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Spring Cleaning and Waste Management

‘Tis the season for spring cleaning.

And what better time to get rid of unwanted waste. But what are your options?

The Region of Waterloo continues to initiate, innovate and educate residents when it comes to “rethinking waste”. Since 2017, all waste services were equalized within the region. This includes all townships which prior to this, had their own services and drop-off depots.

“This has just made things so much easier,” says Kathleen Barsoum, communications and waste coordinator for the Region of Waterloo. “Having one system for all residents is a much simpler solution and it has also helped cut down on costs.” According to Barsoum, the cities in Waterloo Region are of course much more densely populated and concentrated compared to their rural counterparts, but with all services being equalized everyone now has a blue bin and a green bin. “And it’s the bins that make a real difference,” she says.

Recycling is a proud tradition in Waterloo Region. The first blue box program was, after all, invented in Kitchener in 1983 by Nyle Ludolph, who said that recycling is something each one of us can do to help the environment. Since then, the project has taken off internationally.

Residents in Waterloo Region are encouraged to follow the two box sort: one blue box for containers only, and the other for paper products and plastic bags. “Sorting is so important,” says Barsoum. “And it’s so easy to do if you make it part of your daily routine.”

“The blue box is great because you can see what’s in it.” The Region provides stickers that can be applied to each box so residents know what items are acceptable.

“It’s so important to rinse out your containers and to never leave food product in with your recyclables,” Barsoum says. Contamination rates are less than 5 per cent and that is simply because residents are sorting in their homes.

Other helpful tips include placing smaller boxes into larger boxes, putting plastic bags into one bigger bag and then securing products (especially paper and plastic) in the boxes on windy days.

The Nyle Ludolph Materials Recycling Centre opened in April, 2012. It was the first community-sized sorting centre in Ontario.
Over 35,000 metric tonnes of recyclables are collected each year and are brought to the centre for sorting. Once sorted, the materials are sold and shipped by trailer loads to various markets.


The Green Bin

The green bin was introduced to the region in March, 2017.

“We struggled to gain acceptance of the green bin but perceptions soon changed because residents realized how easy it was. Instead of sending food waste to the landfill, we can compost it. It turns into excellent quality compost with no chemicals, just mother nature’s recipe. This compost then goes to farmers across southwestern Ontario. Farmers like it because it’s clean, high quality and has no plastics. It’s about feeding the soil, not the landfill,” Barsoum said.

“We’ve now created 0 per cent waste by turning it into a waste that can be reused.”

For Barsoum, it’s an exciting time to be in waste management.

“People are beginning to understand. We are doing well because our residents are doing well and that speaks to Waterloo Region,” she said.”

The use of the green bin also impacts climate change.

“Landfills in Ontario are not allowed to release methane. By using the green bin, we are reducing greenhouse emissions. It’s such a feel-good result of collective actions,” Barsoum said.

Over the last seven years, as a direct result of using the green bin, residents in Waterloo Region have helped reduce over 22,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The landfill in Waterloo, has been part of the region since 1972 and covers 320 acres. It receives up to 600 tons of garbage a day.
“This is down from 900 tons and it is because of the blue and green boxes which in turn, have expanded the life of the landfill,” Barsoum said. “We are very lucky to have an active landfill. Many municipalities struggle.” The landfill is one of 10 in Ontario which still produces electricity. It works with many partners including Habitat for Humanity and offers a variety of programs such as a bicycle program, paint, drywall and oil recycling and anyone can pick up free compost from the landfill site.
Barsoum regularly hosts tours and presentations.

“The message is to take responsibility of your own waste,” she says.“With all of the changes, people think about what goes in their garbage. It’s not just garbage. It’s a resource. Some people might say “well, I just have a little bit.” But every little bit makes for a big difference.”

Residents can drop off items/garbage to the landfill for $5. Waterloo Region also offers bulky item pick-up at no cost.
From spring to fall, yard waste collection is unlimited every second week.

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