It makes no sense to leave our children with landfill sites and oceans filled with our toxic waste. The following list provides several ways that you can work towards zero waste using the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. For additional suggestions, consult the list of useful websites at the bottom of the page.
- Single use plastic (bottles, cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons, straws, plastic food wrap, plastic mailing envelopes, bubble wrap, etc.). Carry metal or wooden utensils and a metal or glass straw with you. Take your own mug to the coffee shop for take-out.
- Freebies (hotel room toiletries, party favors, swag bags from conferences, festivals and other events, etc.). Ask yourself if you really need any of these things.
- Junk mail. It uses precious resources to fabricate. Go online and sign up to receive coupons and sales information online. Have your name removed from receiving junk mail by registering with the Canadian Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail Service.
- Styrofoam. Used for packaging, food storage, and insulation, it is one of the biggest contributors to landfill waste (30%). When shopping, bring in your own food containers or ask for paper packaging at fresh fish counters or butchers.
- Any non-reusable, non-recyclable, non-compostable items. Return these items to the manufacturer with a letter suggesting alternatives might help change things.
Reduce (what we need and cannot refuse)
- Curb current and future consumption. Think before buying something new. Do you really need it?
- Buy used first. Shopping should always start at local second hand stores in Smiths Falls, Kemptville, Brockville, and Ottawa - Jewel's Gently Used Clothing, Real Deal Reuse Store, Salvation Army Thrift Store, The Score Kemptville, The Score Smiths Falls, Oxford Thrift Shoppe, To Be Continued Consignment Shop, Value Village, Boomerang Kids, Whistlepost Antiques & Nostalgia, Bernie’s Nearly New Shoppe, Rideau Antiques, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill, House of Lazarus; online community buy and sell sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Freecycle; garage sales; and other stores such as Harold’s Demolition & Recycling and Balleycanoe & Co – check your local listings.
- If you do need to buy new items, try to make sure they are reusable, refillable, rechargeable, repairable, versatile, and durable, and especially recyclable or compostable at the end of life (so as little as possible ends up in landfill sites).
- Reduce packaging. Buy in bulk from local stores. Avoid prepackaged food. Take your own shopping bags, reusable bags for fruit and vegetables, and bring your own jars for dry goods and bottles for liquids.
- Share equipment and tools with others (cars, lawnmowers, trailers, etc.). Join a car co-op or rent tools and equipment.
Reuse (what we cannot refuse or reduce)
- Buy used rather than new, in order to stimulate a market for used items.
- Keep waste out of landfill sites . . . donate, donate, donate. Donate unwanted items instead of putting them out in the garbage. Donate old clothes, equipment, and furniture to local businesses. Donate worn blankets, sheets, and towels to animal shelters. Donate magazines to waiting rooms (dentist, doctor, laundromats, etc.). Donate eyeglasses to optometrists. Donate to nonprofits and charities. Donate to homeless and women’s shelters. Donate to nurseries, preschools, and schools. Falls Iron & Metal and Glenview Iron & Metal will pay for scrap metal.
- Return coat hangers to dry cleaners or second hand stores. Return plastic plant containers to the garden centers.
- Repair or repurpose your favorite clothing yourself or bring it to a local tailor. In Merrickville, the Yanagi Repair Store specializes in repairs, alterations, and custom work.
- Repair broken appliances and equipment, on your own or by visiting a Repair Cafe or by getting a local business to repair it for you. Some local service providers: Active Appliance and Repair, The Vacuum Depot, Kemptville Appliance Repair, Brockville Appliance – check your local listings.
Recycle (what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse)
- Know what your community can or cannot recycle - visit your local Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Check your municipal website for information.
- Buy recycled items in order to stimulate a market for recyclables (printing paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.).
- Buy items that are 100% recyclable at the end of life, so nothing goes into landfill sites (e.g., every plastic container should have a recycling number on it, use the ones that are recyclable in your community).
- Do not buy mixed materials that cannot be recycled.
- Keep hazardous materials out of our landfill sites.
- Check your municipality and local businesses (such as The Real Deal Store, Staples, Home Depot, Ikea, and Lowes) to find out where you can recycle items such as batteries, ink cartridges, and light bulbs.
- For products such as cooking oil, motor oil, paint aerosol cans, paint, and solvents, check your municipal website for hazardous materials drop-off dates and locations.
- For electronic waste (temperature exchange equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, heat pumps, air conditioners; screens and monitors such as television, monitors, laptops, notebooks, tablets; lamps such as fluorescent, LED, high intensity discharge; large equipment such as washing machines, clothes dryers, electric stoves, large printing machines, copying machines, photovoltaic panels; small equipment such as vacuums, toasters, microwaves, ventilation equipment, scales, calculators, radio, electric shavers, kettles, cameras, toys, electronic tools, medical devices, small monitoring and control equipment; small IT and telecommunications equipment such as cell phones, GPS, pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers, telephones), some municipalities have facilities at the landfill site or search for for drop off locations near you.
- Unused medicine and empty pill bottles can be returned to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
- Large appliances such as stoves, dryers, fridges, etc., that cannot be repaired, can be picked up by companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK who will responsibly dispose of the items.
- Check out cell phone manufacturing processes. Apple pledged to make all of its products from renewable resources or recycled materials in the future. More manufacturers are embracing closed loop processes. Check Apple, Best Buy, and Samsung for their programs and/or Recycle My Electronics for locations in your area.
Rot / Compost (the rest)Food waste is the single largest component of municipal waste (25-35%).
- Make or buy a wooden, metal, or plastic yard composter that is big enough to take kitchen and yard waste. They can be purchased at garden centers, hardware stores, or Lee Valley. Make sure that they are made of 100% recyclable or compostable material.
- Buy a kitchen compost container, or use an old metal pot, for your kitchen waste. They should also be 100% recyclable. They can be purchased from hardware stores such as Lee Valley, Home Depot, or Rona.
- Compost kitchen waste such as bread, paper coffee filters, coffee grounds, eggshells, expired food, fruit, leftovers, tea bags (tea bags coated with or made of plastic will not decompose), nutshells, paper napkins, paper towels, vegetables and more.
- Avoid composting animal products if you don't want flies in your kitchen and maggots in your compost.
- Save money by using your own compost on your flower gardens rather than store bought compost.
- Buy compostable items such as bamboo toothbrushes, loofahs, jute twine, walnut shell scouring pads, wooden brushes with natural fibres, paper straws, bamboo/wooden stem cotton swabs, cork yoga mats, cork yoga blocks, wooden toys, recycled cardboard toys, etc.
- Be wary of compostable plastics, bioplastics, plastic coatings, or any plastic.. Everything we compost is used to create nutrient rich soil. Any compostable packaging or product should be part of this cycle of creating productive soil. We do not need packaging or products that break down into micro plastic pieces. We are already seeing the detrimental effects tiny plastic particles are having in our oceans, and we don’t want to wait until the earth is a giant garbage patch from accumulated plastic fragments in our soil and waterways. We need healthy soils and healthy oceans to survive.