Describe the environmental importance of recycling.
Identify the impact that garbage/ landfills have on the environment.
Identify recyclable materials, and sort household recycling.
Describe the process of recycling as it relates to the creation of recycled paper.
Identify ways to reduce garbage production.
In 2016, Canadians generated approximately 25 million tonnes of garbage a year and only recycled about 30 per cent of that material, 10.2 million tonnes (41 per cent) of that waste in 2016 came from everyday household waste. Each person produced about 2.7 kg of garbage each day.
This garbage does not simply disappear when it leaves our sight. It is piled up into large areas called landfills. Unfortunately, our existing landfills are filling up and we have to find new locations for them. The garbage from the City of Vancouver is taken by truck miles out of the city to be dumped, burned or buried.
The solution? Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink!
These five Rs are ways to think about consumption reduction, and thus waste reduction. Any product takes resources and energy to be made, including when it is recycled.If we refuse unnecessary materials, reuse the products we already have and rethink new uses for materials, less new products need to be made. And if we can reduce the amount of products, then less energy is needed.
All kinds of materials can be reused, repurposed, and recycled, including tin cans, paper, glass, plastics, batteries and cell phones. However, if these items are not recycled, it may take up to 1 million years for them break down.
- Some plastics takes a million years to break down.
- Tin cans take 100 years to dissolve.
- Aluminum cans take 500 years to disintegrate.
- Paper takes 80 years or more to break down.
- Glass may take 1 million years to break down.
Newly-recycled material can be back in circulation or use in as little as eight weeks.
- For example, a glass container takes 8–12 weeks to be recycled and put back on a shelf.
- The life of an aluminum can is about five weeks. That means it takes five weeks for a can to be collected, transported, melted down, remade, refilled and put back on a store shelf.
Recyclable materials are broken down and recycled through very different processes, taking varying amounts of energy.
For example: Glass is sorted by colour, crushed, mixed, melted and molded into new shapes. Newspaper is made into pulp, cleaned, aerated, screened, bleached, pressed, cut and baled into usable recycled paper.
To make a shift in our consumption and production lifestyles, we will need to do more, we need to Rethink. We need to challenge our current way of living and find a way that is more sustainable. In Metro Vancouver, a goal of Zero Waste is being stressed. To achieve this, the rethinking of Metro Vancouver’s waste systems is currently in place. Part of rethinking our waste is trying to upcycle waste products. Instead of things going through the energy intensive process of recycling, we can turn waste products into new products using creative designs.
Biodegradable: A type of waste, typically originating from plant or animal sources, which can be broken down by other living organisms.
Compost: A decomposed mixture of household leftovers and garden scraps used to improve soil and provide nutrients.
Garbage: Discarded or useless material.
Landfill: A large area of land or an excavated site where collected garbage is deposited and stored until it breaks down or dissolves—which usually takes million of years.
Pulp: A mixture of cellulose material, such as wood, paper and rags, ground up and moistened to make paper.
Recycle: To pass or put through a cycle again for further treatment.
Reduce: To bring down or lower the number of something.
Rethink: To challenge our current concepts and systems, and create different ones.
Reuse: To use something once again.
Upcycle: To find a creative new use of an old waste product.
Science World Resources | Snowflakes out of recycled pop can holders (PDF)
Metro Vancouver |Outreach | Zero Waste Challenge
Recycling Council of BC | Recycling Programs and Resources
City of Vancouver | What goes into the recycling bin?
David Suzuki Foundation | What you can do | Reduce your carbon footprint
Climate Justice in BC | Rethinking Waste
Metro Vancouver | Services | Solid Waste
North Shore Recycling Program | Programs
National Geographic | Plastic Recycling Guide