It’s that time of year again – the air is a little bit cooler, the leaves are just starting to change, and kids across the country have headed back to the classroom.
And while math and history and science make up much of the classroom discussion, I am particularly excited by the partnerships and collaborations Carton Council Canada (CCC) has underway with local and national school environmental initiatives.
In October, I have been invited to speak to local educators about carton recycling and waste audits, as part of the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) EcoSchool program kick-off meetings. EcoSchools (part of the Sustainability Office at TDSB) is a long-standing school greening program focused both on environmental education and action, with an opportunity for participating schools to become certified.
This year, the theme of the workshops is Climate Action: Empowering Students to be Agents of Change and I am excited to be part of this timely and dynamic conversation. Schools are a critical element of any recycling awareness strategy, so this is a tremendous opportunity to support and help inform these efforts.
CCC also has an established partnership with EcoSchools Canada (previously Ontario EcoSchools), who works to empower all members of school communities with “the knowledge, skills, and desire to act as environmentally responsible citizens”.
Similar to TDSB’s program, EcoSchools Canada certifies schools who have demonstrated achievements in environmental learning and action. The collaboration will involve broadening EcoSchools Canada’s waste audit template tool to include milk carton and drink boxes categories, as well as collecting relevant data about carton recycling in schools, including identifying barriers to carton recycling and identifying potential solutions.
Last but not least, CCC is pleased to work with Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM) to provide curriculum-based lesson plans focused on carton recycling for Grades 1-3 and 5-6. These lessons use math, science, and language arts to help students learn how they can have a positive impact on the environment.
It’s a tremendous start to the school year and we look forward to continuing to work on projects like these, helping build carton recycling ambassadors across the country.
Minister Yurek announces next steps to transition costs and oversight of the Blue Box Program to industry at Canada Fibers’ Toronto facility
On August 15, I attended an event convened by Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek and his colleagues to announce the next steps related to the transition of Ontario’s Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility, from the current model under which municipalities and producers share the costs of the program.
The Carton Council of Canada applauds the Ontario Government’s steps “towards diverting waste, addressing plastic pollution and creating a new recycling economy that everyone can be proud of in Ontario.”[i] Last week’s announcement also provides much-needed certainty in terms of the timing of the transition.
According to the government’s announcement, Ontario will develop and consult on regulations to support the new producer responsibility framework for the Blue Box Program over the next year. Stewardship Ontario, which manages the current Blue Box Program, will submit a plan to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority by June 30, 2020. The first batch of municipalities to transition will do so by January 1, 2023, with transition to be completed by the end of 2025.
Carton Council Canada commends the leadership of industry and municipal representatives, whose collaborative approach and dedication to this file have ensured a productive outcome from the series of facilitated meetings and the report authored by Special Advisor David Lindsay, which paved the way for this announcement.
Of course, much work remains ahead, notably with the drafting of the Blue Box regulations, which will define the transition process as well as the parameters and requirements of the new program. But if the past few months are any indication of the future, then I would say we are off to a promising start.
CCC looks forward to continuing its engagement as consultations kick off this fall and as we collectively take this defining next step on the road to transitioning the Blue Box program.
Regina Huda School Grade 5A students Hady Haggui, Zubia Almas, Laiba Khan, and their teacher, Ms. Michelle Sandomirsky.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate as a judge in The Great Carton Search, a Carton Council of Canada-sponsored SARCAN initiative to encourage schools in Saskatchewan to share stories about the success of their school’s beverage container recycling program, with a focus on cartons.
According to SARCAN, schools across Saskatchewan do an amazing job recycling beverage containers, helping return 85 per cent of the containers sold in the province! However, only 50 per cent of the cartons sold make it in to a SARCAN depot for recycling.
The great Carton Search encouraged schools in the provinces to go in search of these missing cartons – and win prizes for their school in the process.
As a judge, I was most impressed by the dedication of the participating schools. The winning class from Regina Huda School visited the classrooms in their school every day, and faithfully cleaned and collected their beverage containers. Once a week, their teacher, Michelle Sandomirsky, brought the containers to the local SARCAN depot. Together, they tracked the amount and type of recycling as well as the money they raised throughout the year, now totaling more than $1,700 for their school!
The contest and the responses from participating schools reinforced that through education, a little bit of creativity and a great deal of commitment, we can certainly help increase the rate of carton recycling in our communities.
The students themselves pointed out in their submission what a tremendous impact the project and contest had in their school, in their families and in their broader communities. While 26 students were directly involved, more than 585 students and more than 50 teachers supported the recycling program.
From the winning submission: “Some students are saying that their families are recycling more at home. Many of our class families have come from other countries. Some of these countries do not even separate garbage, so when they came to Canada they had no idea what recycling even meant. This year we have made a difference to the families and community of Regina Huda School, we have started a program that can last forever!!! From now on, more and more people will share their knowledge about the importance of recycling and continue the search for cartons.”
CCC offers its congratulations to SARCAN, the teachers and grade 5A students of Regina Huda School and SARC for their exceptional work to grow the recycling of cartons and all beverage containers and their investments in a more sustainable future.
CCC’s Managing Director stands next to the SamurAI sorting robot unit, which is assigned to pick cartons and HDPE containers, at the Sani-Eco MRF in Granby, Quebec
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the Sani-Eco Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Granby, Quebec, to see Machinex’s SamurAI sorting robot in action. The first of its kind to be installed in a Canadian facility, it is programmed to pick HDPE and cartons.
Robots are touted as one of the most promising evolutions in sorting technologies. Their high sorting efficiency, as well as their ability to “learn” as they work, are pointed to as key strengths. They also help alleviate some of the significant labour shortage pressures that several MRFs across the country are facing.
When asked why cartons were chosen as one of the two commodities to be sorted by the robot, Julie Gagné, Director of Operations, explains that cartons have a relatively uniform shape across the category and that their volume makes them a good candidate for sorting.
Cartons sorted by the SamurAI robot unit
As we celebrate the accomplishments of technology and the efficiencies that come with them, it is also important to note that what matters most is the positive sorting of cartons, and less so how the sorting is done. Indeed, Carton Council has long advocated for a “positive sort” when it comes to cartons. As Jason Pelz, Vice President of Recycling Projects for Carton Council North America explains, “by being sorted and baled as a separate commodity grade at MRFs, both communities and facilities can maximize the highest value for cartons in end markets, while contributing to the steady market demand for cartons.” Whether done manually, via optical sorter, or through a robot, what is important from our perspective is to increase the volume of cartons recycled and maximize their value.
In the aftermath of China’s recent drastic restrictions on plastic and paper waste imports, the fate of recycling in various countries around the world has been in question. Now, however, is the time to redouble our commitment to producing high quality material, helping ensure our recycled product is appealing to the end-markets.
At Carton Council, we are proud to help facilitate positive, productive and solution-based discussions – and look for collaborative, homegrown solutions to innovative partnerships. This includes playing a matchmaker role between municipalities and other waste management operators looking to move their carton loads with potential buyers. Simply reach out to explore how we can be of help!
Last fall I reflected on two reports I found exciting and provocative. They both look to the future and the potential effects of resource consumption on business and consumers. In fact, on the world.
In October 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) previewed a report at the World Circular Economy Forum in Japan. It projects global consumption of raw materials to nearly double in the next 40 years, with the largest increases being in minerals and metals. Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic drivers and environmental consequences also predicts recycling will become more competitive compared to the extraction of primary materials, stating that “extraction and use of primary (raw) materials is much more polluting than secondary (recycled) materials.”
The report is likely to be required reading for leaders of government, industry and advocacy organisations world-wide who are seeking to bring circular economies into being.
Industry also cares
This anticipated strain on Earth’s natural resources and the impacts of resource scarcity on businesses are also among the themes of Tetra Pak’s 2016 report: Embracing Value From Natural Capital. The report follows earlier research in 2015 that promoted the development of a resource consumption model using natural resources that can be regrown or refurbished over time—from responsibly managed sources.
Tetra Pak pursued this dialogue through “Learning Labs”, events and activities with consumers and stakeholders across the consumer-packaged goods supply chain, to explore their understanding of the issue. This included identifying perceived challenges and barriers to adoption, and awareness of potential rewards from using renewable materials to mitigate natural resource scarcity, as well as contributing to long-term growth strategies.
The Learning Labs revealed that four key factors impact increased adoption of renewable materials among industry: communication, complexity, cost and consumer demand. The report offers a range of ideas and approaches suggested by industry leaders and consumers to address these factors and the potential impact of failing to act. You can learn more from the article in FOOD Navigator published in Sept. 2016.
As the OECD and industry look to the future it is encouraging to see this “big picture” thinking taking place. My hope is that we also consider how we can contribute to ensuring that picture is bright.
It’s official. I am a bona fide recycling champion! I know because I rocked the quiz.
Recycling is a serious business and the heart of this quiz is also serious: to help consumers challenge what they think they know about what belongs in the recycling bin and what should get tossed in the trash—and why it matters.
Improving the quality of the blue box is an ongoing challenge as programs adjust to changing market conditions. And reducing contamination is a goal we can all get behind. The quiz is a fun way to engage with consumers and to help them become more knowledgeable.
Share the link!
I encourage you to share the link to the quiz with your stakeholders. Municipalities in particular may find this is a novel link for the front page of their municipal websites. And engaging with residents in a positive way has many benefits. Send this blog—or a link to the quiz— to your communications, public relations or marketing team to see if it would be suitable for your website. And do let us know if you do!