Thursday, September 11, 2008

60 Percent Campaign – Garbage! My Revolution

Our new garbage bin arrived this week. It’s very cute - tiny - and part of Target 70, the City of Toronto’s plan to divert 70 percent of our garbage from Michigan’s landfill by 2010. Under Target 70, those who ‘need’ extra large bins pay $190 per year for their flagrant excess. Those who use the small bins receive a $10 credit per year.

In celebration of our adorable garbage bin, Jane and I plan not to use it.

That’s right…we’re about to take…the no-garbage plunge.

From October 1 to December 31, Jane and I vow to produce no non-recyclable garbage. Ok – we vow to produce just one bag of garbage that can easily fit into our small garbage bin. I’ll explain the one-bag-of-garbage later.

I’ve been thinking about this challenge for months after seeing Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home at the Hot Docs Festival. The documentary follows a Toronto family who store their solid waste in their garage during the three months leading to Christmas. Surprise surprise, we learn that the average family generates an excessive amount of waste.

What I found particularly moving in the film is the plight of the people in a town just outside of Detroit, Michigan who live near the landfill. Five years ago Toronto signed a deal with the landfill company. Canadian dump trucks have been pouring in ever since. The townspeople did not approve of this deal. And why would they? They are left with the disgusting smell, illness and plummeting value of their properties.

People must have a say on what goes on in their communities. And no one should have to deal with other people’s garbage. Out of sight out of mind is a recipe for environmental disaster. Happily, the people of Michigan pressured their representatives to place a hefty price tag on out-of-State refuse, which prompted Toronto to devise Target 70.

After seeing the film, I thought about a potential sequel - the featured family commits to producing no garbage over three months. And then I thought – I should commit to that challenge. With some trepidation, Jane agreed to join me.

The Challenge
Ok – so just one bag of garbage. We will continue to divert most of our organics to our backyard compost, and other organics such as kitty litter to the City organics bin. As always, we will recycle our bottles and plastics and be mindful of what can and can’t be recycled.

What can’t be recycled can’t be bought. In other words, no plastic packaging and that includes that impossible-to-penetrate packaging on some products, take out containers, food products with plastic lining and anything with wrappers.

And we can’t cheat – this no garbage edict is to be carried into our work and social lives outside the home. Even the bags we use to contain our organic waste must be biodegradable.

We will be non-garbage producing machines…with one exception. Our cats. The cat food they so love has a plastic wrapping that can’t be recycled. Changing the food would be ok for Beau and Blacky but not for Bunny and Bear who are old prima donnas and could care less about their carbon paw print. So for them, we produce one bag of garbage in three months. It’s their garbage, mind, not ours. And that goes for the kitty litter, packaged in a plastic bag that cannot be recycled. Any sudden change to litter will spell a feline disaster in our household. We will, however, attempt to slowly change their clay based litter to corn based. It will be trail by error but worth the try.

To chronic the joys and pains of our campaign, I will provide updates on this blog. We may even be tech-savvy and videotape, or ‘vlog’, our progress. This should make for some stimulating footage…let me tell you. Stay tuned. To find out what others are doing to increase their waste awareness and reduce their waste, click here.

Next week…those elections.

In the News

Peter Senge's Necessary Revolution

Countries abusing human rights by failing to fight global warming: Oxfam

4 former PMs join call for climate change action

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