Reduce Your Waste

How to Reduce Your Waste-line

Ready to get started? The following actions are organized in order of importance, to help you create a good recycling system so that you can divert as much waste as possible from the landfill, and focus on how to reduce this waste in the first place! Waste = wasted money, so by reducing the amount of garbage and recycling you produce, you can often save money too.

Learn about ways to reduce your waste

The first step is to learn about how to go about reducing your waste. Remember the ‘three Rs’, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle? Well, there are even more steps that can help you to reduce waste! 

The waste reduction hierarchy from the International Zero Waste Council, helps us to think about how we can reduce waste before we even buy things, how to prevent waste by reusing (and repairing), recycling those things that we can’t avoid, and then looking at disposal as “garbage” as the least preferred option that should only be considered if all other options have been exhausted. 

Below is a description of each step in the waste heirarchy with guiding questions to help you on your zero waste journey:

Start by considering your purchasing actions and behaviours at home or your place of work. Are there things you can change to reduce your waste?

  • If you want to purchase something new, think about the following before making the purchase:
    • Is the purchase absolutely necessary? 
    • Can you repurpose something that you already have in your possession to serve the same purpose? 
    • If it is something you will only need once in a while, can you borrow it?
  • If a purchase is necessary:
    • Is it possible to have shared ownership?
    • Can you find something used that meets your needs?
    • Does it have a long usable life and/or can it be continuously reused?
    • Is it made from materials that are easily and continuously recycled?
    • It is made from materials that are eco-friendly and from renewable and non-toxic materials?
    • Is there excessive packaging or is bulk-buying an option? 
    • Is the packaging recyclable and ideally not plastic?

Here are some great resources to help with rethinking and reducing: 

For more resources on waste and recycling, click here, and click on our partners page for local businesses and organizations that can help you on your waste reduction journey. 

When something is no longer working or needed for its original or intended purpose, consider if reusing, repurposing or repairing that item is possible. 

  • For example plastic grocery bags or glass and plastic food containers can be used several times before recycling them, and old towels can be repurposed as rags. 
  • Many items that are in working condition, but no longer wanted, can be donated to a range of organizations or thrift stores
  • If something breaks, can you repair it yourself, or ask a friend, or neighbour, or hire a handy person to help you? 

Ask yourself these questions as you explore opportunities to reuse and repair: 

  • Do you reuse your products at your home and office?
  • Do you donate working things that you no longer want or need rather than then putting them in the garbage or recycling?
  • Do you repair, refurbish or repurpose products for alternative uses at your home or place of work? 

Below are some specific resources to help you with this step:

For more resources on waste and recycling in your community, click here.

For items that can’t be reused, donated, or repaired, ideally, they can be recycled, composted, or otherwise diverted from the landfill. 

  • Do you know what can be recycled and whether it can go in your regular recycling or needs to be taken to the recycling depot?
  • Have you labelled your recycling bins to identify what items can go in each bin?
  • Have you considered options for composting at home or at work?

For businesses and other organizations with commercial recycling pick-up, check with your hauler about what can go in your recycling bin. 

Below are some region-specific resources to help you with this step:

For more resources on waste and recycling in your community, click here.

After all of the above options have been considered, the remaining waste should be disposed of in a responsible manner, according to the bylaws in your community. Ideally, by this step, you will have eliminated or otherwise diverted almost everything, and you’ll have very little “garbage,” which needs to now be disposed of. 

  • Are you aware of the waste bylaws in your region regarding what can go into the trash and what items are banned from the landfill?
  • Based on the International Zero Waste Alliance, you have achieved “zero waste” once you are diverting 90% or more of your waste from the landfill. This is a great goal to strive for. 

Below are some region-specific resources to help you with this step:

For more resources on waste and recycling in your community, click here.

Best Practices for Waste Collection

The following best practices will help you ensure that you have the best setup for collection, separation, and disposal at your home or place of work. It will also provide tips on proper placement, labelling and signage of different waste bins/containers. Refer to the section below to learn about how waste is handled in your region, to confirm what you can and must recycle, and what is banned from the landfill.

Waste Container Types
  • The waste containers in use should be the right size for your needs. An overly stuffed container or one that is partially filled at the time of collection indicates that it might not be the correct size for your needs.
  • Bins should be placed near the point of waste generation, for example, garbage or organic waste bins should be placed in the kitchen. 
  • Bins should be appropriate for the type of waste. For example, bins for collecting organic waste should have a lid to prevent odours. The lids are important as they act as a shield, keeping the waste dry and correctly disposed of, ready for collection day.
  • Waste containers should be made of the correct material such as metal or rigid plastic that can contain the type of waste they are constructed for. 

For more resources on waste and recycling, see the section on Garbage and Recycling Services.

Signage and Colour Coding
  • It is preferred to use a colour-coded bin for each type of waste as this will aid in identification. Colour coding for bins may vary by region; refer to regional websites for further information. However, if you don’t already have colour-coded bins, you can simply add signage!
  • Well-labelled and signed waste containers and bins make it easier to segregate waste and help save time in resources at sorting stations. 
  • Signage also helps quickly sort and serves as a reminder on how to dispose of waste properly and increase recycling rates. There are a few different signage options available:
    • Simplified icons
    • Photographs
    • Icons
  • Put a label on each bin to name the type of material collected, and use signage or posters to provide additional information about what should go into each bin.

For region-specific resources to help you set up proper signage on your waste containers, see the links below:

For more resources waste and recycling, see the section on Garbage and Recycling Services.

Learn about how waste is handled in your region

Garbage and Recycling Services

The Okanagan Valley is made up of three Regional Districts, and each with its own rules, regulations, and waste diversion options. Furthermore, how and what to recycle is often different depending on whether you are recycling in a single-family home, a multi-family building, or at a business or organization. 

For more information on waste and recycling rules and regulations in your community, follow the links in the section below: 

Not sure what regional district you live in? Check out this interactive map for more information. Find municipal, regional district and electoral area boundary maps.

Additional Resources

Remember the ‘three Rs’? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The Waste Management or Zero Waste Hierarchy replaces this traditional approach with a five-step process where the most preferred actions are at the top and the least preferred are at the bottom of the inverted pyramid:

Visit here to learn what the Government of Canada has to say about the Zero Waste Hierarchy.

Below are some additional resources for you to learn more about the topic: 

It is estimated that in 2019, over 340,000 tonnes of plastic items and packaging were disposed of in British Columbia of which 40% originated from single use plastics. 

The small bits add to the pile! Follow these simple tips to reduce your packaging waste and save money:

  • When possible, refrain from buying food in small packaging. It’s always a cost-effective and environmentally sound decision to buy food supplies in bulk. So next time you want to buy fruit juice, consider the gallon packaging rather than those tiny 8 oz packs.
  • Replenish your pantry by shopping at farmer’s markets and remove packaging waste altogether. 
  • You may also cut down on packaging waste by getting your cleaning supplies at refilleries. They offer multi-use containers that you can buy and refill, or you can bring your own. 

Click here for guidance on how to reduce your packaging waste. 

Learn more about resources available in your region and how to tackle packaging and food waste by visiting the How to Reduce Your Waste-line section of our website.

The current linear economic model focuses on products, which are produced, used, and then thrown away as waste. In a circular economy, nothing is wasted.

We retain and recover as much value as possible from resources. It’s about using valuable resources wisely, and thinking about waste as a resource instead of a cost. Click on the resources below to learn more:

Environment and Climate Change Canada – What is the circular economy?

Ellen MacArthur Foundation – All things circular economy

Did you know that BC residents on average throw out 1 out of 4 bags of groceries that they buy? We would like to help you improve this statistic. Plan your grocery session and make sure you are not getting anything that will not be consumed. You could donate leftover food to your nearest foodbank or use a compact composter at your home or workplace. What is great is that the compost can be used as fertiliser in your gardens! Find out what, and how, to compost in the ‘How to Reduce Your Waste-line’ section of our website.

Below are resources for businesses to implement food reduction initiatives:

Everything becomes easier when you tackle it bit by bit. Break down your waste reduction goals and target one each day of the week.  You will be able to track your progress easily and achieve better results by following this approach. This also serves as a challenge to businesses, organisations, and individuals to reduce their ecological footprint and to come up with unique and creative ways to reduce waste.

Click here for some weekly ideas for Waste Reduction. 

Waste Reduction Week – Resources and tips for Canada’s Waste Reduction Week, including ideas for textile and e-waste reduction.

Do you know who pays for the recycling? Traditionally, consumers would bear the cost of their recycling as it was understood that they are the primary users. However, recently the responsibility has been shifted to the producers through the use of Extended Producer Responsibility.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an approach to recycling that requires producers, such as manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to take responsibility for the life cycle of the products they sell, including:

  • Collection, such as curbside collection or collection depots
  • Recycling the packaging and products they collect

EPR shifts responsibility upstream in the product life cycle to the producer, i.e., brand owners, first importers, or manufacturers. It supports waste reduction, reuse, and recycling activities. Also, it reduces the burden on municipalities for the physical and/or financial requirements of waste management by providing non-tax base funding for the programs. Learn more about the EPR program in BC, here.

Did you know Canadians dump 500M kilograms of textiles a year? Textile waste is growing in large part due to increased sales of cheaper clothes and the trend of “fast fashion” that’s leading to more garments being thrown out. Much of that waste can be re-purposed by repairing or by donating it. Here is a list of thrift stores in the Okanagan that accept used clothes:

  1. RENEW Crew
  2. Kelowna Women’s Shelter Thrift Store
  3. S.H.A.R.E Society Thrift Store
  4. The Salvation Army Thrift Store
  5. Value Village

You can find some interesting statistics about textile waste in Canada, here.

Fashion Revolution Week – Our clothes can either help or hinder our planet and its people. Learn more about the impact of your clothes through Fashion Revolution week.

In B.C., the recycling system is entirely producer-funded and operated. Anyone who creates, imports, or sells a product in B.C. is financially responsible for the recycling of that product. This “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) model is hugely successful. Our recycling goes to a material recovery facility where the recycling is sorted into different streams using fancy equipment such as electromagnets, ultraviolet sensors and air jets!

The materials are grouped and stored before being transported to individual recycling facilities.

Below are some additional resources for you on the topic:

Thanks to the successful implementation of the “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) model, more than 98% of all recycling collected in BC is processed locally. However, this is not true for the rest of Canada; most waste is exported to countries in the global south for processing. This is because it is usually cost-prohibitive to process it locally without the EPR model. In some instances, waste which is not technically recyclable also ends up being exported. There have been instances of dirty recycling or even hazardous materials being sent. Unfortunately, in the absence of strong legislation in the countries, the waste usually ends up in illegal dump sites or worse gets incinerated in open fields. Consequently, the cost to the environment for these countries is greater than the money earned from importing the waste. We might be responsible for the environmental degradation in these countries!  This gives us another reason to reduce our consumption and produce less waste.

Want to learn more? Please see the links below:

    1. Where Canada sends its Garbage?
    2. Illegal shipping of waste

A landfill is essentially a designated area where waste is buried underground. It is specifically engineered for this purpose to ensure the soil and groundwater are not polluted. Modern landfills can also collect and treat leachate – the rain water that accumulates and becomes contaminated as it travels through waste. When equipped with the proper technology, landfills can capture greenhouse gases which then can be used to produce energy or renewable natural gas.

It is not easy to set up a landfill and is a capital intensive process! Want to fill your head with landfill facts? Click here for an overview of different kinds of landfills.

In Canada, approximately 97% of the waste requiring final disposal is sent to landfills. This has tremendous environmental impacts, including the release of pollutants into the air and water. Ideally, we should aim to produce less waste to reduce the amount of landfills required each year. You can find more information on landfills in BC, here.

The waste sector is responsible for 20% of global methane emissions and 3.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. It is estimated that practices like segregation, composting, and recycling could reduce the global emissions from waste by a staggering 84%.

According to Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, emissions from Canadian landfills account for 23% of national methane emissions in 2020. The waste sector, including waste treatment and disposal, produced a staggering 3.2 MtCO2e.

It is clear that reducing these emissions is paramount if Canada is to meet its emission reduction targets in the coming decade. 

Want to know more? Check out the links below: