Tag Archives: Recycling

HandyGirlsYYC making a difference

HandyGirlsYYC is making a difference. This Calgary based group believes in giving back to the community. With group motto of living a simple life, using your imagination and building your future, this group of empowered young women are using “Handy person skills” to build  furniture from recycled materials for newcomers to Canada.

This week Zero Waste Canada speaks with Riti Leon about HandyGirlsYYC.

How did you decide on the name HandyGirlsYYC?

It just came to me and I thought it was cute since most of my team leaders are women, however we do have men helping in the project as well, so don’t let the name deter any men from volunteering with us!

Why did you decide to form HandyGirlsYYC?

Creating handcrafted items was part of my childhood back in Venezuela.  My grandma, my mom, and a few of my aunts are skilled in sewing and knitting, so I grew up seeing this as a part of our life, and I experienced how it brings a sense of joy and satisfaction to create something for yourself or others.  As for myself, I’ve made my own clothing, and little dolls made out of cornstarch dough.

The reason I created HandyGirlsYYC was to feel connected again with a community like that, and to provide an example to others of being able to have nice things in your home without a lot of money.  Also to feel inspired, have a sense of pride, and to pay it forward to new Canadians and low income families by provide simple and repurposed items for their homes.

As friends did you know each other before coming to Canada?

No, we all met through the downtown community and mutual friends.

What countries are the HandyGirlsYYC members from?

Venezuela, Mexico, Thailand, Eretria, China, and Canada

How did you decide to build pallet furniture?

Pallets are everywhere and using recycle materials as much as possible is part of our mission.

You have a goal to build 10 couches and bed frames for recycled materials. Have you been able to find the recycled materials that you need for the project? If not what do you need?

Yes, I got a sponsor, Re-Matt Calgary, who recycles mattresses throughout Alberta. The foam and the cotton for the couch cushions come from the mattresses and the pallets (Box spring base) are for the couch and bed frames.  We still need fabric (which needs to be new/unused), as well as paint.

We are also moving into making coffee tables with old tires and pallets; we are in need of glass for the coffee table tops (preferably recycled glass) and old rope and additional power tools, gloves, safety glasses.

Your goal to build furniture allows families to choose their own designs and even help with the building if they want to, do you see this as empowering people and would help build community?

Yes, the intention is to get the families involved in the process, learn a new skill, meet new people and contribute to their new community.  Building not only your own furniture, but also to help build furniture for others can help people feel purposeful and have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

How do you plan to reach families or people who may need furniture?

Currently I have been in meetings with the Syrian Refugee Support Group (Website | Facebook Page), specifically with Sam Nammoura (the group leader) and a few other volunteers in the group.  We are working together to understand the needs of new immigrants, who are living in small spaces and in rental properties, so that HandyGirlsYYC are able to meet their needs with our projects.

What skills and crafts did you learn growing up?

I learned resourcefulness, as well as sewing and cooking.

As someone growing up in another country do you see things you learned about as a child that you could teach people who have grown up in Calgary?

Sewing is one of the skills I bring to this project.  I am also learning to use power tools and how to work with wood, but I would love to find some people that could bring their expertise in woodworking to HandyGirlsYYC.  The idea is to help each other and exchange skills within the community.

Canada Take Back Garbage

In  2013,the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila intercepted 50 shipping containers declared to be plastic scrap for recycling sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris. Upon inspection authorities found containers filled with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers. The shipment was impounded at Manila International Container Terminal when the shipment was declared junk materials that could pose biohazard risks. The Bureau of Customs stated it is clear that the importer violated the country’s tariff and environmental laws.

The waste sat rotting in containers as outrage in the Philippines grew.

Under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are signatories, it is illegal to ship hazardous waste internationally, except in special circumstances.  The Canadian Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement in 2013 that the Basel Convention and Canadian domestic regulations allows Manila for the shipment to be returned “if they are found to be in contravention with the Convention or cannot be completed in an environmentally sound manner.”

In February of 2014, representatives from the Philippine consulate met with Mr. Makris to discuss the situation. Although the shipment had originally been flagged “because the consignee had submitted incorrect documents for the importation which has a declared value of over $220,000”, Mr. Makris  would speculate that “someone along the chain of delivery wanted to be paid off before his second shipment is allowed through.”

The issue of the rotting waste morphed into a diplomatic hot potato game as Philippine politicians demanded that Canada take back the waste shipment. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs  threatened legal action while Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, issued the statement, “Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in an email to The National Post, would state they were working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find and solution although “Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada.”

Environmental groups protested the lack of action. A petition with 25,000 signatories urged Canada pick up the garbage.

The shipper Chronic Inc did not pick up containers. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Bureau of Customs was investigating the 150-worker plant in Valenzuela City started by Makris to sort and sell the plastic he ships.

Greenpeace’s Philippine office released what it called a “damning exposé” — a leaked letter from the country’s Department of Environment showing that Canada and the Philippines were working to have the waste disposed “locally in a landfill.”

In 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday assured the Philippines his government is “developing” a solution to the shipment of tons of Canadian waste to the country, which has been the subject of diplomatic protests filed by Manila “I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed,” Trudeau said in a press conference.

Trudeau acknowledged that the incident in the Philippines exposed a “problem” that “needs fixing” within Canada’s own legislation “that we’re going to lean into and make sure it happens.”

“I believe there are loopholes here that were allowed to be skirted that we need to make sure we close, both for Canada’s interest and for our good relationships with our neighbors,” he said.

September 2016, Environmental and labor rights advocates on Monday wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ambassador Neil Reeder to appeal yet again for the return of the controversy-ridden illegal garbage shipments to its origin.

In lieu of the so-called “local solution,” they urged Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill the “Canadian solution” he alluded to in Nov. 2015 on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in response to a question raised by journalist Tina Monzon Palma regarding the garbage dumping scandal.

“The ‘Canadian solution,’ now more than ever, must categorically include the re-importation of the illegal garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” they said.

Is it not time for Canada to be part of the solution and not the problem?

Philippine Judge Alisuag   stated  “our country should not be made a trash bin by (an)other country,”  we at Zero Waste Canada thinks no country should be the trash bin for another country.

Apps Promote Recycling

Apps are an important tool to promote better recycling.

Smartphones have transformed the way we live our lives so it is imperative we adapt the latest technologies to make it easier to engage  citizens and solve problems including making zero waste solutions more accessible.

Communities across Canada from Halifax to Victoria are offering free apps to help residents manage their recycling and disposal needs. The apps come in different forms, including calendars and reminders for curbside collection and detailed maps that outline depots that take specific items such as paint, electronics or compact-fluorescent light bulbs. Winnipeg’s MY WASTE mobile app, as well as collection days and items recycled, offers instruction on how to recycle and what not to include in blue bins.

Provincial recycling organizations also offer informative apps. The Recycling Council of BC in partnership with the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC), the free app is a quick and simple tool that helps users find over 1,000 drop-off locations and recycling options for over 70 materials or products across BC. BC Recyclepedia App is available for both iPhones Androids, provides users a list of the 10 nearest locations to recycle your item, based on the phones location, as well as a Google map with directions.

EPR stewardship programs are also using apps to educate the public about their programs. Multi-Material BC (MMBC) is announcing its partnership with ReCollect, a BC-based waste collection mobile application developer, to create a new MMBC mobile application (app) for residents in areas serviced by MMBC’s packaging and printed paper recycling program.

Surveys of Canadian cell phone usage report a growing reliance on smart phones as the majority of users “do not leave home without it” and use the phone at least two hours a day. More than one in five Canadian households uses cell phones as their sole telephone service.

Smartphones are allowing Canadians to have information at their finger tips anywhere and at any time. According to Statistics Canada, 84% of household owned at least one cell phone. Canada is the fourth heaviest mobile data users in the world and mobile data traffic is expected to grow by 600% from 2015 to 2020(Cisco, VNI Mobile Forecast Highlights, 2015-2020).

The average smartphone user has 30 apps installed on their device and they have used  12 apps  on their smartphones in the past month.

People are using mobile to change all aspects of their life, whether it’s their job, travel, shopping, the way they communicate with others, and specifically trying to understand the world around them; recycling apps can help.

BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association

Guest blog post by Corrine Atwood, Executive Director, BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association

A View from Depots : Politics and The Recycling Industry

The BCBRDA ( BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association) has for over a decade continued to campaign for the creation of an “Independent Governing Agency / Recycling Management Board. This has not been a quick or easy campaign and we have enlisted the support of a significant number stakeholders and media along the way.

In the past ten years BC has had 3 Ministers of Environment and with the exception of a remaining few, a large turnover of MoE and other governmental staff. Fractured depot representation complicates matters. Government is reluctant to act on the wishes of fractured industry groups.

There has also been push back from EPR stewards who do not want an“Independent  Governing Agency”. The fear is that the Alberta utility model could be brought into BC and change the nature and power of some current organizations. An “Independent Governing Agency” would level the playing field for all stakeholders.

The Ministry of Environment recently sent out a request for stakeholder responses for “Proposed Amendments to the BC Recycling Regulations. The BCBRDA responded with a lengthy document that not only outlines our concerns with some of the proposed changes that were requested by EPR stewards but asks the question of why ours and other stakeholder requests for changes to the BC Recycling Regulations over the years were not included as part of the proposed amendments.

In the past, the BCBRDA has requested (and provided solid support from elected officials and consumers) increases to deposit levels and the inclusion of milk containers into the deposit system, the later only requires that the government recognize milk as a beverage under the BC Recycling Regulations. That fact that BC does not recognize milk as a beverage but that milk is listed in the Canadian Food guide as a beverage continues to mystify the masses.

Depots and other service providers also need effective dispute resolutions that are accessible for everyone. The current requirement in the BC Recycling Regulations covering dispute resolutions in contracts is somewhat vague resulting in expensive and lengthy processes for those wanting to access dispute resolutions.

Prior senior governments have had mixed responses to our requests. Politicians have stated that “any increase to the deposit levels and increases of container types into the deposit system would starve families and low income individuals who would have to pay more deposits out.”

The BCBRDA has always responded to those statements that “deposits offer an opportunity for all consumers to get their money back if they do the right thing and bring the containers back for recycling and that deposits provide incentive for people to collect and return deposit bearing containers thereby reducing litter” and “that nonrefundable container recycling fees and eco/enviro fees hidden or otherwise that are collected through EPR programs are taking significant amounts of money out of family and other consumer pockets.”

The BCBRDA maintains that there is a serious issue of lack of governance over the access and use of consumer and public monies when EPR stewards using the current EPR framework can develop their own funding model that includes unlimited access to consumer dollars to create large multimillion dollar reserve funds without any public consultation.

Typically businesses should have reserve funds but it’s the business operator who sets these funds aside out of their own money. If EPR was truly EPR the manufacturer should provide the reserve fund because in the event of business failure or closure those funds would not be returned to consumers. The EPR business models should also include fair and equitable compensation for work performed by their contracted service providers like depots, transporters and processors, but the majority of EPR stewards have not offered any opportunity for negotiation for increases in compensation in a business market that has seen record increases to business expenses over the past ten years. Commercial arbitration is time consuming and expensive.

Our provincial and federal governments are currently being criticized for their government and party financial polices and that has made some high level government officials take a greater interest in our concerns.

Through our efforts the government is now taking a closer look at the management of these funds. It appears we have strengthened our case for an independent governing agency or at minimum more government intervention to protect consumer dollars. This has lead to some backlash over the past few months from those who would prefer to see our efforts fail for a variety of reasons.

How can you help?

The BCBRDA has been made aware that there are efforts going on to further divide and conquer depot alliances in an effort to weaken the strength of our membership and influence. Depots now more than ever need to stick together in their representation.

The BRBRDA asks all depot operators to meet with their local MLA and ask for their support for an Independent Governing Agency/ Recycling Management Board, and to support amendments the BC Recycling Regulation to recognize milk as a beverage and to make further amendments to the BC Recycling Regulations by creating language that would enable affordable access to dispute resolutions. Take this newsletter with you to give to your local MLA. Ask for a written letter of support and to CC a copy the support letter the BCBRDA.

If you are a current BCBRDA member we thank you for your continued support of your industry and the BCBRDA will continue to represent your best interests. If you are not a member we invite you to join the BCBRDA and be part of a movement to secure much needed change to the BC Recycling Regulations.

The BCBRDA is an established association founded by depots 19 years ago and is owned by depots who are working together for a common goal. The BCBRDA gives depots an umbrella for a collective voice. BCBRDA membership is open to all. To BCBRDA’s credit.

The BCBRDA is a registered non-profit association and has been in existence for 19 years, founded and owned by independent bottle depot operators. Any depot can join and participate fully.

The BCBRDA is accountable to our members and operates as prescribed under provincial government regulations including annual third party financial and operational audits.

The BCBRDA is the face of depots and promotes depot and recycling industry issues to provincial, federal and international governments and other agencies.

The BCBRDA is governed by an experienced Board of Directors that are depot operators and an experienced Executive Director, working for depots 365 days a year, there for depots all the time. All members are encouraged to participate in their association.

Contract Negotiations

Every 5 years depots face contract renewal process with Encorp that center around handing fees and historically these renewal processes have included contract changes. The complications of negotiating with a monopoly can result in anxiety and frustration for depot operators.

To add to this frustration Encorp has stated clearly that they will not negotiate with groups. This exclusion of “negotiating groups” from handling fee renewal processes is something that depots agreed to on the last contract. Even though the BCBRDA has been appointed as legal agent for members that have granted us that privilege Encorp has chosen not to acknowledge rights of agency. Depots would have to individually enforce recognition of their appointed agent through legal action which would be costly.

A steering committee has been struck by Encorp to work with the consultants. The steering committee consists of 8 depot operators. Apparently only 8 operators volunteered to sit on the committee so Encorp has invited all to stay. To our knowledge the Steering Committee has not had their role in the process clearly defined.

Up until now Encorp has kept the handling fee schedule outside of the depot license agreements which is one of the reasons it was impossible to arbitrate the handling fees in the last two contract negotiations.

A BCBRDA and Encorp mediation in 2007 resulted in a signed agreement and set methodology for a Handling Fee Protocol for future handling fee negotiations and depots gave up substantial clauses such as “Best Efforts” in their DLAs for this Handling Fee Protocol. To date, Encorp has ignored their commitments under this agreement and refused to use the agreed methodology or be part of the agreed committee that is to be comprised of Encorp, BCBDRA and other depots to determine new handling fees.

Our BCBRDA Chair asked for the copies of the signed agreement and supporting documents to be distributed at the last Encorp Handling Fee Panel and his request was refused. BCBRDA members can ask for a copy of the Handling Fee Protocol. BCBRDA Members should also have a copy of the Handling Fee Protocol included with their 2007 DLA and CSA.

It was discussed on the Handling Fee Webinar that there are concerns that the Encorp may want any new handling fee schedule included in the new contract to avoid their responsibilities under the still active Handling Fee Protocol agreement.

Encorp’s Request for Depot Financials

Encorp is currently asking depots to submit their financial information to their third party for review in an effort to determine the costs of handling Encorp products. The BCBRDA is concerned about lack of methodology and lack of confidentiality of depot information. Confidentiality was breached last time and apparently has been again already this time as Encorp staff has been contacting depots to encourage them to give their information. Every depot is very different in their operations. Some are stand alone depots, some depots are part of a larger business, some only handle select materials, some enjoy regional subsidies, some get presence grants etc. The right mix of depot information is crucial to the handing fee process.

In Alberta a few years ago some errors occurred even with a unified chart of accounts. Some depots failed to list expenses properly and that resulted in a 6% roll back of handling fees for Alberta depots. Information is only useful if all the depots who submit it use the same chart of accounts reporting their information the same way. So far to our knowledge no one has been offered a template chart of accounts to use before they submit their information. Depots have only been asked to supply raw information for the consultants to chart. Encorp also wants access to depots other business activities as they will consider the compensation to depots paid by other stewardship programs when determining their handling fee offer.

The BCBRDA has over the years spent tens of thousands of dollars to work with industry consultants on handling fee methodology only to have Encorp refuse to consider the information and methodology once they agreed to it. The BCBRDA urges caution when sharing your financial information as once it leaves your control you will have no control over its use.

Ongoing BCBRDA Webinar Series for Handling Fee Negotiation Depot Discussions

The BCBRDA will host a series of webinars over upcoming months to provide a forum for depots to discuss the Encorp handling fee process and the process of contract negotiations / renewals with other stewards. Up to 5 webinars will be offered over the next 5 months.

Each webinar will bring forward information from previous webinars combined with new information that has been gathered form surveys between webinars. The webinars will be 90 minutes in length the first 45 minutes to discuss the Encorp process the second 45 minutes will be to discuss initiating a contract renewal process with other stewards.

A number of surveys will also be sent to depots over the upcoming months to gather addition information regarding depot operations and concerns. This information will be shared verbally and summary analysis for discussion with depots attending the webinars. The depot identity will not be revealed.


The next Handling Fee Webinar will be on Monday May 30th 11 am.

This webinar is open all depots but you must register by email before Thursday May 19th to receive your webinar link.

Cigarette butts – time for producer responsibility?

Is it time the tobacco industry takes responsibility tobacco product waste?

Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded waste product in the world, and almost 6.3 trillion cigarettes were consumed globally in 2012. Observational studies and self-reports by smokers suggest that from one to two-thirds of the butts from smoked cigarettes are tossed by smokers into the surrounding environment, buried in landfills, or dumped into storm drains.

In 2015, 409,417 cigarette butts were picked up in The Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up, cigarette butts topped the list of items in the litter collected. According to the Litter Reduction Taskforce Cure Litter  Canadians drop 8,000 tonnes of cigarette butts each year — the majority within a mere 10 feet of an ashtray.

Keep America Beautiful reports that Americans are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before, yet cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item in the United States and around the world today. They specify two reasons for this statistic — lack of awareness on the smoker’s part, and the lack of availability of waste receptacles at “transition” locations, such as outside stores and other buildings, and at public transportation pickup spots.Cigarettes contain 7000 chemicals, and many of them, such as ethyl phenol, heavy metals and nicotine, are themselves toxic. At least 50 are known human carcinogens; others have been found to be toxic to marine and freshwater organisms, and toxic to humans and animals. Chemicals are added to cigarette paper to control the burn rate, and calcium carbonate is added as a whitener, in part to create an appealing ash as the cigarette burns. Studies conducted by Clean Virginia Waterways have shown that just one cigarette butt in approximately two gallons of water is lethal to water fleas, a tiny crustacean found in fresh water and saltwater. And, tiny bits of tobacco that are invariably left attached cigarette filters carry more toxins than the filters do themselves.The core of the cigarette butt is made up the part that looks like white cotton, is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. By itself, cellulose acetate is very slow to degrade in our environment. Cellulose acetate fibers in a cigarette filter are thinner than sewing thread and a single filter contains more than 12,000 of acetate fibers. Depending on the conditions of the area the cigarette butt is discarded in, it can take 18 months to 10 years for a cigarette filter to decompose.

Cigarettes are both a health hazard and an environmental hazard. Nicotine is an addictive substance. There are 1.1 billion smokers in the world today, and if current trends continue, that number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2025. Cigarettes are a problem that cannot be ignored.

Governments have started to address the health impacts of smoking by banning smoking in public places and some provinces have attempted to sue large tobacco companies for health costs associated to tobacco use. Health warnings are printed on packages.

Health organizations are promoting “reduce and refuse” behavioural change for use of these hazardous products. For those addicted to nicotine there are many smoking cessation programs offered by government agencies and private facilities.

There can be no debate that the impacts tobacco is costing big dollars.

Kelley Lee, who holds a Canada Research Chair in global health, co-authored a new study that suggest that we need to go upstream to the source of the problem – the tobacco industry. The paper, published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control, sets out a regulatory scheme as model legislation for adoption by cities, provinces or countries. It was designed in collaboration with the Washington, D.C.-based Cigarette Butt Pollution Project. The study proposes the tobacco industry take on the collection, transport, processing and safe disposal of butts, based on the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility, which would incorporate the environmental cost of butts into the price of cigarettes. The paper suggests companies take responsibility in various ways including taking on the cost of collecting, recycling or disposing butts, initiating cleanup programs and informing consumers about the environmental risks of tossing butts.

Other industries that produce hazardous consumer goods are already legally responsible in a patchwork of legislation across North America for dealing with paints, pesticide containers, fluorescent light bulbs and unused drugs. It is time for the tobacco industry takes responsibility.

Extended Producer Responsibility legislation for tobacco products in Canada would help in healing the toxic legacy of tobacco.

Tales of the Fox Guarding the Henhouse

In North America stewardship organizations, businesses, government and environmental organizations have endorsed these principles of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility:

  • Producers are required to design, manage, and finance programs for end-of-life management of their products and packaging as a condition of sale.
  • Producers have flexibility to design the product management system to meet the performance goals established by government, with minimum government involvement.
  • Government is responsible for ensuring that producer programs are transparent and accountable to the public.

Here are three stories about the need to improve the commitment to these principles by stewards and government:

In BC, CTV News reported some recycling agencies raking in millions in profits

Solid Waste and Recycling published “LETTER: Response to BC’s ‘A’ grade from EPR Canada

In Ontario, The Toronto Star headlines said, “Auditors called in Tire Stewardship Scandal

While Canada’s EPR are doing a great job of diverting products from the landfill , all three stories suggest that more scrutiny and transparency is needed to answer where the money goes and how these recycling programs are being managed.

In August 2015, The Container Recycling Institute issued a report, “Review of British Columbia’s Container Recycling System Shows Strongly Performing System But Finds Growing Issues Around Fees and Transparency,” uncovering several areas of concern about BC beverage recycling program including :

  • The presentation of financial data in Encorp’s annual report makes it impossible to know exactly how much its beverage container program costs. The report does not provide sufficiently transparent financial information to the Ministry of Environment, the agency authorized to carry out BC’s recycling regulation, nor to the public. Moreover, Encorp’s CRFs are determined by Encorp with no approval required by the Ministry, leaving consumers no recourse to affect change if desired.
  • As Encorp’s CRFs have been steadily rising, its reserve fund has grown far beyond the $17 million it has calculated as a “prudent” minimum. By the end of 2014, the reserve stood at nearly $34 million.

Stewardship agencies submit audited financial statements such as Encorp Pacific’s 2014 financial statement with their annual reports but there are very few details of how the monies collected are spent.

Certainly the annual reports by these stewardship organizations do not summarize board executive expense accounts or spending as outlined in The Toronto Star article Ontario tire recycling fees found boozy board dinners nor do they report contributions to political parties an activity that both Encorp Pacific and Ontario Tire Stewardship have participated in.

Do we need to know what these stewardship organizations are using eco-fees for? Yes, there needs to be accountability by both stewardship organizations and provincial governments otherwise we continue to have the fox guarding the henhouse.