Blog January 24, 2014
Trash talk: Garbage, recyclables and waste collection at Evergreen Brick Works
divert more waste away from landfills (Photo: Michael Lawson)
By Michael Lawson
If you’ve had to throw anything out recently at Evergreen Brick Works, you may have run into something that looks like the above photo.
Although these are clearly recognizable as waste receptacles, closer inspection prompts a few questions: What happened to the familiar three bins we’ve become used to? What does “Mixed Recyclables” mean? Why is it purple? And where are you supposed to put garbage?
While answers to those specific questions are below, the big news is that EBW, in partnership with Toronto-based resource-recovery company Canada Fibers, is launching a new waste management initiative that will hopefully demonstrate a better way to prevent unwanted materials from ending up as landfill.
At the heart of the new approach is the Two-Stream System. Rather than the traditional, three-stream way of dividing waste—Recycling, Compost and Landfill (i.e., garbage)—EBW will now only collect two kinds of trash: Food & Wet Waste and Mixed Recyclables. But what goes into which bin?
Food & Wet Waste (Green): This bin is intended for pretty much what the label says—anything soggy, mushy, gooey or just plain wet. As you might assume, that mostly means food waste, but also covers anything that will disintegrate, biodegrade or—and this is a key point—soak other potentially recyclable materials.
Mixed Recyclables (Purple): Also known as the “Everything Else” bin, this is where you put anything that ISN’T wet. That means traditional recyclables, such as paper, glass and aluminum, but also includes materials you might normally throw in the garbage. The objective is to recover as much of this material as possible. And since food, coffee and other wet waste reduces recoverability, there is really only one simple rule for this bin: PUT ANYTHING IN HERE AS LONG AS IT’S NOT WET!
So how does putting recycling and garbage in the same bin help reduce landfill? The key is to rethink what we consider to be recyclable material in the first place. With the opening of its new facility in Toronto, Canada Fibers has launched an ambitious program to expand our notion of what can be recycled. The company’s goal is to recover what others might consider waste, thanks to advancements in processing technology. By taking all of the materials that people throw away—whether from blue bins or black bins—Canada Fibers already recovers 80 percent of the waste it collects; the goal for the new facility is to raise this to 95 percent. For the company, this provides material that can be reused and resold. For the rest of us, this means less stuff sent to landfill.
Evergreen is proud to help develop innovative solutions that will help us better manage the environment. That’s why we have agreed to partner with Canada Fibers on this initiative, and to be a testing ground for the Two-Stream waste collection system. So please help us out and do your part! Make sure to keep your wet and dry waste separated, and lend a hand by telling visitors about the new system.
For more information on Canada Fibers’ waste-processing systems, visit the company website or watch this video below:
What do I do with something that is both wet and dry—like a paper plate covered in food? Do I keep the recyclable plate out of the Mixed Recyclables bin just because there is food on it?
The goal is to keep the two as separated as possible, so wherever possible, you should scrape the food into the Wet Waste bin, and then throw the plate into the Mixed Recyclables one. A plate with a few crumbs on it won’t much affect the recoverability of everything else in the dry waste bin; a plate covered in soggy, sloppy food waste, however, probably will.
What about dry materials that are also compostable, like some coffee cups and other take-away containers?
The same rules apply: First, empty the contents into the Wet Waste bin. Then, if the containers are still soggy, put them in there as well. If not, they can go in to the Mixed Recyclables bin.
If the Mixed Recyclables are all headed to the Canada Fibers recovery facility, what happens to the Wet Waste?
Our Wet Waste is currently collected by Wasteco, a company with an excellent track record of diverting organic waste from landfill to compost. More importantly, we try to compost as much we can BEFORE anything gets collected: Evergreen Brick Works has two permanent composting stations on site, which are managed through stewardship programs and an army of amazing volunteers.
If you want to help, contact us to get involved!
Why is the Mixed Recyclables bin purple, anyway?
Well, we couldn’t use black or blue, as it might be confusing for those who already associate those colours with either garbage or recycling. Purple is the perfect mix of both!
Is there somewhere on site where I can recycle used batteries and other small electronics?
Yes there is! Evergreen Brick Works has recently become a collection site for Call2Recycle, which means you can now drop off used batteries and cellphones on-site. Look for the collection box in the Young Welcome Centre, just inside the west entrance—and make sure you use the bags provided when you put your batteries inside!