Thursday, April 28, 2016

51,000 TVs

Last night I visited the City's 2016 Master Composter/Recycler class -- a room full of marvellous people who have volunteered to learn about composting and recycling and to share what they learn with their neighbours to reduce waste in Edmonton. Walking Shadow-pup around our neighbourhoods, I am often appalled by the litter and dumping that I find in ravines and back alleys, so for me it's good to balance that frustration by spending time with other like-minded folks who care enough to keep our world clean.

It's also wonderful to have the opportunity to have a little update of my own training as an MCR, and to learn about how our city adapts its waste collection as neighbourhoods and seasons change. Right now, we're in a heavy time for waste collectors, some of whom load ten tonnes of garbage on their trucks in a day (twice!) with stops averaging between 28-36 seconds per home, believe it or not! Last night's class was all about what they do -- and a good reminder of how hard they work and how important it is to set garbage out so that it's safe for them to do their jobs. Here's a little reminder that I've shared before that's especially important in a heavy waste time of the year...

And here are five things to consider for the sake of your trash collector:

1. Ensure easy access to your garbage area. If in an alleyway, keep the path between truck and cans clear. If on a street, put trash on the curb and try to keep vehicles parked away from collection points so the guys and gals don't have to walk extra steps. (They get enough exercise jumping on and off their trucks thousands of times a day!)

2. Make sure your cans have fixed handles and no wheels, both of which can cause injuries to collectors.

3. Keeping bags under 40 lbs (20 kg) also saves backs. And no cans larger than 77 litres...

4. Sharp things should be packaged in a way that they can't cut collectors. Put broken glass and other sharp items into labelled, puncture-proof boxes or containers.

5. Grasscycle and compost if you can. Our collectors really don't mind picking up FEWER grass clippings and leaves.

And what about the 51, 000 TVs that Edmontonians throw away every year (yes, you read that right -- 51,000!)? They need to be taken to an Ecostation -- as does any other other electronic item. Sean, our speaker last night, showed a few interesting pictures where people left large flat screen TVs sitting in the alley (along with various and sundry large furniture items) for their lone collector to pick up. Of course, that's an impossibility! It only brings a visit from City staff to let the owner know that a single garbage collector can't load a home's contents onto his truck, and that really, it's the owner's responsibility to take large items to the dump or Ecostation. The Ambleside and Kennedale Stations in Edmonton have Reuse Areas for furniture that's in good condition and shouldn't really go to the landfill. So I'm guessing that maybe some of those 51,000 TVs could be saved!

As I shared with the new Master Composter Recycler class last night, waste is actually a Social Justice Issue. With 7.4 billion of us on the planet, we all need to think more deeply about the impacts of our resource use. As consumers and human beings, every choice we make matters -- not only to the fullness of our landfills, but to our human and non-human brothers and sisters in this web of life that we share.

When we use resources poorly, the people who work to make the things we use are not being properly honoured. When we throw things away before their time, we are needlessly adding to the pile of trash that our planet has to try to reabsorb. And when we ignore the impact that our lives and our waste have on species around the globe, we are damaging our relationship with our earth and everyone in it. We are being unjust and unfair. It's that simple.

So when it comes to our trash, mindfulness is key. I suspect that if we all had to live with all our garbage around us on a daily basis, we would be pretty careful about what we buy in the first place! And we'd find more ways to employ the seven Rs (originally shared by MCR Gerda, translated from the Portuguese)...

For the sake of our planet, how many R's can we make a part of what we do today?

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