Written By: Basmah Ahmed, Business Development Manager, TerraCycle Canada.
Canada is lagging behind when it comes to strong federal policies on plastic reform. Though there have been initiatives launched by grass-roots organizations (as well as local towns, municipalities, and business owners), an extensive report by the three countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement suggests Canadian residences are generating more and more plastic waste. The country creates about 3.25 million tonnes of plastic waste (about 140,000 garbage trucks' worth) every year.
Aimed at encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment from plastic’s negative impacts, “Ending Plastic Pollution” was the theme of this World Oceans Day, as it was this year's World Environment Day, Earth Day and Earth Month.
#PlasticFreeJuly aligns itself with global conversations on plastic, and TerraCycle has some tips to help you make better decisions in some of the places where plastic might still be clogging up your habits.
1. At the store:
Start at the door and walk in with a reusable bag. Skip those pesky one-time use bags they offer in the aisles by collecting your fruits and veggies right into your cart as is, purchasing cloth bags, or making your own. Pro tip: Always keep a spare bag in your purse, backpack or car so you are always prepared. This is a good rule for the mall, convenience store and other retail locations.
When looking at packaged food, there is often a familiar recycling symbol on a bottle, pouch, carton or tube. However, this triangle with arrows is not a “recycling number,” but a plastic resin identification number that only indicates what the material is made of, not if it's recyclable in your local program.
Did you know that most black packaging, flexible plastic (like pouches and snack bags) and smaller plastic items (like cosmetics packaging), no matter what type of plastic, are not recyclable? This month, make an effort to check your local recycling site to learn what can be recycled in your area, and steer away from packaging that isn't on the list. In Toronto, where TerraCycle’s Canadian office is located, they've put together this super handy Waste Wizard.
Buy in bulk whenever possible. Check out a local bulk store in your area, and bring your own jars or containers for your favourite snacks. Not only will you produce less waste, but you'll also have some pretty aesthetically pleasing food. (You know mason jars look great on the ‘gram!)
2. At a restaurant:
We all love eating out every once in a while, but with that sometimes comes Styrofoam, plastic utensils, tiny condiment pouches and more unrecyclable plastic packaging than is really necessary. The easiest way to avoid the mess is by first by trying to slow down and eat-in. Sourcing your ingredients from local farms, bakeries and other vendors reduces the packaging waste from prepared foods.
If you're truly on the run, be prepared by bringing your own container and cutlery. Asking your server to put your order in your own container can feel odd at first, but remember: you're about to start an important dialogue with the restaurant on reducing waste. Some restaurants are already taking pledges to reduce plastic straws.
While cyberspace may seem an unlikely place to be “plastic-free,” one of the best ways to stay motivated and engaged in any movement is to have a community backing you up. Make a pledge, and hold yourself accountable on your favourite social media platforms by using the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly. Learn new tips from some of the best zero wasters in the game and follow accounts such as PAREdown or YourEcoFriend.
Is a product that you love or use often not recyclable? Reach out to companies! Even if it's just one tweet, e-mail or phone call, let them know you care and want them to do better.
4. At home and at work:
This task is no easy one! Going plastic free means you're going to be making changes to things you may have been doing for years and have never noticed until now. Plastic delivers the goods we shop for online, the clothing we buy in-store, the smoothies we sip after a workout. Be prepared to give yourself lots of room to make mistakes, slip-up and forget before you phase out that plastic for good.
So what do you do in the meantime? In celebration of #PlasticFreeJuly, we've put our Plastic Packaging Zero Waste Box™ on a special 20% off sale all month so that you can rest easy knowing that no matter how far you're able to push yourself this year, plastic has a place, and it’s not in our waterways and landfills.