Zero-waste. We hear this a lot, but what does it mean? Is it as simple as it sounds? Is it really possible for humans to produce zero waste?
Zero-waste is a goal or philosophy that strives to mimic the way that resources are used in nature. It is about redesigning processes so that nothing is sent to a landfill or incinerated. An essential and often overlooked aspect of zero-waste is the importance of community connection. A zero-waste facility, for example, may have a difficult time achieving their goal if there is no end market for their recyclables; or if the excess waste or pollution at the source does not design processes initially to be zero-waste.
In 2015, The City of Edmonton’s mayor spoke about a pilot project in the city using wood fibres in a zero-waste or ‘closed loop’ method:
“The production plant uses wood fibers over and over, so you can stop cutting down trees. You use your paper, put it in the recycling bin and close the loop. It goes back to the plant, it gets processed, value gets added through chemistry. It’s building this economic cluster and looking at municipal waste as a resource, rather than just digging holes in the ground to bury it."
Calgary also has zero-waste ambitions. One milestone achievement is the Green Cart Food and Yard Waste Program that will be launched mid-2017. The green cart will be for compostable materials such as, fruits and vegetables, cooking oil, breads, eggs, leaves, grass, dairy products, nuts, meat, paper towels, and paper plates, just to name a few... One interesting, and perhaps less known material that can also be put to compost, according to the City, is pet waste. The City of Calgary informs us that it must be placed in a certified compostable bag, but that there are no health or safety issues with putting pet waste in the green cart. During the composting process the material will reach and maintain temperatures of at least 55 degrees Celsius - get ready Calgary, it’s going to be a hot one!
Currently, without this composting program, the organic materials we waste are sitting in our city landfills. Over time, they are broken down and produce methane gas; a greenhouse gas, as it traps heat in the atmosphere. Methane gas (CH4) has a global warming potential 21 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2); meaning that it much more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Therefore, a composting and yard waste program is one more step that Calgary can take to ensure that our air is cleaner and our landfills are used more appropriately.
Calgarians are known for their hard work, intelligence, and resilience; being smarter with our waste is one way we are showing Canada that we care about the health of our environment and ourselves.
Are you ready to help Calgary move towards zero waste?