by Joselyn Morley
Very few of us can redirect everything that we use out of the landfills. Our society worships consumerism. Success is shown by owning more: bigger and better. In the eco-mantra “Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle,” the Recycling part is the last of the three. Recycling is obviously a great goal, but it’s important to remember that if we can avoid single-use, or expendable products in the first place, we have less to reuse or recycle. Before purchasing something, ask yourself if you really need it. If the answer is yes, then ask around to see if there’s some way of buying it used, or better yet, getting it for free if someone is passing an unused item along. If we can reduce our demand for cheaply made products, we can keep more out of the landfill. If we can use something that we already have, or buy second hand, we aren’t creating a demand. If we can buy something well-made, and avoid fast-fashion for example, it will last longer, and stay out of the landfill.
Admittedly, there’s an element of classism in this philosophy. Not everyone can afford to buy good quality items intended to last. Many people buy what is available, when they need it. Understandable. And standing in judgement of their actions doesn’t help the environment at all, because it divides people. The best defense against mass consumerism and waste is a united, helpful community, working as a group to change policy, habits, and the culture of more, bigger, and better. There are some things that are difficult to reuse, or recycle.
Earth Hub helps to keep some of these things out of the landfill, and connects people with a surplus of something difficult to recycle, with people who can reuse it. It’s a movement based on volunteers; others who share a passion for keeping stuff out of the landfill! Collect the items. When you have a few, send an email to the specific address for your city. You will be directed to a volunteer where you can drop off your bulk items that need recycling. Drop-off locations are usually people’s homes; people who share a passion for keeping things out of landfills.
Monetary donations from those who are able can help offset costs for collection. Some of the things Earth Hub helps to recycle include: prescription containers, used internationally for medical supplies; mascara wands, used for wildlife rehabilitation; pop cans, donated to raise money for Empties 4 Paws and similar animal rescues; big 4 liter milk bags, used by the Legion for their Leave the Streets Behind operation making sleeping mats; cardboard or plastic egg cartons, used by food banks and local farmers; broken and single-use crayons, lip balm, or glue sticks, melted down and used for various projects; old markers and toothbrushes, given to the TerraCycle Program; plastic bread tags and bottle caps, to reuse the plastic.
The Ottawa email is [email protected].
In the Kanata and Stittsville area, [email protected].
Some more “Rs” to keep in mind while working to a more sustainable system: Refuse, is to express oneself as unwilling to accept the culture of waste and disposability.
Reduce is to lower in degree, to bring down a bit, and to decrease our consumption and waste. Reuse is to use again when possible, including restoring or re-processing.
Repair is the action of fixing or mending, while aiming to acquire more durable items, and more things that can be fixed.
Rethink means to change how we approach consumption. Recycle, means to process something used into something that we can use in another way. If saving bread tags and milk bags is just a bit beyond what you can manage, especially when there is so much more to do and deal with during the pandemic, that’s ok.
If you do want to recycle egg cartons or prescription bottles, there is a place to do so.
Remember, we don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need many doing it imperfectly.