Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Banana peels and other organic material overlooked in recycling
I'm waiting for the day when I see a sticker on a mailbox saying: "No Bananas, Please. Save Our Planet."
You see, organic material is one of the biggest contributors to residential waste that goes to landfills in Manitoba. Yet it is often overlooked while people focus on other things that are not going to the dump.
Like newspapers. The most recent statistics show newspapers are recycled at a higher rate than any other material in Manitoba -- 97.5 per cent of newsprint that enters the market is recycled. That's an amazing success story.
Paper overall has a recycling rate of 92.5 per cent. The next most successful substance is glass, at 70.8 per cent.
Yet there persists among some the preception that paper is an environmental problem.
It's visible, high profile, and people generally don't know what happens to it.
Plastic bags are in a similar situation. They make up a minuscule part of the waste stream yet often are targetted by well-meaning authorities. Plastic bag use has fallen by 46.7 per cent since 2007 in Manitoba and half of the remaining retail plastic bags that go into homes are re-used for tasks such as collecting other garbage and picking up after your dog.
Why is any of this important? As Free Press writer Bruce Owen reported last week, the provincial government is developing an ambitious plan to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. Serious discussion of this initiative requires some knowledge about what is really contributing to waste.
Manitobans send more garbage to dumps per capita than almost anywhere else in Canada. And a lot of it is stuff you don't think about.
Between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of waste material sent to landfills is organic material -- all those banana peels, carrot tops, corn husks, grass clippings, dead leaves, etc.
Most places in the province don't collect organics. The City of Winnipeg has taken some steps, such as regular collection of yard waste, but does not yet have a comprehensive plan.
Then there are all the other contributors to waste. About half comes from the industrial, commercial and institutional sector. About 20 per cent comes from construction, renovation and demolition.
I have to provide full disclosure here. I sit on the board of Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba, the industry-funded agency that operates a province-wide recycling program for packaging and printed paper. Business that put packaging, including bottles and cans, and printed paper into the consumer market have paid for 80 per cent of municipal recycling programs since 2010.
MMSM has done a great deal of work to improve recycling programs. As we take the next step towards reducing our waste, it's important to know what's already being recycled and where we should be looking next.
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About Bob Cox
Bob Cox was named publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2007. He joined the newspaper as editor in May 2005.
"Rejoined" is a better word for it, because Bob first worked at the newspaper as a reporter in January 1984. He covered crime and courts for three years before getting restless and moving on to other journalism jobs.
Since then, his career has spanned four provinces and five cities. Highlights include working in Ottawa for the Canadian Press covering Prime Minister Jean Chrétien during his first term in office, and five years at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, first as national editor and later as night editor.
Bob grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, but has spent most of his adult life in Western Canada in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton.
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