Category Archives: garbage laws

Hip Hip HurRoar (grrrr)

Alright folks, as you know, I now seem to only post once a month or less and there are many reasons for this.
-I have the best ideas for posts when I am laying in bed and too tired to get up and type them.
-I am a huge procrastinator and I waste A LOT of time on Face Book
-I sometimes make such poor consumer decisions now that I am ashamed (like individually wrapped soy cheese because the wee one wants it or the Styrofoam we ended up with yesterday because I forgot the say off the bat at the restaurant that we don’t do Styrofoam)
-I am really busy with raising our daughter, baking and cooking for ourselves and for barter AND launching my home-made natural body products (and crafts) line Hip Hip Horrah.
I’m going to say the biggest reason is Hip Hip Horrah (and the procrastination of it, if we are going to be frank here)
At some point in our no garbage project, I decided to make our own beauty products so we wouldn’t have single use packaging and so I could know and trust exactly what we were putting on and in our bodies. I made toothpaste, deodorant and baby bum salve, which we soon discovered was also good for body butter and lip balm for people of all ages. Then I gave some to family and friends, and people loved it, so I started to sell it.
Really, the whole purpose of making my own products was to avoid packaging. Now that I am selling it, it is all about packaging! When I break down the cost, my customer is paying for the jar, the label and in some cases, shipping. My time and the organic, natural ingredients cost nothing compared to all that. This is partially because I use the most environmentally and health friendly option for packaging(in my opinion ), glass. Glass can be washed out (boiled) and used again for the same purpose without downcycling. In fact, I offer people a discount if they bring the jar back (a return system) But it is expensive and when it comes to me from the supplier, it comes with bubble wrap (which I just discover I can give back to the shipping company to use again), and little wee bits of a Styrofoam like plastic thingies in the lids.
At first I was selling at a Grassroots level, but now that it’s getting beyond that, I decided I should look up rules and licenses etc. The system is not set up for small, garbage-free businesses. So much information is required on the Canadian labels, that I need to move to 2 labels on each jar so it is readable. Also now that I’m selling more, printing on one side of used paper,cutting out and gluing on each label isn’t viable, so I have moved to a sticker (with a backing that is garbage! Sigh…) I mentioned before that I had been reading Cradle to Cradle and William McDonough and Micheal Braungart suggest that we have to tally invention our consumerism, and instead of buying objects that we later have to dispose of, we lease or do terms of service and then the manufacturer reuses or upcycles the product. I see that something like that needs to happen here. For example, everyone could come to my studio (home) every Friday when I have made a batch of salve or whatever and I pour it in their jars. BUT then I am limiting my costumer base AND probably breaking a whole whack of health laws! So instead, I am doing what I really didn’t want to (and what McDonough and Braungart warn against), and I’m being less bad. I am choosing glass for my home-made natural products because it is not as bad as plastics or aluminum. I am doing a paper sticker and looking into soy based inks because it is not as bad as Vinyl etc. I will continue researching my options and improve as new options become available. In the meantime I guess I have to push companies and public officials to change the rules and create the products I want to buy (as well as a market for them).


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The nitty gritty

I’ve had parts of this post written since February 2008!
It is due time I finish it, especially in wake of the city strike.This is a really hard post to write because I am trying to keep this blog positive and I also don’t want to be peachy so I keep having to take out parts, and redo them. It definitley isn’t my best piece of writing, but here it is, the post about the shortfalls of recycling and industrial composting.
Recycling is completely different that reusing. I once talked to a woman who made crackers about the fact that she packaged them in plastic. I told her if I could get them without a package I would buy some. She got offended and said the plastic was recyclable so it would be the same, put it in the recycling bin and get new plastic-voila. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The bag doesn’t get washed down and used again. It gets broken down into components and made into something else. Not all of the parts can be used, so the rest is waste. Plus you’ve got all the energy and pollution from the trucks and the recycling plants. It’s not an efficient system. I’m not saying don’t recycle, but don’t just recycle. Reduce as much as possible first and then recycle as a last resort.
The other problem with recycling is that programs accept much more than they can actually recycle just to get people to use the program. If there is too much sorting to do, many people just won’t do it, so the idea is to accept as much as possible even though many of the items accepted can’t actually be recycled.Here is the guide of what can and can’t be accepted I was surprised to see that paper can only be accepted if shredded and put in clear plastic bags. Does this mean none of the paper we’ve been putting in the bin has actually been recycled? I need to call and find out. We do use both sides of paper, and we reuse envelopes, but still once that is done, quite a bit goes in the plus bin.
Styrofoam can now be accepted, as well as plastic bags, but both items are difficult to recycle and the end product is not in much demand. For example plastic bags are made into plastic garden furniture-there are way more bags than the amount of furniture needed. In my research, I’ve discovered the #1 reason for recycling plastics is actually job creation.
The city of Toronto has made a goal to divert waste 70% by 2010. There have recently been media exposes on how they are doing that by including items they accept in compost and recycling but don’t actually divert. The city denies this, but does admit to accepting things that can’t be diverted to encourage people to use the programs.
Composting (green bins)
It really saddened me to see how many people got rid of their backyard composters when the green bin came. The green bin should really be for people who can’t have the other (better) kind of compost and maybe don’t want to deal with worms (vermicomposting). We also use it for egg shells and our flushable cat litter because the shells attract rats to our garden and the flushable litter sometimes clogs the toilet. It’s best to keep things in your own backyard, literally. Pretty much everything (food, waste disposal, household goods) is better and more efficient when done closer to home. As soon as you have to deal with transportation, factories etc, the greenness turns murky.
The other sad thing is seeing how many awesome and smart people decide to use disposable diapers instead of cloth because they are accepted in the green bin. The problem is they are not composted. They are accepted in order to up the numbers, but they get picked out in the filter. I called to ask if maybe some of the inside cotton parts get composted and they were reluctant to tell me, but the final answer was NO. The diaper is basically completely filtered out and sent to landfill. It just took a detour to get there.
Before I go, let me say, I think Toronto is putting forth a valiant effort in trying to divert waste. I just think we all need more information about exactly what is happening, and we need to remember that the first step is reducing. The idea of diverting our waste is a bit funny to me too. I think first off we should try to make less, and then divert what’s left. If I were queen of the city I would impose a big tax on garbage. Then people start leaving their packaging at the store and the stores start pressuring the producers and less packaging is made. I am not actually a genius. This is the exact model Germany used.

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Lighting ban leaves migraine sufferers in the dark

I try to keep this blog positive. It is about what I can do personally about the environmental situation (mostly the garbage problem.) I also don’t like to criticize other people’s efforts because I think every effort makes a difference. That being said, I don’t think that applies to the government and politics. Today I saw an article in the Metro (which I generally try to avoid because it often makes me angry) that I have to complain about. The headline is FEDS FLICK THE SWITCH and it is about Canada’s plan to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012. I think it is a terrible idea. The article itself explains that “The ban on light bulbs will not bring a major reduction in Canada’s total emissions-probably less that one percent. But it is still seen as significant because it signals a willingness by the government to impose binding regulations…. It also allows the government to tap into a strong desire by voters to do something practical to contribute to environmental well-being.”

It’s another pacifier like recycling. It’s the government saying, “How can we not really change any thing important but make people feel like we have so we can get votes?” “How can we pretend to care about global warming without changing our way of life?”

URRRRRRG!!!! The reason I am really mad about this is partially, of course, a personal one. I am a migraine sufferer and even the newest technology in more efficient(aka florescent) bulbs triggers migraines. Switching to candles or old fashioned lanterns don’t work because they too flicker. This is not an entirely selfish complaint as I am not the only one who will suffer from this law. According to the Migraine Association of Canada, over 3 million Canadians suffer from migraines. There is a variety of triggers, that aren’t the same for everyone, but flashing lights are on the top of the list, and florescents flash. Supposedly it’s imperceptible to the human eye, and I’m not saying that migraine sufferers have supernatural powers, but I do know, we notice the damn flashing! It makes us feel like our head is in a vice! For for some of us, it also means we lose vision temporarily, vomit, have enhanced sensory perception so that ever little whisper and whiff of scent physically hurts. There are also LED lightbulbs, which I haven’t had much luck with( they still appear to be migraine inducing), but I should do some

This is not an entirely negative post. I do have solutions. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any other lighting options, but there are many other areas the government can focus on. I say, scrap this crappy plan and instead ban styrofoam, ban plastic bags, limit the amount of garbage people can put out and charge for it, limit the amount of water and energy we can use, limit gas, schedule a number of days per week that people are not allowed to drive cars. There are so many things that could be done that will actually make a significant difference and not involve depriving over 3 million people of light.


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Toronto finally clamps down on trash

Kyle was reading the Star yesterday and came across this article:

Curbing the city’s trash

Apr 06, 2007 04:30 AM

city hall bureau
Some call it a tax grab, but Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee, is touting a proposed trash fee, saying it will reward homeowners who recycle and use their green bins.

Details of the proposal are still being ironed out, but the idea is to give homeowners a choice between small, medium or large garbage bins. The larger the bin they use, the higher the annual fee.

Mayor David Miller wants the costs for waste disposal removed from property taxes under the plan, and it’s estimated homeowners would face an average monthly fee of about $15 for pick-up. De Baeremaeker sat down with the Star this week to talk about the philosophy behind the proposal.

Q What about the argument that larger families, because they produce more garbage, will be unfairly penalized and that downtown homeowners will benefit because larger families tend to live outside the core?

A There is some validity to that argument. A family of eight will produce more garbage than a neighbour who is a widow living alone. But I have two responses to that. To the family of eight, I’m going to give you so many options. If you have three kids in diapers, all the diapers go in the green bin. The food and scraps and serviettes all go into the green bin. We’re even going to recycle plastic next year.

So even a family of eight, I don’t think you’ll need a large can unless you don’t recycle. So this is a tax you can avoid, that’s the advantage of it.

My other response is if there’s an 85-year-old widow living in one house, and there’s a family of eight living next door, maybe they should pay more because they are using more of the service (than the widow).

We will be able to reward people with good behaviour when it comes to garbage pick-up.

Q And you’re saying it’s not a new tax? Some view this as a tax grab.

A It’s not a new tax. What we’re saying to everyone is we’re going to take it off your property tax and put it, like electricity, on a utility bill.

Q Are you envisioning a separate bill, like the ones we get for hydro, or water?

A That’s still being finalized, but you could have a separate bill, (or) you could have a water bill with garbage on the same one. It might save on paper, postage and processing.

There would be a certain fixed fee and then a fee on top of that based on usage. Right now, there is no incentive whatsoever for any of us to reduce our waste, other than being good citizens.

Q When do you see this coming into force if council were to adopt it?

A Maybe Earth Day in 2008 or some such symbolic date.

Q And the fee will be based on the size of the bins used, not whether the bin is half-empty or full?

A We can’t look into everyone’s garbage every week. We can’t get into that minutia of detail. We have a six-bag limit per pick-up. A lot of people, if they have an extra bag, walk across the street and ask a neighbour if it’s okay to put the bag there. Or you can wait for the next pick-up.

I think the city may have spring or fall clean-up weeks, where to be fair we’ll say on this given week – and we’ll advertise it, of course – you can put out extra bags. Maybe a May long weekend when people are cleaning out their garages, or fixing up their yards.

Q If your plan takes hold, might people be tempted to dump their garbage elsewhere, like on neighbours’ lawns, in parks, or near garbage cans on the street?

A People have been dumping their garbage in parks and ravines ever since I’ve been born, and will probably continue to do that. No matter what system you have, there are always a few idiots out there. I’ve had to build fences along part of one of my ravines because people at the back of an industrial plaza were dumping stuff.

Will people with their bags of garbage dump them? I don’t think so. There will be inspectors out there who will come and get ya and fine you if you illegally dump.

This is not a hardship…if you take your banana peels and put them in a green bin, and take your Shreddies box and put it in the recycling bin, there’s nothing left for you to put in your garbage can. So only the most extremely lazy or uncaring person would resort to doing midnight runs to dump their garbage on a neighbour’s lawn or in a park.

My sense right now is that the public will be overwhelmingly in support of this, because on the up-side, why should someone who religiously recycles, and diverts and composts, pay the same as the bum across the street who never uses his green bin?

I think it’s an awesome idea and I hope the bill is passed. The only questions I had were: What about people in apartments, and what about houses that are divided into apartments? Because we make very little trash, we wouldn’t have to worry about paying much if we owned property, but the fact is that we rent. We share a house with 4 other family units who all make quite a bit of garbage, and we have also noticed that the neighbour use our garbage bins. Because there is often empty space, they fill it up with their garbage. I suppose we would just put the kabosh on that once this law was in place. I do think the law will help to reduce a lot of garbage, but what can we do about the rest of the city dwellers who don’t own property? I mean would most people care if their landlord had to pay more because of them, and how would you track whose garbage was who’s? Also, I think we should aim to also cut down recycling. A ban on one time use containers would be awesome, but I know it will be a while. I guess I should just take one thing at a time, and this thing-this bill, is amazing. If it passes, it will be one small environmental victory! Yaaay!

When I was web surfing last night, I discovered that Dale Duncan has mentioned us in another article and it’s a really good one. Thanks Dale! She talks about how Tim Horton’s received an environmental award for helping with city clean-up, when they should have received a fine for encouraging disposable cups with their Roll up the Rim to Win contest, and for over packaging everything they serve. I couldn’t agree more. I like donuts as much as anyone but I have a hate-on for Tim Horton’s. Anyhow I’ve copied the article below because I’m not sure how long the link will last for. If you can, go to the article on Spacing because they have lots of live links to other important information, that I couldn’t figure out how to keep.

City Hall: Trash Talk

Cross-posted from Eye Daily.
It’s a given that the city needs to change the rules related to garbage collection. Right now, there’s a six-bag limit per household per pick up day (six bags!), and that doesn’t include recycling. With the new green bin and our now ubiquitous blue box, what kind of household needs to fill six-bags every two weeks?

If this couple can make almost zero garbage in one month, surely the rest of us can cut back on the amount of trash we take to the curb every week. To help ensure this happens, the city is toying with the idea of charging homeowners an annual fee for the garbage bins they use. The smaller the bin you buy, the less you’ll have to pay. The cost of the bins would replace the current fee we pay for waste disposal out of our property taxes. You’ve probably already read the coverage of the proposed scheme in one of the dailies. Reading Toronto has some good things to say about it here.

The whole thing sounds like a great idea, until someone brings up the fact that under this plan lower income residents end up paying more for garbage disposal than they did in the past. “Charge everyone $180 to pick up a standard bin and the poor person pays more of his or her wages than the well-off person,” writes Royson James in Today’s Toronto Star.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that if we’re going to ask people to produce less waste, we need to make it easier for them to do so. It’s sort of like Mayor Miller’s argument against putting road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway — he says he won’t consider charging drivers for using these freeways until viable public transit options are put in place. If we’re going to charge people for the amount of waste they create, how about also telling businesses that they have to cut back on packaging? How about charging fast food restaurants for all the garbage they export to the city’s street-side garbage bins and public parks? All this talk of reducing Toronto’s trash seems disproportionately focused on residents. The role that restaurants and other businesses play in the amount of garbage we produce is suspiciously absent from the debate.

And then there are the times when our biggest trash makers are actually commended. According to another article in the Toronto Star published yesterday, a city audit of garbage cans in parks found an abundance of waste from fast food outlets. Of the 572 cans examined, 303 of them contained trash from Tim Hortons. The Canadian coffee shop topped the chart in fast food waste.

I almost spit out my coffee when I read what Paul Ronan, director of parks for the city, was quoted as saying next: “Actually, Tim Hortons has done a great job working with us,” he said. “They do a lot with our annual clean-up days.”

Tim Hortons has done a great job? This is same company that encourages people to buy more disposable cups with its roll up the rim to win contests and has zero recycling in any of the Toronto stores I’ve been to (and zero information on whether or not you can recycle their cups even though, supposedly, they now have specially designed blue bins in locations across Ontario.) Instead of being commended, they should be slapped with a fine for failing to provide recycling in their stores. Better yet, why not have fast food chains pay for street-side garbage bins sans advertising, the kind that the city says it can’t afford?

Got something to say about how Toronto deals with its trash? The city is looking for public feedback on how it handles its garbage. For more information, check out the city’s website (scroll down to the third item under “what’s new.”) The deadline for filling out an official comment form is April 20.


Filed under garbage laws

In my Opinion….

Today was a busy day. David and Susan from the Gillian Deacon show came and filmed me making rice milk, setting bags up to dry and talking about making cards. That took three hours! It was cool though, and you will be able to see a short segment (I’m thinking 5 minutes tops) on the Gillian Deacon show on CBC. I will also be on the show in person. It airs Monday January 22nd at 11am and again at 2pm. If you tape it for me, reuse an old tape please:)

While we were taping, a woman from Global called wondering if I would like to voice my opinion on the city of Toronto’s recent statement that they will cut the number of grocery bags goes to landfill. Would I???? I would love to voice my opinion to someone other than Kyle (who has heard it all before)-that’s one of the reasons I started the blog-to give Kyle a break from my rants. Unfortunately, by the time I called back, she had found someone else. Instead, I will voice my opinion to you! Ooooo aren’t you the lucky one…

…Firstly the city wants to start a bag recycling program and then they want to aim to cut down on the number of bags being made. I say scrap the first step. Yes, recycling is better than sending things straight to landfill, but not by much. It expends enormous amounts of energy, and the actual amount of the material that is used again is very small- most is waste (not to mention pollution from the trucks and recycling plants). Plastic bags are particularly bad. The reason there are not more recycling programs for them is that the only thing they are used to make is lawn furniture-and how much of that do we really need in the world? We probably have enough existing plastic bags to last a few years without manufacturing more. That’s enough time for people to get used to carrying cloth bags around. I don’t think plastic bags should ever be given away for free. In fact, I think the reusable options should be cheaper -flimsy plastic bag $1.99, reusable cloth bag $.99. Bring your own bag and get a discount or points or some sort of reward. The city is also talking about having officers enforce garbage regulations and give fines. I think that is actually a pretty good idea, but I think they should give the job to existing city workers who don’t have much to do, rather than creating a whole new department…although if we were charging people for garbage pickup, per bag, there would be more money to play with. Kudos to the city for trying to make important changes though. Their hearts are definitely in the right place. I just don’t have faith in recycling. I think it’s an out we use- a way of redeeming ourselves for all our sins against the earth, but it’s not very effective and really should be a last resort.

Harmony milk called back. I had left a message yesterday that said (roughly) ” Hi. I’m Sarah McGaughey. I really love and support your company and all the good you are doing for the environment. I’m doing a project where I am not making garbage for a month and during that time, I can’t get your bottled milk because of the little plastic seal on top. There’s a TV crew coming tomorrow and I don’t want to give you bad press because I really appreciate all you do. Please call me back so we can discuss this….” So Art called me back to say he appreciated my support and he thought the garbage project was an important and noble cause. Basically because of very strict dairy laws, he can’t do anything about those trashy bits. They have to use a safety seal in order to legally use the reusable bottles. A few times he started a thought ” What I could do for you is….” and then cut himself off “Oh, no no then we would be liable.” The dairy industry is a tricky business. He was very, friendly, helpful and kind though and I strongly encourage other people to buy the milk in reusable bottles. You can get it at 4 Life Organics on Augusta, and you can also special order it from David at Etherea (Davenport and Ossington). I did send Art the picture of the milk jugs (thanks Jen). He said he would look into it, but he needs to get the bottles from Canada because in the states they come in Quarts and he needs litres. I’m not sure if the seal would meet safety standards ( a lot of our laws really have to change in order to make protecting the environment possible, but that’s a rant for another day). He also told me that they make a lot of keychains from those little plastic thingys. They are pretty cool looking-Kyle suggested making a necklace, but I just don’t know who would wear it! As I don’t need any more keychains and I don’t know anyone who does, I think I will stick to making rice and almond milk for the one hardcore month of zero trash, and I will resume getting Harmony milk and cream after. I think the goodness of the reuable bottle system, and the organic milk and the well treated cows overpowers the badness of the little plastic tab, but I will avoid it for the project to accomplish the 31 days of Zero Garbage.

Tonight, I went to a concert at the Tranzac. I got really thirsty, but they only had plastic cups so I drank from the tap in the bathroom and later I reused a friend’s cup. It’s not easy being garbage free in a bar-it’s too loud to explain what it is that you want and why.

That’s all for now. I’m working on a post about shopping but it’s not quite finished and it’s way past my bedtime, so it will have to wait.


Filed under garbage laws, groceries