepare the next generation to protect our planet. You can find them at https://allwrappedupevents.ca/ and at @allwrappedupto. One of @allwrappedupto newest activities for kids is their summer nature craft kit and our giveaway includes the bug hotel craft kit. Kids will learn why bugs are important to the garden and how a bug hotel works to protect them from harsh weather.
Mrs. Greenway: Mrs Greenway is a retail store with a focus on making sustainable living simple and accessible. They focus on eco friendly products for every aspect of your life (think clothing, household products, kids toys, litterless lunches and cleaning and personal care products). Their stores also include a refillery with over 40 products for cleaning, laundry and body care – bring any container in for refill and cut down on your waste.Their mission is to provide education to the communities that they serve and encourage others to make small changes in their lives to make large impacts. You can find out more online at https://www.mrsgreenway.ca/ or at @mrs_greenway. They are giving away a Colibri silicone straw set and a $20.00 gift card.
The Glass Jar Refillery: The Glass Jar is a new refillery opening in Hamilton that will carry a range of Canadian-made personal care products and household needs – made from ingredients that are ethically and locally sourced, plant-based and safe for the whole family. You can find them online at https://glassjarrefillery.ca/ or at @theglassjar.refillery. They are giving away a surprise zero waste product!
The Pale Blue Dot: The Pale Blue Dot is your one-stop shop for sustainable living, providing you with safe, high-quality, ethically-sourced, earth-friendly alternatives to plastic and single-use products! You can follow them at @thepalebluedotshop or online at https://thepalebluedotshop.com/. They’re giving away a 3 pack of reusable produce bags.
The winner will be contacted by DM on Instagram on August 17 and will have 24 hours to claim. Prize will be picked up from EcoHouse in Hamilton. Entries are limited to residents of the Hamilton area. This post is in no way associated with Instagram or Facebook. Good luck!
Resources and further reading: