Here at the GreenStep Solutions, Inc. headquarters in Kelowna, British Columbia, waste generated by local businesses can be diverted from the landfill in multiple ways: By being recycled at a regulated recycling facility, recycled through a mail-in/drop-off service (such as TerraCycle), composted on-site (at least with more ease in warmer months), or composted through one of a few different local compost pick-up service companies. Still in BC, theRegional District of Central Okanagan has put together a list of tips and tricks to help businesses manage and divert their waste – all without ever using the term “waste diversion”, too!
What about businesses that are located throughout Canada? What should you and your employees know about waste diversion and how to get this process of reducing and diverting waste streams started in your organization?
First, when you think about waste diversion, think about the ultimate objective being to keep waste away from landfills. Now, some waste can’t be diverted from ending up in a landfill (like stickers) but many materials can avoid the landfill forever (like aluminum or tin cans) and are even required to be recycled in some places… including lucky Kelowna! The ultimate objective is for waste to avoid the landfill, because by avoiding this fate, food, plastic, paper and other waste is avoiding a lifetime of oxygen-less compaction that not only releases methane gas but also eventually results in landfill areas needing to be expanded, resulting in further land impacts. In fact, some landfills have added up to an elevation suitable to be turned into a ski hill!
Next, you should consider other options for your business-generated waste before sending it to the local landfill. Remember: diversion includes many variations of recycling, composting or reusing – anything that keeps materials away from a landfill.
Reuse, reuse, reuse! Where possible, look to procure items that can be reused or refilled. Whether it’s the dishwashing liquid under the sink or the printer supplies, you can use containers and consumables that can be refilled and reused to reduce packaging waste. Single use items should be avoided where possible, and encouraging your suppliers to be innovative with their product return approach to encourage circular economy outcomes. Great examples for moving to reusable is using a reusable pod for your pod coffee machine, and encouraging your team to BYO coffee mugs for their to-go beverages.
Consider Donating Before Decomposing. The best way to divert food waste generated by your business is not to compost it, but to first donate it to people in need. There are ways for businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants to legally donate food within the guidelines of regulations. Lucky for Canadian businesses, the National Zero Waste Council is working on a new initiative to help connect stakeholders across Canada and integrate circular food hubs to help close the food loss waste gap.
Choose from Compost Options Galore. The second best option for your business-generated waste is to compost food waste and other organics. If keeping worms alive in your backyard or office is not for you, there are a seemingly endless number of options across Canada for sending that compost “away” to a place where regenerative soils are made for reuse and landfills are kept small.
Skip the Rinse, but Keep Recycling. One way to both improve your waste diversion and help conserve water is to skip the rinse before placing recyclables in the recycling bin or dumpster. All recyclables, no matter the waste hauling company, are processed through a rinsing stage once they arrive at a corresponding material recovery facility. Recyclables are cleaned by a fast and efficient machine before they move to the next stage. This means all our residential, commercial and visiting recyclers around Canada can skip this step and place all their empty – but dirty – recyclables into the bin, sans rinse.
Education is the Key to Success. Want to involve your staff and work on all of these initiatives to excite your guests and improve your operations, perhaps while reducing operating costs? Jump online and take advantage of some of the great resources offered by TRUE Zero Waste. Your business might choose to delegate one staff member to this realm and suggest a certification or utilize community connections available to your business – perhaps right in your own neighbourhood!
Written by: Kate Manzer, Sustainable Tourism Specialist