Guest blogger Erich Lawson writes about the importance of the circular economy in today’s society.
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.
Today, we’re going to touch on five simple and easy ways that we can all contribute to the reduction of waste, prevention of litter and protection of our lakes. There seems to be this perception that living a more reusable lifestyle is difficult, when in reality, it’s very easy and straightforward! So without further ado:
1. Go Reusable
Each year, millions upon millions of plastic bottles, straws, cups, utensils, grocery bags, and produce bags end up in our landfills…or worse, in our water supply. Plastic makes up more than half of what AGF picks up during our Love Your Lake project, whether it’s in the form of bottles, cups, straws, etc. Can you imagine the impact it would have if every person switched even one of these disposable items to a reusable one? Instead of using more than 200 plastic straws in a year, a person could use one reusable straw again and again. Instead of using flimsy plastic cutlery, a person could use metal or bamboo reusable utensils over and over! These are just a few examples of the way reusable items can easily be swapped out for their disposable counterparts.
2. Don’t Flush!
Now, we’re not saying don’t flush the toilet. You should absolutely flush the toilet as a common courtesy to the people around you, and even to yourself. However, what we can’t say loudly enough is DON’T FLUSH PLASTIC. Plastic?, you may ask yourself. Yes, plastic. 7% of the plastic that ends up on our beaches is coming directly from being flushed down our toilets. It is estimated that 1/3 of adults are flushing objects that should never end up in our sewage systems. So, that plastic tampon applicator and the little plastic wrapper it comes in? You got it: it doesn’t go down the toilet! Neither do Q-tips, wipes, syringes, condoms, or bags of drugs. Here's a great TED Talk to explain further.
3. Skip the Straw
Don’t feel like carrying a reusable straw with you at all times? Forgot your reusable straw at home? No problem. This one is simple. Just don’t get a straw with your beverage. Ask yourself if you really, truly need to use that pesky piece of plastic. Sip straight from the cup, or ask for a lid with a tab instead. Skip the straw. In just 25 litter cleanups our team has picked up 1,403 plastic straws off the shores of Lake Ontario. What's worse? There are millions more out there that are breaking down into microplastics right now.
4. Say No to Plastic
Money speaks volumes, and companies listen when their consumers use their spending to make a point. Avoid buying plastic whenever and wherever possible; instead, opt for metal, wood, bamboo, cotton and other natural materials. Need a new toothbrush? Think bamboo! How about straws? There are silicone and metal straws readily available! Even the polyester we find in our clothes is derived from plastic and releases microplastics each time it is washed! And let’s be real here…soft bamboo clothing sounds way nicer than scratchy polyester, don’t you think?
Are you up for a challenge? Visit Plastic Free July.
5. Pick Up As You Go
The last point is perhaps the easiest to execute. When you find yourself taking a stroll in the park or frolicking on the beach, take a minute out of your day and pick up a few pieces of litter. Can you imagine the staggering results if everyone did this? Make sure the litter pieces end up in the trash or recycling, instead of in our lakes!
We hope that these five methods of protecting your local environment have been enlightening and have helped to reduce some of the stress you may feel about reducing waste! We are always available for questions or concerns, and there are many fantastic resources available online. Knowledge is power, friends.
Sending positive vibes your way on this beautiful June day. We hope that the last few weeks have been as life-altering and impactful as ours have been, whether that’s litter cleanups or some good old soul-searching and self-reflection.
We wanted to take some time to acknowledge one of our incredibly generous partners, without whom it would be a lot more difficult to travel to our 100 cleanup locations. The Honda Canada Foundation has donated a brand new 2018 Honda Civic, decked out with A Greener Future logos, and $3,000 toward gas expenses. As many of you know, this is a major contribution to our Love Your Lake project, since we start in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the end of May and work our way around the shores of Lake Ontario to Kingston by the end of August! Without this charitable partnership, our legs would be tired from all that walking!
There are a lot of fantastic features about the 2018 Honda Civic, but we want to highlight a few of our favourites:
Love Your Lake involves a lot of beach cleanups. Beaches mean sand. And sand gets everywhere. We keep the majority of our cleanup supplies, like litter pickers, bags, and gloves, in the trunk. As you can imagine, the trunk becomes a pretty sandy place after a few cleanups! The great thing about the Civic is that the trunk has a flexible plastic liner, so that when it comes time to clean out all that sand, it’s as easy as lifting it up and shaking it out. While we love nature, we don’t want to take it home with us in the trunk of our car!
We are also very grateful that the Civic is compatible with our phones. Not only do we use our phones for great cruising tunes, but we often rely on the GPS to get us to our exact cleanup locations. As responsible drivers, we all know that any phone operation needs to be hands-free! The compatibility with our phones means that the GPS is available to us, hands-free, to help us arrive safely.
We can’t forget to talk safety. With incredibly high safety ratings, the 2018 Honda Civic has been rated one of the 17 Safest Cars of 2018 by U.S. News. Our youngest member of A Greener Future, 2 1/2 year old Linden, is a curious little dude! We appreciate that the Civic comes with childproof rear door locks and allows us to easily rock a carseat, so that every member of our team arrives in safety and in style.
A massive, warm thank you to Honda for their continued (and very appreciated) partnership during Love Your Lake season! We just couldn’t achieve the same hard-hitting results without their assistance, and we look forward to working with them at some of our cleanups this summer.
And yes, if you’re in the market for a new car, we absolutely would recommend taking this one for a test drive.
Written By: Jessica Panetta, Marketing Manager, TerraCycle Canada
Imagine it’s 2050, and there is more plastic in the ocean than fish. Scary, right? Unfortunately, this idea isn’t far from the projected reality we face today. Every year, 10–20 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans and waterways, and of the more than 300 million tons of new, virgin plastic produced globally per year, half of it is designed for single use. Landfilling and incineration, the preferred disposal methods for so-called “disposable” plastics, allow the proliferation of these discarded items into natural ecosystems.
Many of us are familiar with the image of soda can rings posing danger to marine animals from a couple decades ago, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Microplastics create an estimated $13 billion a year in losses from damage to marine ecosystems (not to mention the severe degradation to natural capital suffered by animals and their habitats), as well as financial losses to fisheries and tourism.
Changing the perception of “single-use” plastics (and all plastics, for that matter) is needed to create and strengthen systems that will capture these materials for recycling, divert them from landfills, and decrease virgin production in lieu of more regenerative resource structures.
The global World Oceans Day is June 8 (originally celebrated at the urging of Canada in 1992), but every day is a good day to find and cultivate ways to engage communities and make resources for clean ocean actions accessible. My company TerraCycle teamed up with Procter & Gamble, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, to create bottles made with recycled beach plastic for Head & Shoulders (the #1 shampoo brand in the world) and Fairy (the UK’s #1 dishwashing brand) in Europe.
Seeing plastic waste for what it is, a nearly-indestructible, highly polluted manmade substance that requires a manmade solution, is the first step to reevaluating our dependence on it as a raw material, and thinking twice before throwing it in the trash. Creating a market for recycled plastic, especially beach plastic (difficult-to-recycle because of its exposure to contaminants and UV light, depreciation, and mixed material makeup), by integrating it into the production of products consumers buy every day is one way to do that.
These initiatives strive to create value for all plastic while raising awareness of plastic pollution, an issue is too large to tackle without help from large numbers. Engaging the public is crucial for significant change. A Greener Future, one of TerraCycle’s partners, involves the public through litter cleanups, educational programs and events.
One of its programs, Love Your Lake (now in its third year, May 26 – August 25) tackles the pollution in Lake Ontario head-on in over 100 locations, last year collecting 2 super-sacks (over 72,000 pieces of trash) worth of rigid plastic that was recycled through TerraCycle's Beach Plastic Cleanup Program.
Taking the time to educate oneself and others on the issues facing the safety and security of our oceans and waterways, including plastic pollution, is an important activity that carries an impact year-round. The website for the Government of Canada has an extensive World Oceans Day section with an overview of the observance, ways to get involved, and links to helpful resources on ocean monitoring, aquatic species at risk, fishing and environmental science.
No matter how far from the coast you live, World Oceans Day is a celebration to mobilize governments, businesses and everyday people around our connection to water and the ocean. This year’s theme and action focus of preventing plastic pollution highlights an issue we can all work to take action on year-round, and empowering oneself with the knowledge and awareness of things you can do will help to change the perceptions and habits that shape our world.
Enter to Win!
We're giving away a Zero Waste Kit on each of our social media channels, and one through our website, click the buttons below or leave a comment on this blog post to enter. You may enter in all four locations .
Open to USA & Canada. Legal residents 18+ are eligible to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to a direct message or email and if no response is given a new winner will be drawn. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media channel by which it will be promoted. Contest closes at 11:59 pm EST on Friday, June 8th. If you have any questions please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org