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Monday, April 12, 2010

Recycling Envy

I spent the better part of the weekend trying to figure out how to 'do it better' with regards to my waste and recycling process.  While I used to believe that Edmonton had one of the best waste/recycle programs on the planet, I have been reading about other cities' initiatives and I decidedly have recycling envy.  Currently, I have two huge composters in my yard which I alternate between as they fill up.  Every fall we dump them on the garden and start again.  Our County takes all numbered plastics (which is quite new and really exciting) as well as the usual glass, cans, assorted paper and milk cartons.  Of course, we also take our bottles in to the bottle depot for some 'mad money'!   Recently, I found out that I can take my plastic shopping bags bags (not that I use those anymore) into Edmonton for dropoff at their eco-stations.  Sounds like we have it covered right?  WRONG - I am left stuck with all of the soft plastics... you know the ones, they are the wrappers that come on well, virtually everything!  Your tofu, your cheese, the seal on your yogurt container, pasta bags, rice bags, etc. etc.  So, as it turns out, we still make quite a bit of garbage in this house.  Also, there are no private recycling companies in Edmonton that will take them either.  Actually that's not true, there is one fellow who told me that they would accept them by the 'dump truck full'.  I had a crazy idea that maybe I could get a hold of my friend (who runs a Country Waste Management company) and ask her if she would be interested in helping me take him up on his offer.  I will keep you posted if I have any success on the 'soft plastic' issue.

I'll bet you're wondering what the heck this has to do with 'living with less' right?  Well, the truth is, my project is evolving.  As I alluded to in the last post, what started out as a really simple project of not buying anything new, has mutated into quite a complicated project that calls into question my day-to-day living practices as a whole.  'Living with Less' feels like such a good choice for myself and my family, that I find myself increasingly motivated to expand its horizons.  I had an interesting debate with a friend (MH) yesterday about this phenomenon.  He, being a self-proclaimed cynic (a label with which I agree whole-heartedly), was questioning my methods of achieving my outcome(s).  In his view, it would make more sense financially and be more effective environmentally if I went about it in a completely opposite way: Work hard to make more money, and use my money to create bigger influence and change in the world.  His view is not without merit, however it is not a strategy that appeals to me at all.  This caused me to re-assess why exactly I am doing this in the first place, aka the ultimate source of my motivation.  On the surface, it presents as being a mainly financial decision to many people.  What I realized yesterday during my debate with MH is that ultimately, this project is based almost entirely in values, with the money-saving part of things purely a bonus (and a good way to to get my extremely rational husband on board).  That being said, I am very aware that in order to keep my head above water, I am going to need to take my own advice from the last blog post: take things one day at a time!  Change will be easier (and more effective) if it happens slowly... plus my husband is already poised and ready with his hand over the 'panic' button after listening to me rant all weekend.  Not to fear dear, I promise not to do anything rash!

Speaking of ranting, I'd better sign off for today!

In a lifetime, the average North American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash for his or her children.  Click here for more recycling facts that will boggle the mind!

Happy recyling!

Marebare :)


  1. fully support of your project!!

  2. I am SOOOOOO with you on this one. I've been embroiled in a battle with the City over the demise of the city sponsored compost program. It was only a pilot program - 3000 homes, but it was wildly successful. Unfortunately, budget cuts meant that it was gonna get the ax. A bunch of us complained, started petitions, wrote our city council folks, so they've agreed to keep it going, but they're gonna charge us $100/year to participate!

    I suppose it's better than just canning the program, but it just kills me that they want to charge people to keep things out of the landfills. I mean the city has to pay for every ton it puts into the landfill, but can sell every ton of compostable materials they collect... it makes no sense. I'm sure that there are other issues with collections & bins and staffing, but in the big picture it makes no sense... Heavy sigh.

    Anyhow, I'm on a mission to see if I can create only 100 gallons of trash this year, and without the compost program it's gonna get more challenging! I already compost most stuff myself, but I may have to borrow my dad's chipper and start doing the sticks and branches too.

    In terms of plastic recycling, sounds like you've got a better deal than we do. But the more research I do on this topic the more I'm convinced that plastics aren't really "recyclable" per se, it's more like they're "down-cyclable" because they lose quality with each generation. And some are much more difficult to do anything with than others.

    Anyhow, my current strategy is to try to re-arrange my buying habits to avoid plastic packaging as much as humanly possible, which is a mighty tall order! I just found a source of local milk in glass deposit bottles - hooray! I wonder if the folks at the deli department in the local supermarket would think I was from Mars if I brought my own containers for cheese...

  3. Rebecca,

    I hear you about the 'down-cycling' - all of the reading that I have been doing lately has served as a great reminder that the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) are definitely not all 'created equal'. There is absolutely a hierarchy there - and one that I need to remind myself of daily. I have a cupboard in my house that I post stuff on to 'remind' myself of important life lessons and I am thinking of putting up a hand-made sign to illustrate this important point.

    And speaking of bringing your containers for cheese, you have to check out this blog from a couple in Vancouver who made virtually no waste for an entire year... they brought their containers into all kind of establishments and no doubt received strange looks. I say go for it! I need to try to do the same thing. Here is the link:

    xo Maren