Please welcome volunteer and guest blogger Corinne Piech, who will be unpacking her experience working on one of SHB’s recent waste management projects.
On a lunch break this past summer, a Sustainable Hamilton Burlington (SHB) employee noticed how much takeout waste was being generated from just one meal. She then asked her team if there was anything SHB could do to address this issue?
Through this realization a new project, later dubbed the Resto Project was created. This project involved SHB volunteers surveying local Hamilton and Burlington restaurants on their takeout products and behaviour choices. The thought was to determine what restaurants were doing correct and what behaviours could be improved. What an eye opener into the world of waste! As an SHB volunteer, passionate about waste management, I investigated this topic further. Through this project I was able to ask basic questions about our waste and what “away” really means when we “throw something away”. I learned how complex this waste issue is and how much creative problem solving is needed by all levels of government and by the citizens of Hamilton and Burlington. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! I feel like this statement can be used to paint many climate change and sustainability topics. I for one realized how ignorant I was when it came to recycling, composting and garbage…and that is okay. My research started with contacting the waste departments of both Hamilton and Burligton.
I even went for a tour of the Halton Landfill. Landfills may be the coolest, saddest place to work. On one hand a lot of ingenious technology is at work capturing methane gas from the landfill and turning it into energy, collecting all our yard waste and turning it into rich compost. On the other hand, we produce a lot of waste! The waste management employees I spoke with were kind and supportive and took time to answer and explain the reasoning behind some of my most basic questions i.e. where the heck does a coffee cup go? Are compostable plastics actually compostable? And what actually happens to all our compost and recycling? I encourage everyone to contact your local waste management facility or visit their website, it is mind blowing the stuff you can learn!
I spoke with my Ward Counsellor, MP and MPP about this single-use plastic issue. My MPP, Sandy Shaw responded to my email and informed me that a private member’s bill has been submitted which would see to the immediate reduction and eventual elimination of many of the single use items involved in takeout packaging. Through my research I was put in touch with a group of amazing students from McMaster called the MacChangers who are currently addressing the single-use plastics issue. They were able to share notes with me after interviewing a city official. We learned that the city of Hamilton is imposing a single-use plastics ban in all city owned and leased properties by mid 2020. I am glad different levels of government are shining a spotlight on this issue, however I have yet to see a specific line by line action plan. I think clear guidelines and positive educational outreach campaigns are a necessity in order to effectively execute any future waste bans and bylaw changes. If an effective plan for reducing single-use plastics and waste in general is not sought out I am worried this will lead to much frustration and non-compliance among citizens…seen any black plastic and styrofoam in a blue bin lately?