Tip of the Month

January to April 2009 Tips

January 2009: The Gret Coffee Cup Debate
February 2009: How Green is Your Valentine?
March 2009: Used Cooking Oil
April 2009: Earth Day

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January 2009: The Great Coffee Cup Debate 

With the recent media coverage, it's time to put a lid on the disposable coffee cup debate. Currently in BC, there is no recycling program for the single-use disposable cups. The waxy coating that makes the cups leak-proof prevents them from being recycled with other paper products. There is also some confusion around composting options; composting is only successful in extreme heat conditions within an industrial composter. Unfortunately, these cups will not breakdown in the typical backyard composter.

Disposable coffee cups are frequently made with 100% new paper material. The exception is some coffee cups that are manufactured with 10% recycled content and 90% new paper. The paper cups cannot be made with 100% recycled paper because they are too weak to withstand the heat of the beverage.

Another issue with disposable coffee cups is the plastic lids. The lids are a #6 plastic (polystyrene) which is not commonly included in municipal recycling programs. The #6 plastics lack widespread recycling options and are most often disposed of as a garbage item.

Due to the lack of recycling options for both the cups and lids, some cities are considering taxing or even banning the cups. Toronto and Vancouver are among the cities discussing options and alternatives to the disposable cups.

Did you know?
• The paper sleeves on coffee cups are made of 100% paper and can easily be recycled with other paper products.

What you can do:
• Carry a reusable coffee cup, which can be bought at most coffee shops. Many coffee retailers offer a discount for customers bringing their own mug.
• Take some time to sit down and use the reusable cup provided in-store.

Other Resources:
The Basic Problem with Coffee Cups (Sustainbility is Sexy)
Coffee get recycling reprieve (Toronto Star)

Controversial coffee cup proposal put on hold (CBC)
Debate stirs in B.C. over disposable coffee cups (CTV)

For information on this, or any other waste related inquiries, contact the RCBC Recycling Hotline Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm at 604-732-9253 in Metro Vancouver, or 1-800-667-4321 province-wide.

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February 2009: How Green is Your Valentine?

Valentine's Day is one of those fleeting celebrations that create tonnes of waste in the form of packaging and disposable or short-term-use gifts and cards. In fact, Valentine's Day is the second biggest card-giving holiday in North America. Nearly 200 million full-sized cards are exchanged every year, and, while it is possible to find cards made of recyclable or recycled paper, you have to look hard and many include non-recyclable materials which exclude them from your blue box programs.

Other traditional Valentine's Day gifts such as chocolates and roses use excessive amounts packaging that ends up as garbage, or require shipping half-way around the world to reach our stores.

This year the Recycling Council of B.C. wants to help you show your sweet baboo that you love the planet just as much as you love them. Here's how to avoid the traditional wasteful Valentine's Day gifts and show your honey you have a green heart by choosing one of these enviro-friendly gift options:

  • If you're going to take the plunge and ask your sweetheart to say "I do" with a diamond ring, then consider purchasing a ring with a Canadian diamond. That way you can be sure the mine is regulated for environmental safety and the employees enjoy work site health and safety standards.
  • Give a gift that requires no wrapping, such as a visit to a spa, or take your sweetie to a play or concert.
  • Create your own Valentine's Day card out of recyclable materials. Be sure to include your original and heartfelt stick figure drawing of you and your true love.
  • Instead of cut flowers shipped in from overseas, give your honey a Zone 7-rated, live plant that can be placed near a window now, and then planted in the garden or enjoyed on the balcony or patio as the weather warms up. 
  • Give your sweetie some flower bulbs to plant now and enjoy the blossoms this spring.
  • Bake some sweet treats such as cookies or brownies for your darling, in order to avoid the excess amounts of packaging that candy comes in. If you don't have a knack for baking you can purchase fair trade and/or organic chocolates and put them in a reusable container like a pretty, fabric covered box or decorative tin or jar that will be a keepsake. 
  • Run an errand to recycle something for your sweetheart. Take that old computer to be refurbished or to a certified e-waste depot or that bag of clothing that no longer fits to a thrift shop.
  • Share a bottle of local organic wine with your honey in an organic bubble bath, while basking in the light of BC-made beeswax candles.
  • Make dinner for your true love using local and/or organic ingredients and/or Ocean Wise fish.
  • In the name of your Valentine, buy certified carbon offsets, or make a donation to a green, non-profit organization.
  • Instead of a plush teddy bear, consider supporting an organization that protects local wildlife, in your sweetheart's name.

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March 2009: Used Cooking Oil 

Used cooking oil is a common product found in many homes, but its use does raise some environmental concerns. Deep fat fryers can leave over a significant amount of waste cooking oil. Used cooking oil poses a problem when disposed of down the drain because it can cause clogging, leading to water buildup in both pipes and septic systems; as well as introducing foreign pathogens present in animal fat to the water system. It is also dangerous to put cooking oil into the garbage due to some of the following: fire hazards, run off into local streams affecting marine life and liquid fat contaminating groundwater.

Currently there is no province-wide residential recycling program in BC for leftover cooking oil, fat and grease.

To ensure the safe disposal of used cooking oil, there are processing companies collecting waste fat and grease from restaurants and other large volume producers. Some restaurants will even accept small quantities of used cooking oil from the general public as a public service.

This used cooking oil can be recycled into biodiesel, different types of animal feed, fertilizers and other products.

It is best to keep liquids out of the garbage, and in many regions liquids are banned from the landfill. If local restaurants are unable to accept small amounts of cooking oil from the public, then it can be disposed of by one of the following methods:

1) By absorbing the liquid up with an absorptive material such as cat litter, sawdust, old rags, etc. Once the used oil is absorbed, the contents can be disposed of double-bagged in the garbage.

2) Cooking oil can also be poured in a plastic container and placed in the freezer. When the container is frozen it can then be put out with your household waste.

Currently, there are two municipalities in the Lower Mainland that have residential recycling programs for cooking oil, Burnaby and White Rock. These municipalities have made arrangements to have the waste oil collected by a processing company and turned into biodiesel. This biodiesel in turn is utilized for the municipality's transportation fleet.

What you can do:
Use alternatives to traditional cooking oils. There are various options available such as different fruit purees (i.e. mashed apple and bananas) or yoghurt. These are also good alternatives when baking muffins, cakes and other desserts.
Remember, if you do have used cooking oil, disposed of it responsibly and call the Recycling Hotline for options at 604-732-9253 in the Lower Mainland, or 1-800-667-4321 province-wide.

Did you know that...?
10,000 tonnes of animal by-products such as fat, grease and cooking oil can be rendered into enough biofuel to fill approximately 1,000 trucks.

For more information on cooking oil recycling:
West Coast Reduction Ltd.
ERM Biosource
City of Burnaby

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April 2009: Earth Day

This year marks the 39th anniversary of Earth Day. Celebrating Earth Day is a great way to bring attention to the affects our daily activities have on the planet. The official day of celebration is on April 22nd and presents the perfect opportunity to put eco-friendly changes into action. Try these tips on Earth Day and year-round to keep our planet in good shape!

  • Get involved with a local environmental group. There are many organizations looking for volunteers to help educate the public on various environmental issues, including climate change, waste reduction, or protecting our waterways.
  • Buy less stuff. Impulse buys usually result in material being disposed of sooner rather than later. Make well-informed purchases to get the most use out of your items
  • Cut back on hot water use. By washing your clothes in cold water, insulating your hot water tank, and installing a low flow showerhead you can reduce household energy consumption by over 30%.
  • Reduce the amount of water used for lawn care. An established lawn needs only 2.5cm of water a week, that's about one hour of sprinkling. And remember to water within local restrictions.
  • Reduce organic waste. On average, organic material constitutes over 40% of waste in BC landfills. Do your part by getting a backyard composter or a worm bin. Call the RCBC Recycling Hotline to find out how to get started!
  • Grasscycle by leaving grass clippings on your lawn. The clippings will break down into fertilizer and provide valuable nutrients to your lawn.
    Purchase locally. Locally produced goods are often available with minimal packaging and travel less distance reducing carbon emissions.
  • Avoid purchasing products that have excessive packaging and remember to purchase products whose packaging is accepted in your municipal recycling program.
  • Create "green" cleaners with minimal environmental impact using common household products such as vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda. For recipes visit RCBC's Toxic Toolkit.
  • Get involved with an auto co-operative, use transit and/or use a bicycle for transportation. If the distance is right then go for a walk!

With these small steps, we can all make a difference - Happy Earth Day!
For additional information, contact the RCBC Recycling Hotline, Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, and Saturdays 9am to 4pm at 604-732-9253 (Lower Mainland) or 1-800-667-4321 (province-wide).

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