Family-friendly workshop on recycling at EPIC 2009

Vancouver is drowning in waste—and we're all in this boat together.

Credit: iStock / morganl

“People have to change their mindset and make choices at the purchasing level,” says Peter Cech of Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge


Vancouver, it seems, is drowning in waste. And it’s up to all of us to work together to rescue our city from a most stinky end.


That is the message that Peter Cech of Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge will convey when he presents the Metro Vancouver Recycling Workshop: Is it Really Garbage? as part of EPIC, the sustainable living expo sponsored by Vancouver Sun at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, May 8–10, 2009.


“Waste and recycling is a vision everybody has to take on,” he says. “People have to change their mindset and make choices at the purchasing level.” For example, buying quality, reusable, locally made products ensures a practice conforms to the green marketplace.


Recycling worshop at EPIC 2009

Metro Vancouver Recycling Workshop: Is it Really Garbage?

Saturday, May 9 at 12:15pm

For more information, visit EPIC Vancouver and Metro Vancouver Recycles.

The workshop is child friendly, Peter says, “having kids participate by going through piles of clean garbage provided to see what can be recycled.” This is a fun way to illustrate to kids and parents how much of their home waste can actually be diverted from the landfill—an important aspect of training future generations to be more savvy.


“We need to impart the importance of recycling,” says Peter, and address our addiction to convenience. All city residents need to shift their mindset so that “recycling becomes the norm, rather than just something done by marginal early adopters of the green shift… If you bring out your blue box and you see everyone else doing it, and you notice one house is not, you wonder why,” he continues.


Granville Online caught up with Peter to ask him some questions about garbage and recycling in Metro Vancouver. If you have more questions, add them to the comment field below and we’ll be sure to get the answer.


Granville Online: How many tons of garbage does Vancouver produce each year? 

Peter Cech: We’re Metro Vancouver, a federation of 22 municipalities, one electoral district and one Treaty First Nation, spanning from Lions Bay to Langley. This region produces about 3.5 million tons of garbage a year.


GVO: How much garbage per person does that work out to?

PC: Overall per capita, each person in Metro Vancouver produces 1.6 tons of garbage per year. If you take out waste related to construction and demolition but keep in retail, the per capita volume is 1.05 tons. Per capita to landfill or incineration is 0.58 tons (excluding demolition and land clearing).  

For perspective, 0.46 tons per capita is recycled.


GVO: What is the number one thing that people throw out that could be recycled?

PC: Cardboard and mixed paper.


GVO: What are some of the initiatives Metro Vancouver has employed to educate people about recycling?

PC: Metro Vancouver has created the Zero Waste Challenge to help provide some context around the whole garbage management issue. Our research tells us residents would do more to recycle if they knew how. That’s why we created our new reuse/recycle database Metro Vancouver Recycles.

Other initiatives include working with the BC Pharmacy Association on a spring campaign to encourage people to return unused medications to their pharmacies.


GVO: What can we do about e-waste and its impact on other countries as waste disposal dumps?

PC: Collection points overseen by the Electronics Stewardship Association of BC (through certain Encorp recycling points) are the best option for end-of-life computers and TVs. Computers and periphery that still work can be donated to Free Geek or Computers for Schools for reuse, or posted as free on “for sale” websites [such as Craigslist].

Check with the provincial Ministry of Environment for when small electronics like home electronics and cell phones will be added to the list of materials banned from landfills.


GVO: Residents and consumers are not the only problem. What else is being done?

PC: We’re all part of the problem, and until we change from a consumer society to a conserver society, we’ll have a tough time improving on current diversion rates from landfills.

Metro Vancouver is currently working with Retail BC to see how we can combine our efforts to reduce garbage. Metro Vancouver’s hope is that together we can push responsibility for the recycling of products and packaging back up the supply chain to the manufacturers who are creating the garbage at the front end.

We’re currently conducting pilot studies to look for ways to improve recycling rates at multi-family buildings. One of the biggest barriers we’ve found is a lack of recycling capacity once people take their materials to the bins.