Fun with Waste: Feasting on Food Waste

, , ,

According to a report prepared by Second Harvest, approximately 60% of food waste is wasted. On an annual basis, this adds up to 35.5 million tonnes. Of that total the Second Harvest report estimates that 32% is edible food that could be redirected to support people in Canadian communities. The total financial value of this potentially rescuable lost and wasted food is a staggering $49.46 billion.

To raise awareness of the amount of food wasted in Canada that is actually edible, the Culinary Historians of Canada recently hosted an event at the George Brown College Hospitality and Tourism Campus called Food Waste – Past and Present in which patrons were able to Feast on Food Waste. Tickets for the event was $15.

Besides feasting of food waste, patrons learned about the history of food waste in Canada from Magdaline Dontsos, former faculty of the Food and Nutrition program at Centennial College as well as a member of the Ontario Society of Nutrition Management and the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management. Part of the discussion included an examination of the modern-day adjustments that could be made to make food production more sustainable.

The Culinary Historians of Canada (CHC) is an organization that researches, interprets, preserves and celebrates Canada’s culinary heritage, which has been shaped by the food traditions of the First Nations peoples and generations of immigrants from all parts of the world. Through programmes, events and publications, CHC educates its members and the public about the foods and beverages of Canada’s past. 

Waste-to-Energy: where now and where next?

, , , ,

Bettina Kamuk, Global Market Director, Waste to Energy at Ramboll

Waste-to-energy is the use of waste to generate energy, usually in the form of heat or electricity. In many ways it is the ultimate in renewable energy, because it recycles what we have already consumed in another form. It is, therefore, a key part of the growing ‘circular economy’.

The idea of the circular economy recognises that there is a limit to the possibilities of recycling. Even recycled goods wear out over time, and further recycling is often not possible. We therefore need a way to deal with the residual waste. We also need a way to deal with waste that is not currently recyclable or recycled. At present, worldwide most of it is sent to landfill. This not only uses valuable space, but also generates methane, a greenhouse gas.

Waste-to-energy offers an alternative—and one with a useful product at the end, in the form of energy. In other words, waste-to-energy has a double bonus for the environment: it reduces greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. First, there are fewer emissions from landfill, and second, it reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

Understanding waste-to-energy

The first incinerator was built in Nottingham, in the UK, in 1874, and the first in the US in New York in 1885. However, these early incinerators usually had little or no capacity to recover either energy or materials. Modern incinerators are able to do both. Many are used to provide heating for local sections of cities. They operate to very tight emission standards so are not polluting, and often reduce the volume of the original waste by more than 95%.

The precise volume, of course, depends on what can be recovered and reused from the ash. Technology to recover metals from ash has developed rapidly in the last few years. A new plant in Copenhagen on the island of Amager, where the Ramboll office is located, is able to recover metal particles as small as 0.5mm across. This is far better than the previous standard of 4mm and is an effective way to sort out metal that is difficult to separate manually before incineration.

Waste-to-energy around the world

At next week’s North American Waste to Energy Conference (NAWTEC), I am going to be part of a panel session on international opportunities for waste-to-energy. The idea of the panel session is to describe what is going on in waste-to-energy around the world, setting out ideas and opportunities for event participants.

Around the world, cities and countries are embracing waste-to-energy, with a number of new green-field facilities being commissioned or built. For example, estimates in Europe suggest that new waste-to-energy capacity of up to 55 mio will be needed to meet landfill directives and circular economy goals. Several Middle Eastern states, including Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, have either built or are in the process of commissioning new facilities. New facilities are also being commissioned as far apart as Lebanon, Singapore and Perth, Australia.

In South East Asia, there is a growing move towards waste-to-energy. China’s government has made a decision to move away from landfill, and has already established a number of waste-to-energy plants, mostly using Chinese technology. Thailand and Malaysia also already have waste-to-energy plants. The Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have plans to establish plants in the foreseeable future.

Where next for waste-to-energy?

Despite these success stories, there are also parts of the world where waste-to-energy has been slower to grow, such as North America. This is partly because of lack of political will to move away from landfilling, which is perhaps what happens when you have plenty of space. It is also partly because there is less political acceptance that we need to move to a circular economy, with waste-to-energy as a key element. However, as this acceptance grows, there is huge potential in these countries too.

Today a lot of waste is still being sent to landfill or even dumped. The potential for new green-field waste-to-energy facilities is huge. Even in countries where there are already waste-to-energy facilities, old plants will eventually need replacing with modern and more energy-efficient plants. I think the future is bright for waste-to-energy, and I think there is growing acceptance that the future of the world will also be brighter for its increasing use.


About the Author

Bettina Kamuk is Global Market Director and Head of Department at Ramboll. Bettina is a highly experienced waste-to-energy project director and has been responsible for waste-to-energy projects worldwide, most recently in South East Asia and the Middle East. Currently, she is technical advisor for the National Environmental Agency (NEA) in Singapore during the development of the Integrated Waste Management Facility in Singapore planned for an annual capacity of 2 million tonnes of waste-to-energy recovery and more than 200,000 tonnes of bio-waste and recyclables for sorting. Bettina has been Board Member and Chair of the Scientific and Technical Committee for the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and has for eight years been chairing ISWA’s Working Group on Energy Recovery.

AboutRamboll

Ramboll is a leading engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. The company employs 15,000 working from 300 offices in 35 countries and has especially strong representation in the Nordics, UK, North America, Continental Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Ramboll is at the forefront of addressing the green transition and offers a holistic approach to energy that supports the sector on the journey towards more sustainable solutions. Ramboll has more than 50 years of experience in the planning, design and implementation of energy solutions, covering the full spectrum of technologies and all parts of the value chain from planning to production, transmission and distribution. Ramboll has worked on waste-to-energy projects in 45 countries, providing consulting services for 155 new units and retrofits.

Fun with Waste: Cartons to Carpets

, , ,

Serge Attukwei Clottey is the founder of Ghana’s GoLokal performance collective. His work explores the cross-cutting themes of environmental protection and social justice. His concept of “Afrogallonism is a celebration of the yellow gallon containers, initially used as cooking oil canisters and then recycled to collect water or fuel.

Found throughout Ghana and known locally as jerrycans, the plastic containers have become synonymous with serious water shortages in Accra, and block waterways when they are discarded. Their prevalence in rural and urban communities caught Attukwei Clottey’s attention. He began imagining them as objects of art, and then came up with the concept of creating plastic carpets from them.

Garrette ClarkUN Environment’s Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer in the Consumption and Production Unit, said: “Sustainability is here to stay. We hear about climate change, waste and pollution every day. And, we increasingly hear how people are living in new ways that are good for people and planet. Serge Attukei Clottey is one of these new voices highlighting our plastic waste issue through his art.”

Attukwei Clottey’s idea is to tackle plastic pollution, and create a growing artistic movement to raise awareness and #SolveDifferent. We asked him what inspired him to come up with his Afrogallonism concept, and his message for young people.

What is Afrogallonism, and how did you come up with the concept?

I want to find ways to inspire people to work with plastics, and recycling it in creative ways. Afrogallonism is a word I made up after working with discarded jerrycans for fifteen years, as this type of plastic takes a long time to decay. Over time, the gallon containers have become like my second skin, and I realized that the top of the container looks like a mask. We have traditional masks, but these are like masks of our time. Afrogallonism is the new Africa—the future of Africa, bringing to the forefront issues of water scarcity and the importance of protecting our environment.

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I wanted to think of a practical approach to the critical issue of plastic waste management that brings value to the country. It’s not just about collecting plastics, but sending a powerful message back to manufacturers: waste is becoming a problem every single day. As an artist, I want to explore and create a dialogue around the plastic issue, involving corporate or government officials who can support our work so that the benefits remain in Ghana. I face many challenges—including lack of space and even lack of African representation on a global stage. Some galleries are not interested in displaying African Art. My art is now getting international recognition because black people across the world can relate to the narratives I explore. One of the biggest challenges has been getting my community to understand the importance of my work, but this is changing in Ghana.

image
The carpets claim space and raise awareness of plastic waste. Photo by Serge Attukei Clottey / Afrogallonism.

Can you give us some background on the scope of your work?

I currently have about 15 young men and women working directly with me, and dozens of others who collect plastic waste materials for the project, and they are paid adequately for the work done. I can’t tell if this project is going to be the solution to plastic waste—but at least we are taking that step to act. We collect the plastic containers along coastal beaches, as well as at dump sites. You see them ending up on the streets and in the ocean. For me, the materials play a very significant role in my work and I take care in repurposing the plastic.

What are alternatives to the use of jerrycans that could help us #SolveDifferent?

Let’s focus on the product, and raise awareness among companies making plastic cartons and containers. We need to know where these plastics are coming from and for me, taking the issue up with companies producing plastic products is key. Manufacturers must have a bigger interest in where their products end up.

At the United Nations Environment Assembly, UN Environment is urging people to Think Beyond and Live Within. Join the debate on social media using #SolveDifferent to share your stories and see what others are doing towards a sustainable future for our planet.

Piling Up: How China’s Ban on Importing Waste Has Stalled Global Recycling

, , , , , ,

Written by Cheryl Katz, Independent Science Writer

This article has been republished with the permission of Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The original posting can be found at Yale Environment 360 website.


It has been a year since China jammed the works of recycling programs around the world by essentially shutting down what had been the industry’s biggest market. China’s “National Sword” policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century. The move was an effort to halt a deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that was overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and leaving the country with yet another environmental problem — and this one not of its own making.

In the year since, China’s plastics imports have plummeted by 99 percent, leading to a major global shift in where and how materials tossed in the recycling bin are being processed. While the glut of plastics is the main concern, China’s imports of mixed paper have also dropped by a third. Recycled aluminum and glass are less affected by the ban.

Globally more plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators, or likely littering the environment as rising costs to haul away recyclable materials increasingly render the practice unprofitable. In England, more than half-a-million more tons of plastics and other household garbage were burned last year. Australia’s recycling industry is facing a crisis as the country struggles to handle the 1.3 million-ton stockpile of recyclable waste it had previously shipped to China.

Communities across the U.S. have curtailed collections or halted their recycling programs entirely.

Across the United States, local governments and recycling processors are scrambling to find new markets. Communities from Douglas County, Oregon to Hancock, Maine, have curtailed collections or halted their recycling programs entirely, which means that many residents are simply tossing plastic and paper into the trash. Some communities, like Minneapolis, stopped accepting black plastics and rigid #6 plastics like disposable cups. Others, like Philadelphia, are now burning the bulk of their recyclables at a waste-to-energy plant, raising concerns about air pollution.

Even before China’s ban, only 9 percent of discarded plastics were being recycled, while 12 percent were burned. The rest were buried in landfills or simply dumped and left to wash into rivers and oceans. Without China to process plastic bottles, packaging, and food containers — not to mention industrial and other plastic waste — experts warn it will exacerbate the already massive waste problem posed by our throwaway culture. The planet’s load of nearly indestructible plastics — more than 8 billion tons have been produced worldwide over the past six decades — continues to grow.

“Already, we’ve been seeing evidence in the past year of the accumulation of plastic waste in countries that are dependent on exporting,” says the University of Georgia’s Amy Brooks, a Ph.D. student in engineering and lead author of a recent study on the impacts of China’s import ban. “We’ve seen increased cost to consumers, closure of recycling facilities, and ultimately decreased plastic waste diversion.”

The recycling crisis triggered by China’s ban could have an upside, experts say, if it leads to better solutions for managing the world’s waste, such as expanding processing capacities in North America and Europe, and spurring manufacturers to make their products more easily recyclable. Above all, experts say it should be a wake-up call to the world on the need to sharply cut down on single-use plastics.

Over the coming decade, as many as 111 million tons of plastics will have to find a new place to be processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China’s ban, according to Brooks and University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck. However, the places trying to take up some of the slack in 2018 tended to be lower-income countries, primarily in Southeast Asia, many of which lack the infrastructure to properly handle recyclables. Many of those countries were quickly overwhelmed by the volume and have also now cut back on imports.

Prior to China’s ban, 95 percent of the plastics collected for recycling in the European Union and 70 percent in the U.S. were sold and shipped to Chinese processors. There, they were turned into forms to be repurposed by plastic manufacturers. Favorable rates for shipping in cargo vessels that carried Chinese consumer goods abroad and would otherwise return to China empty, coupled with the country’s low labor costs and high demand for recycled materials, made the practice profitable.

“Everyone was sending their materials to China because their contamination standard was low and their pricing was very competitive,” says Johnny Duong, acting chief operating officer of California Waste Solutions, which handles recycling for Oakland and San Jose. Like most municipal recycling programs, those cities contract with Duong’s company to collect and sort recyclable waste at its materials recovery facility, where they are baled and sent to end-market processors. Before the ban, Duong says, his company sold around 70 percent of its recyclables to China. Now, that has fallen to near zero.

China’s action came after many recycling programs had transitioned from requiring consumers to separate paper, plastics, cans, and bottles to today’s more common “single stream,” where it all goes into the same blue bin. As a result, contamination from food and waste has risen, leaving significant amounts unusable. In addition, plastic packaging has become increasingly complex, with colors, additives, and multilayer, mixed compositions making it ever more difficult to recycle. China has now cut off imports of all but the cleanest and highest-grade materials — imposing a 99.5 percent purity standard that most exporters found all-but impossible to meet.

“Costs associated with recycling are up, revenue associated with recycling is down,” says an industry official.

“All recyclable plastics from municipal recycling programs have been pretty much banned,” says Anne Germain, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the U.S. trade group National Waste and Recycling Association. “It’s had a tremendous impact. Costs associated with recycling are up, revenue associated with recycling is down. And that’s not turning around in the next few weeks.”

The U.S. and Europe, where many cities have longstanding recycling collection programs, have been especially hard-hit. Decades of reliance on China had stifled development of domestic markets and infrastructure. “There are just not very easy or cost-effective options for dealing with it now,” says Brooks. “So if nothing is done to ensure efficient management of plastic waste, the cost-effective option is to send it to landfills or incineration.”

In the U.S., small town and rural recycling operations have been hit the hardest. While most continue to operate, rising costs and falling incomes are forcing some, like Kingsport, Tennessee to shut down. Others, like Phenix City, Alabama, have stopped accepting all plastics. Places like Deltona, Florida suspended curbside pickup. Residents in municipalities like these now must travel to collection points in sometimes distant locations if they want to recycle. Some are inevitably tossing their recyclables in the trash instead.

Most larger cities — such as New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon — have been able to either find alternative markets or improve and expand their municipal operations to process higher-quality and more marketable materials. But many have had to make changes, including dropping some harder-to-recycle materials from their programs. Sacramento, California, for instance, halted collections of plastics labeled #4 through #7 for several months last year at the city waste operator’s request. Residents were told to discard those items in their household garbage.

“That was a real eye opener for a lot of folks who love to feel good about putting their recycling in their blue bin and then it magically turns into something else,” says Erin Treadwell, community outreach manager for Sacramento Public Works. “We wish it was that easy.” Collection there resumed in November after a public education campaign on how households should clean and sort their recyclables.

In Philadelphia last year, when the city’s waste contractor demanded higher fees for collecting and processing recycled materials, the city sent half its recyclables to a waste-to-energy plant, where they were burned to generate electricity; the rest went to an interim contractor.

Displaced Chinese companies have announced plans to open new processing plants in South Carolina and Alabama.

Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association, a UK industry group, said these countries have struggled to cope with the volume displaced by the Chinese ban and were beginning to impose their own import restrictions.

Whether China’s ban leads to increased plastic pollution in the environment remains to be seen. “The plastic is now getting diverted to countries with a high risk of improper management and high leakage rates,” says Roland Geyer, an industrial ecology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and lead author of a recent study on the ultimate fate of disposed plastics. Still, China, with its high volume of imports, had been the source of more than a quarter of the world’s mismanaged waste, Jambeck says. So if proper alternatives are found, plastic pollution could actually decrease.

Some options are beginning to emerge. Several U.S. materials recovery facilities are expanding operations, upgrading equipment, and adding workers to improve sorting and reduce contamination so that the materials are acceptable to more discerning buyers. Duong’s Oakland-based company — which handles paper, plastics, and some metals — has modified its equipment and devised better ways of separating materials. The company has developed new markets domestically and in places like South Korea, Indonesia, and India.

And displaced Chinese processors have announced plans to open new U.S. processing plants in Orangeburg, South Carolina and Huntsville, Alabama. The companies will shred or pelletize things like plastic food containers to make products such as artificial plants and hangers.

“There is the expectation that we’ll be able to expand domestic processing,” says Germain. “That’s the good news. [But] you don’t build a new facility overnight.”

A variety of new policies aimed at reducing plastic waste are also in the works. The European Parliament recently approved a ban on single-use plastics, including plastic cutlery, straws, and drink-stirrers. Several North American cities, including Seattle and Vancouver, and companies like Starbucks and American Airlines have taken similar actions. And many places around the world now restrict plastic shopping bags.

“Reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place is the most important thing we can do,” says Lance Klug, information officer for California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. The agency has been working with manufacturers for the past decade to reduce the discarded packaging that makes up about a quarter of what’s in the state’s landfills, he says, adding, “We’re trying to get industry more involved in the end-of-life disposition of their products.”

Britain is planning to tax manufacturers of plastic packaging with less than 30 percent recycled materials. And Norway recently adopted a system in which single-use plastic bottle-makers pay an “environmental levy” that declines as the return rate for their products rises. The bottles must be designed for easy recycling, with no toxic additives, only clear or blue color, and water-soluble labels.


About the Author

Cheryl Katz is an independent science writer covering climate change, energy, earth sciences, and environmental health. A former newspaper reporter, she has reported from Iceland to Africa on topics ranging from new geothermal technology to rapidly warming lakes. Her articles have appeared in Scientific American, National Geographic News and Hakai Magazine, among other publications.

What drives household textile diversion?

, , ,

Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D., Faculty of Environmental StudiesYork University

In December of 2018, York University undertook extensive household survey testing/questionnaires pertaining to attitudes towards textile waste, clothing donation bins and factors affecting bin utilization.

This study was seen as the conceptual follow up to the Fall 2016 study conducted by the university, which was originally designed to identify the primary determinants to textile donations and explore possible impediments/barriers to participation. 

Salient findings from the 2016 study include: 

1) Unlike other waste streams, convenience is not the most significant predictor of household participation

2) Unlike other material streams (such as waste WEEE, or PP&P) households have a “value attachment” associated with their used clothing. As such, households indicated a very strong preference for ensuring that their donations were going to a cause they personally identified with (charitable, social, environmental etc.)

3) The presence of charity masqueraders results in significant confusion for households. This confusion was sufficient enough to deter household participating in diversion activity *Note: While there is no formal definition for what constitutes a charity masquerader, these are often operators who deceptively brand themselves in a way to suggest that they are a charity, without being transparent regarding the destination of the material or what is being done with the proceeds from the donation. Numerous communities across Canada have expressed concerns surrounding the presence of 3rd party bins, as they often do not adhere to regular service schedules or bylaw licensing requirements.

With these findings in mind, York University, in collaboration with Diabetes Canada and a coalition of charitable actors, partnered with municipalities across Canada to launch the first municipal textile donation program. 

The underlying premise of this program is that municipalities would designate preferred textile collectors within the community (often through municipal branding on bins, or some other form of official recognition), which clearly communicated to residents that “approved collectors” were adhering to best practices in funding transparency, accessibility and service standards. The intent of this municipal vetting process was to reduce consumer uncertainty regarding both the collector of the material, and the destination of the donation. 

Phase 2 of this study wanted to gauge how (if at all) household attitudes towards textile donation have changed, particularly in light of the formal municipal programs being offered in communities across Canada. 

Study design

Three broad geographic regions were selected on the basis of relative population distribution, proximity to existing (both branded and unbranded bins) and overall population densities to reflect medium – large urban markets. 

These groups were selected on the basis that they provide an adequate geographic representation of the province, and provide the greatest opportunity to interview the broadest cross section of both sociodemographic and socioeconomic groups. 

These groups included:

  1. Large Urban (Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, York Region)
  2. Urban Regional (Ajax)
  3. Medium Urban (Barrie)

Survey questions were organized into four main areas: (1) Awareness/Attitudes (2) Accessibility; (3) Motivation for use and (4) demographic information related to age, ethnicity, education and income. 

Questionnaires were pre-tested and refined prior to conducting the official survey. The pre-test allowed for wording refinements and changes to the ordering of the questions. The finalized survey was conducted over a four week period beginning in the second week of December 2018 and running through January 2019. Teams of two enumerators and one site supervisor were sent to each municipality for a period of four days each, spending 6 h at each survey site.

Questionnaire “booths” were set up in spaces with high foot traffic (namely malls, arenas and public commons areas). Enumerators were asked to approach members of the public, explain who they were and the purpose of the study, and requested approximately 10–15 min of the participant’s time to complete the survey. A five dollar Tim Horton’s Café and Bake shop gift card was used to incent participation. 

A mix of convenience and quota sampling was employed to ensure that survey participants reflect the relative proportions of Ontario’s population. Survey responses were recorded by hand and later electronically archived and analyzed using Provalis Word Stat, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.

A total of 901 responses were successfully recorded (out of 2422 approached) for a response rate of 37.2%.

Generally speaking, Likert scales using ordinal ranking were used to classify survey responses.

It is important to note that the data gathered from our surveys is based on self-reported behavior, and not observed behavior. Self-reported measures of environmental awareness and participation tend to be overstated. This phenomenon is known as the value action gap. 

A summary of select survey results are shown below.

Levels of Participation and Motivators for Participation

Figures 1 through 4 below summarize household responses regarding self-reported levels of textile donation and stated motivators for participation

Fig 1.

No alt text provided for this image

Fig 2. 

No alt text provided for this image

 Fig 3. 

No alt text provided for this image

Fig 4.

No alt text provided for this image

 Consistent with the findings from the 2016 survey, surveyed households report participating in textile donation to some degree (at least once every three months) , with the most popular reuse method being “hand me downs” to relatives and friends. The primary motivator for making a donation was rooted in altruistic motives “helping less fortunate”, or providing assistance to members of a broader kinship network. 

Of note, donations made to a clothing drop off bin or a physical retail site accounted for approximately half of all used textiles reported by our respondents. 

Credibility and Awareness

The majority of survey respondents indicated that having “municipally approved branding” (on clothing donation bins, in the store etc.) would directly incent participation, by reducing uncertainty regarding the operator and destination of donated material (as shown in figures 5 and 6). 

More than 65% of all respondents agreed (or strongly agreed) that municipally branded bins would encourage them to donate more, while 60% of all respondents felt that municipal branding reduced uncertainty. As noted in the 2016 study, uncertainty regarding what happens to a donation is sufficient to discourage diversion behavior, as households want to feel that their donations are being used in a socially, environmentally and economically responsible way.  

Fig 5. 

No alt text provided for this image

Fig 6. 

No alt text provided for this image

 Of note in figure 7, households still have extreme difficulty distinguishing between charitable and non-charitable bins, exacerbating the confusion and frustration on the part of the consumer regarding who are legitimate collectors, and who are charitable masqueraders. This ultimately impedes household participation in textile diversion initiatives, as shown in Figure 8. 

Fig 7. 

No alt text provided for this image

Fig 8.

No alt text provided for this image

Responsibilities of Municipalities and Retailers in educating the public about textile diversion

Perhaps the most salient finding from the follow up study is that households feel that both the retailer (steward selling the clothes) and municipalities bare a shared responsibility in educating households about what to do with textiles at end of life (as shown in figures 9-10)

Fig 9. 

No alt text provided for this image

Fig 10. 

No alt text provided for this image

Lack of Access/Opportunity

Despite efforts on the part of both municipalities and clothing collectors, majority of survey respondents indicated that they did have readily available access to clothing donation bins (or other drop off points) in their neighborhoods. 

This suggests that clothing collectors continue to work with municipalities in placing collection points in high density, well trafficked areas to maximize access for the public. 

Fig 11. 

No alt text provided for this image

The full results of this study are expected by late Spring – the purpose of this pre-publication is to better understand what drives household diversion behavior, and what opportunities exist to develop economically, socially and environmentally desirable collection infrastructure for used textiles.


About the Author

Calvin LAKHAN, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior. Calvin has worked as both a policy planner for the MOECC and as a consultant on projects for Stewardship Ontario, Multi Material Stewardship Manitoba, and Ontario Electronic Stewardship. Calvin currently sits on the editorial board for Advances in Recycling and Waste Management, and as a reviewer for Waste Management, Resources Conservation and Recycling and Journal of Environmental Management .

British Columbians and Nova Scotians are Canada’s best recyclers

, , ,

Written by John Mullinder, Executive Director, The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council

Nova Scotia might have the country’s highest diversion rate as a province (44%) but British Columbians recycle more as individuals.

Diversion rate per person by province

An analysis of the latest data from Statistics Canada shows that the average British Columbian diverted 377 kilograms of waste in 2016. That’s 60 kilograms more than the average Nova Scotian and twice as much as people living in Saskatchewan. The average Canadian diverted 263 kilograms of waste, the equivalent of about one heavy (50 pound) suitcase a month.

The “waste” includes used paper, plastic, glass, metals, textiles, organics (food scraps), electronics, tires, white goods such as fridges and appliances, and construction, renovation and demolition materials like wood, drywall, doors, windows and wiring.

There are some interesting differences between Canada’s two waste diversion leaders. Nova Scotia’s population is quite concentrated within a relatively small area compared to British Columbia, which would seem to give the waste diversion advantage to Nova Scotia. BC’s recycling results, on the other hand, are spread more broadly and thus less reliant on major tonnage diversion coming from just one or two material streams.

For example, while paper and organics are the major material streams diverted in each province, there’s a marked difference in their relative contribution to the provincial total. In British Columbia, paper recycling and organics diversion represent about one-third of the total each. But in Nova Scotia, organics recovery alone is responsible for over half (53%) of the province’s resulting diversion. Without that substantial diversion of organics, Nova Scotia would slip down the provincial rankings.

The data thus indicate opportunities for improvement as well: for BC to boost its organics diversion (it’s currently ranked  third behind Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in organics diversion per person) and for Nova Scotia to focus more attention on collecting materials other than organics (for example, it’s ranked sixth out of the eight reporting provinces in diverting paper).

Of course, better data, particularly on the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC & I) side would help. We believe that the diversion of paper in Nova Scotia is significantly higher than the Statistics Canada numbers indicate.

Diversion Rate for BC and NS
StatsCan Data



This article is republished with the permission of the author. It was first published at PPEC website.


About the Author

John Mullinder the Executive Director of the The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPPEC), a national trade association representing the environmental interests of Canada’s paper packaging industry. He has over 25 years progressive experience in environmental and sustainability issues. He is the author of Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News (2018), The Inconvenient Truth about Packaging Waste in Canada (a selection of blogs written between 2010 and 2018).

The Elephant in the room: Where are we going to get waste/diversion data for the IC&I sector?

, , ,

by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D., Faculty of Environmental StudiesYork University

Note: For those who may not be familiar with the term, the IC&I sector refers to Institutional, Commercial and Industrial waste generators such as factories, hospitals, hotels, manufacturing plants etc. It is estimated that the IC&I sector makes up approximately 3/4th of all waste material generated in Canada

Coming out of the CCME conference last month, stakeholders from across the country are starting to develop coordinated efforts for promoting a plastics circular economy.

As noted during the consultation sessions, there are literally millions of tonnes of plastics going to landfill, and we have reached a crisis point with respect to how we can work towards a zero waste future. There can be no more delay.

However, before these conversations can even begin, let’s start with a simple question? How much plastics waste is being generated in Canada for both the residential and IC&I sector (Institutional, Commercial and Industrial).

Based on the Waste Management Industry Survey and modeling done by Deloitte Canada, it is estimated that approximately 3.8 million tonnes of plastics are generated annually, of which only approximately 12% are diverted. This paints an alarming scenario.

But let’s dig a little bit deeper into how those numbers are estimated, and what data that it is based on. Without going into an excessively long technical explanation, the figures used by both Statistics Canada and Deloitte are modeled estimates. Due to the absence of actual data, stakeholders are required to use data analogs and proxies to provide an “order of magnitude estimate” – this is a perfectly reasonable approach, but it is worth reminding everyone that the data surrounding plastics generation/recovery in the IC&I sector remains extremely poor. There is very little consensus regarding who is generating plastics waste, how much is being generated, and how much is being diverted. The latter is actually an extreme point of contention among IC&I establishments, who claim to divert material using on site material management activities.

While much of the focus surrounding plastics waste has tended to focused on the residential sector, it is estimated that the IC&I sector represents more than 75% of all plastics (and material in general) generated. The reason for this paucity of credible and verifiable data is that there is no formal legislative requirement for the majority of the IC&I sector to report the quantities or types of waste being generated, diverted or disposed to provincial authorities.

In Ontario for example, only large IC&I establishments are regulated under existing legislation (which requires establishments to have a formal waste diversion plan and conduct waste audits). However, it is estimated than 80% of waste generated from the IC&I sector comes from small and medium sized establishments, and thus, fall outside the purview of existing regulation. This issue is exacerbated in other provinces which have no formal legislation that monitors the IC&I sector, and relies on voluntary reporting to keep track of waste generation data.

In short, the majority of the plastic waste being generated across Canada is not being formally tracked – which poses an obvious obstacle to understanding the size/scale of the plastic waste problem. Is the assumption then that most of this material is not being diverted by the IC&I sector?

On site recovery, reuse and recycling

Despite the fact that there is very little formal data for plastics waste that is being tracked, many IC&I generators claim to (particularly in the industrial and manufacturing sector), rely on on-site waste management programs to reuse and recycle plastic waste. True to the spirit of a circular economy, many producers use plastic waste outputs from one part of their production process, as inputs for the next. Anecdotally, many producers claim diversion rates close to 100%, as any material of value is reused, recycled or reprocessed internally. It is estimated that more than 50% of all IC&I material being generated is managed using on-site options. While this makes sense intuitively, it is difficult to gather any firm data regarding the quantities or scale of on-site material management for plastics. As noted previously, existing legislation does not require this information to be reported, and as such, any data that is available is left to the discretion of private companies and associations to share publicly.

Understanding what data we have, what can we do with it, and how can it be improved

A critical first step in this process will be deciding what constitutes “Good enough” with respect to the quantity and quality of the data that we will use to inform our decisions. Is it “good enough” to rely on modeled estimates provided by reputable agencies and consultants, or do we need to engage in primary data gathering with both generators and waste service providers (who can provide access to material manifests etc.)?

Access to data (particularly from the IC&I sector), is going to be instrumental with respect to developing effective policy and legislation for a plastics circular economy. However, we must also be weary of “information paralysis”, where a lack of data prevents stakeholders from making any decisions. As a sector, we must recognize these challenges and face them head on, but be prudent with respect to understanding what data we have, where it came from, and what we are able (and willing) to do with it.   


About the Author

Calvin LAKHAN, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior. Calvin has worked as both a policy planner for the MOECC and as a consultant on projects for Stewardship Ontario, Multi Material Stewardship Manitoba, and Ontario Electronic Stewardship. Calvin currently sits on the editorial board for Advances in Recycling and Waste Management, and as a reviewer for Waste Management, Resources Conservation and Recycling and Journal of Environmental Management .

Can-Am Recycling of Batteries Made Easier Under New Cross-Border Regulation

, , , , ,

by Jonathan Cocker, Baker McKenzie

The interprovincial and international movement of hazardous recyclable materials, such as used batteries, is already big business and will only grow in the coming years in North America. Internationally, no less than 99% of all (lawful) hazardous recyclables (and hazardous waste) exported from, or imported to, Canada are with the United States.

The coming restrictions under amendments to the Basel Convention will also strengthen and foster demand for North American-based hazardous materials recycling as transfers to developing countries will be increasingly prohibited. The soon-to-be-replaced Canadian legal regime governing flows of such materials, however, has not evolved to match the market opportunities.

What was the Problem?

For starters, there are two principal outgoing federal regulations regarding the movement of hazardous recyclables and hazardous wastes:

  • the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations (Export and Import Regulations); and
  • the Interprovincial Movement of Hazardous Waste Regulations (Interprovincial Movement Regulations)

These use different definitions of hazardous recyclables and hazardous wastes and mandate different movement documents, with neither adopting an electronic tracking system. The third hazardous waste law, the PCB Waste Export Regulations, 1996 set PCB concentration limits which rendered it incapable of facilitating exports to either the United States or elsewhere. As a result, there have been no PCB waste exports.

In short, a more commercially-responsive regime was desperately needed.

Growing International Alignment with New Cross-Border Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations 

The new Cross-Border Movement Regulations, in final approval stages now with a 6-month lead time period to bring into force, combines the three regulations into one and adopts single definitions and processes for both interprovincial and international movements of hazardous recyclables and hazardous waste.

More notably, the Cross-Border Movement Regulation also seeks to harmonize the adopted definitions with accepted definitions in other jurisdictions (including the US) and international agreements. In other words, the international flows of hazardous recyclables and wastes no longer allow Canada to mainly uniquely domestic (if not parochial) practices.

Clarity on Battery Recyclables and Wastes Harmonizes Globally

The Export and Import Regulations did not expressly address used batteries, creating uncertainly as to which types must be treated as either hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material. Some types of batteries were clearly caught – but there was uncertainly around certain categories.

The Cross-Border Regulations clarifies that all types of batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) being shipped internationally or interprovincially for disposal or recycling are regulated. Further, this expanded inclusion of used batteries is consistent with international standards, allowing the battery industry to more easily include Canada in multinational strategies for the resource recovery of these materials, while adhering to increasing restrictions as to where such recycling can take place.

Regional Battery Recycling Hubs to Grow?

With a growing move away from locally-mandated recycling towards open international markets for the delivery of recycling and other resource recovery services, the changes under the Cross-Border Regulation affecting used batteries could not have come too soon.

Further, circular economy laws imposing individual producer responsibility on the battery industry may well now allow battery producers to consider regionalizing its used battery recovery operations to best capture economies of scale without the regulatory difficulties in Canada now addressed by the Cross-Border Regulations.

_________________________________

The time is now for the North American battery industry to strengthen and extend their reverse supply chains across provincial /territorial boundaries and the US-Canadian border as the best available commercial strategy.

____________________________________

This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published in Environmental Law Insights.

About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of firm Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environment, health and safety matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. He appears before both EHS tribunals and civil courts across Canada. Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on EHS matters, an active participant on EHS issues in a number of national and international industry associations and the recent author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).

Ontario Government issues Waste Reduction Discussion Paper

, , ,

The Ontario government recently released a discussion document entitled
Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities: Discussion Paper
, which reaffirms the Province’s commitment to the 3Rs and diversion from landfill including Ontario’s curbside Blue Box Program, municipal green bin programs for organics, and other waste recovery options.

The 29-page discussion document expands upon the commitments made by the Ontario government in December 2018 when it released Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. The paper poses questions that will help guide future decision-making to divert more waste from landfill.

The Discussion Paper acknowledges that existing and emerging technologies are increasingly allowing society to recover and recycle materials back into the economy rather than sending them to landfill. This is helping society to better protect communities and keep the air, land and water clean and healthy.

The discussion paper outlines eight key areas for action:

  1. prevent and reduce litter in our neighbourhoods and parks
  2. increase opportunities for Ontarians to reduce and divert waste at home, at work and on the go
  3. make producers responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging
  4. reduce and divert food and organic waste from households and businesses
  5. reduce plastic waste going into landfills and waterways
  6. provide clear rules for compostable products and packaging
  7. recover the value of resources in waste
  8. support competitive and sustainable end-markets for Ontario’s waste

These eight areas of action are the steps the the government will take to make waste reduction, reuse, and recycling easier.

One key aspect of the discussion paper is the commitment by the government to making producers responsible for the waste generated by their products and packaging, encouraging them to find new and innovative cost-effective ways to recycle their products and lower costs for consumers. If the proposals in the discussion document are implemented, the transition to extended producer responsibility will increase the amount of household material recycled, while shifting the cost of recycling from municipalities – and taxpayers – to producers.

The discussion paper sets out goals, actions and performance measures and outlines how the government will decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and increase the province’s overall diversion rate.

The discussion paper is posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry for public comment. The deadline for public comment is April 20th 2019. The government states that the feedback on the discussion paper will help the province to move forward with a clear, comprehensive and outcome-based approach to reducing litter and waste.

Ski Slope on the roof the Copenhagen’s New WTE Facility

, , ,

The City of Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy facility has quickly become a popular destination with the city’s residents as it has a 600 metre ski slope on its roof.

The idea of topping a municipal plant with an urban ski resort won a string of accolades for the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The park itself was designed by SLA Architects. Two years ago the architectural model went on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In an interview with the Guardian, city resident Ole Fredslund said, “I live so close by that I could follow the development. I guess 90% of the focus is on the fact that there’s a skiing hill coming, so in a way it’s very clever. Everybody talks about the ski hill to be, not the waste plant to be.”


Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA

The entire WTE facility cost $840 million Canadian to construct. The facility sits on top of a plant that has been producing heating for homes since 1970. Work began on the facility in 2013.

Eventually, the entire ski run will be divided into three slopes with a green sliding synthetic surface, plus a recreational hiking area and an 80 meter (264 foot) climbing wall. Once the whole project is completed, the roof will contain ski slopes, green spaces and hiking trails. The slopes will have ski lifts to take people up to the top of the runs.

The innovative waste-to-energy plant can burn 31 tonnes of waste per hour while cutting emissions by 99.5%, which makes it capable of converting 360,000 tonnes of waste every year. Its total net energy efficiency of 107% is among the highest in the world for a waste-to-energy facility

The plant currently processes waste from 550,000 residents and 45,000 businesses and produces electricity and heating to approximately 150,000 households.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund designed and built the facility. It is owned and operated by Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC), a corporation jointly owned by five Copenhagen-area municipalities.


Image courtesy of SLA Architects