A few weeks ago, I was invited to the Cochrane Eco-Centre to learn more about recycling in our town. I thought that our family was doing a good job with our recycling/composting efforts, with only one small white kitchen bag of garbage per week (for a household of 4, two adults, two kids *not in diapers); however, even I went away from the night with a few tips on how to do better. I also went home from that evening feeling dismayed.
We are not doing our best Cochrane.
Let me explain…
It has taken me weeks to write this piece because I was actually so upset by the whole event. During the course of our evening at the Eco-Centre, we went through garbage bags, fresh from collection that day, to see how much of what was in the garbage bag was actually supposed to be there? What I saw, what the group of us witnessed, was whole bags of NOT CARING! There was no way these households were trying… I mean, people know that they should be composting, right? Has this tidbit of information escaped us? Is it somehow still eluding a huge percentage of the population?
WHAT exactly is the problem here?
I get that some people do not have a lot of space at home and that having a designated spot for all the recycling, may not always be feasible. I also understand that you might not always know which bin to place your items in? But throwing everything into the black bin out of laziness — is not cool at all.
So I thought about all of this some more… and then I decided to start watching. I watched people get rid of their garbage at many pancake breakfasts and BBQ’s in town during Stampede. Kudos to those breakfasts who encouraged their guests to bring their own reusable plates, utensils and coffee cups. That’s the kind of thinking that we need more of, but through all of this watching, I realized something.
IF you provide the people with the tools to recycle in public, they will go out of their way to put trash/recyclables into the correct bins. (9 times out of 10.) If compost bins were provided at these breakfast and barbecues, people were disposing of their organics into this bin accordingly. At one of the barbecues I attended, where there was no composting bin to be found (tsk! tsk!), people seemed uneasy about throwing hot dog leftovers into the black bin.
If people willingly dispose of their garbage, in most cases, into the correct bins in public, WHY is it so hard to invoke the changes necessary by household?
What we all need, is a mind shift.
When I first received the in-house kitchen compost container from town, I used it. I eventually used it so much, that I was annoyed at how much I was using it, and how it was always filled up again and thus, needing emptying again. Sigh. (See, I truly get why some people give up! It can be annoying!) So what did I do? I turned my BIG garbage container into the compost container and made the small container for garbage only. I also introduced a container to hold all blue bin recyclables (plastic yogurt containers, glass jars etc).
After only a few months, the results were very noticeable. MOST of our household waste is recyclable or compostable and not that many things actually belong in the garbage. The thing is, recycling and composting are only the first step. While it is amazing that we are capable of recycling styrofoam (and yes, PLEASE bring styrofoam down to the Eco-Centre because Cochrane DOES recycle it), plastics and cardboards, it is kind of besides the point. The REAL problem exists in using any of it in the first place. We can all make a difference in HOW we consume and produce waste, by making a few simple lifestyle choices listed below.
PS – Diapers will always remain a competing problem, as they take up a lot of space in the black bin, yet cloth diaper affordability isn’t a reality for some families. At my Eco-Centre session, I did learn that the Town of Cochrane agrees that having little ones in diapers make meeting the garbage quota tricky. Please inquire with the Town of Cochrane if you have more than one child in diapers and they will see how they can help!