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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Days 1 & 2 of the No Impact Week Challenge

Sunday was the first day of the No Impact Week Challenge, and the topic of the day was Consumption.  As you well know, this really wasn't that big of a challenge for me as of late, so I didn't have too much trouble avoiding excess purchasing.  The next day however, was a different story...

Day two was all about Trash: specifically, making less of it (or ideally, none at all).  To avoid redundancy, here is my blog comment from the experiment:
I have a couple of thoughts on this one... first of all, my family and I have only been attempting to dramatically reduce our trash for the past week or so. We have always recycled everything that it is possible to recycle in our area, and I have had a compost bin for years, so that helps a lot... other than that, I didn't worry too, too much about the excess trash that I was making. In other words, I wasn't really keeping the packaging in mind when making my purchases, etc. Since stumbling upon 'No Impact Man' - and also the folks over at Clean Bin Project, I have really started to see my trash-making habits in a different sort of way.

A big strategy that I use to reduce trash is to make a lot of my own stuff (whenever possible). For the past three months, I have been making all of my own bread, buns, pretzels, cookies, etc. More recently, I have started to make my own crackers and fruit leather as a snack for my son. I find that I lot of my trash these days comes from trying to 'use up' some of those things that are already in my cupboard... namely, pre-packaged snacks for the little guy. I have come to the conclusion that while they might be convenient, the DIY alternatives are surely just as tasty and quite often, much healthier.

Other than the 'leftover' trash in my cupboards, I am really struggling with soft plastics. Our city will recycle plastic shopping bags (which I don't ever use), but that is about it for items in that category. So, looking in my trash bin from the past week (I started collecting it last weekend), I notice that there are a lot of tricky pieces of soft plastics that I am not sure how to avoid: The seal on a yogurt container (under the recyclable lid), the wrappers on cheese and tofu, the lining inside the box of my tea leaves, etc. ARGH! It seems to be everywhere! The great news is that my city is working on a biofuels initiative which will be able to take virtually all materials that are currently not recyclable or compostable and turn them into biofuels by 2013. This is great news, however until then, my 'No Impact' project will be more like, "As little impact as possible". It is not ideal, but I can live with it I guess...

To elaborate on my discussion with the City of Edmonton - I was called to task on a comment that I had made on the blog saying that they had not yet replied to my concerns... 

After spending almost an entire Friday on the phone trying to find a municipality and/or private company in my Province that would recycle my soft plastics, I sat at my computer in despair and wrote a letter to the City of Edmonton expressing my frustration.  I printed the letter and there it sat on my counter, waiting to be mailed until the next time I went into town.  Early the next week, I received an e-mail from the City, alerting me to the fact that they hadn't received my letter (although I did have a brief e-mail dialogue with someone from the Waste Management department, again, I hadn't mailed the letter!)  Anyway, I e-mailed them my letter and got a prompt reply.  Here is what it said:

Hello Maren,

You are correct in identifying the fact that some of the smaller soft plastics you mention (the wrap on cheese & tofu, the seal on yogurt containers, etc.) are currently not accepted for recycling through the City of Edmonton's residential recycling programs.

This is not as much due to the fact that these items are not recyclable but because the current technology employed at the Materials Recovery Facility - the plant where collected recyclables go - cannot capture these items due to their small size.

In regard to the bags in cracker and cereal boxes, these are unacceptable due to the wax lining. Other items such as polystyrene foam and polyvinyl chloride are not currently accepted because the technological infrastructure needed to process these materials into new products is either currently not available in the region or distance makes the transportation of these goods to facilities where they could be recycled economically unfeasible.

With that said, the good news is a solution for these items is on the horizon. New processes are being put in place at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC) to deal with non-recyclable and non-compostable materials.

The Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility is the new facility that replaced the Clover Bar Landfill, which reached capacity in 2009, at the EWMC. It will be instrumental in creating feedstock (refuse-derived fuel) using waste that cannot be composted or recycled for the planned Waste-to-Biofuels Facility which will be constructed at the EWMC.

The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility will use state-of-the-art technology to convert plastics, textiles and other materials that can't be recycled into methanol and ethanol.

It is anticipated that once the Waste-to-Biofuels facility is fully operational, somewhere around 2013, Edmonton will be able to divert 90% of its residential waste from landfill, including the items you identified.

In light of the fact that the letter you reference in your blog had not been mailed, we would appreciate it if you would remove your comment about your disappointment about not hearing back from the City of Edmonton on your concerns.

Thank you and best of luck with your continued research. Your articulate comments and example of how living on less can be achieved is valuable and inspirational.

And yes, I hastily took down my comment from the blog...  Just as in life, I need to remember to 'think before I speak' or in this case 'write'.  I made that comment in frustration, and I really did not anticipate a real response from the City.  That will certainly 'learn me'.

How is that for a piece of humble pie?

Sorry for the long rant - lots to say on this one!

Marebare :)


  1. I am literally seething with jealousy over the forward-thinking of your municipality. My kingdom for sane garbage policy!

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  3. Hi Maren,

    I'm not sure of the date on this article... but it is interesting to read that GM is looking into using 'fermented garbage' - essentially ethanol - as the primary fuel in some of their upcoming vehicles.

    Maybe a person will some day be able to generate their OWN automobile fuel, in their own back yard!? Yeah!