Recycling Alternative Newsletter: #RefuseSingleUse



Single-Use Item Ban

Recycling Alternative has been pushing this month for everyone to #RefuseSingleUse and it seems to be working! From Vancouver banning Single Use Items (SUI’s) to the styrofoam ban starting next week, from reusable ice cream containers to coffee cups, this newsletter will fill you in on everything going on with SUI’s.

There was great news earlier this month when the City of Vancouver decided to ban single-use plastic straws and Styrofoam cups after a long extensive public consultation. We are very proud to have been part of this consultation process. The ban on polystyrene foam take-out containers and foam cups will be introduced startUntitled-1ing June 1, 2019, and the ban on plastic straws, with exemptions for people with accessibility and health care needs, will be introduced starting June 1, 2019.

It is very encouraging to see Vancouver taking this bold step by passing the ban a month ago, and now the EU is considering this option as well. The single-use item ban is definitely going international and the recyclers are happy!  We are all beginning to understand very clearly the damage and the negative impact our single-use item habits are having on the planet. A&W Canada is the first North American fast food chain to eliminate plastic straws in all its branches, Canada wide. By January 2019, they will be replacing plastic straws with paper straws. Adding to that, NADA. a new zero waste concept store that is centered around waste minimization with a mission to change the way we shop for “more food” and “less packaging”. The store allows you to use your own reusable containers and bags while shopping for your groceries! If you are looking for tips and tricks on how to reduce your single-use habits, check our Facebook page for daily updates! We also encourage you to SHARE yourown alternatives with the hashtag #RefuseSingleUse.

Think you know your recycling? Click here to take our Quiz and test your recycling knowledge! 




As of July 1st 2018, there is a region-wide landfill ban on Styrofoam –another win for the fight on single-use items! Recycling Alternative has also just acquired a Styrofoam densifying machine to help us reduce our trucking emissions getting this air-filled product to processors. What does this mean for you?small info graphic

The new landfill ban will affect packaging styrofoam only (meaning the white packaging bricks, not food containers or packing peanuts). A “landfill ban” means that it needs to go into a recycling stream instead of garbage, and any trucks hauling loads to the landfill with 20% or more will be subject to fines (that’s 20% of any banned material, not just styrofoam). If you are still putting Styrofoam in your garbage give us a call to set up a recycling service for it, we can pick it up on a regular schedule, or on-call depending on how much you produce. For a full list of banned materials check out Metro Vancouver’s website.

One of the biggest problems with Styrofoam is that it is mostly air – and air is expensive and emissions-heavy to transport. Enter the new Styrofoam Densifier at Recycling Alternative! All the Styrofoam we collect will be put through the densifier, which crushes the foam into a dense log that is up to 50 times smaller than the foam!

This reduction will save us many trips of hauling air-filled Styrofoam to processors. We estimate that it will save approximately 1800km of driving and almost 2 tonnes of C02 per year!



Customer Profile: Earnest Ice-Cream


Ice cream shops have traditionally been pretty reliant on single use items. From plastic cups and spoons, to single-use, non-recyclable take-away containers. At Earnest Ice Cream, they are changing business as usual. “Earnest Ice cream was founded on the idea of creating change through delicious ice cream. We started packaging our ice cream in reusable glass jars right from the beginning to demonstrate alternatives to the throw away culture,” explains Katie Boyd, Operations Manager at Earnest Ice Cream.

Even when businesses are trying to do the right thing, sometimes the customer does not have the same recycling options at home as the business. “We’ve learnt a lot about PLA cups and the inability to compost them in our guests’ homes, that was our main driver to switch to wheat straw packaging, our PLA spoons is our next project. Vancouver is using more compostable take out packaging but there is very limited to no compost city bins available for patrons to dispose of their packaging responsibly.”

Responsible disposal is a key value for Earnest Ice Cream. On their website, they proudly display the amount of waste diverted from landfill, 13,710lbs. They are going even further, in working towards their Zero Waste Certification, and their B Corp certification, and do annual emissions measurements with Climate Smart. Beyond these certifications, Earnest Ice Cream helps build local communities. They met Recycling Alternative Co-Owner, Louise Schwarz, at a LOCObc event where she spoke about community and zero-waste, and were inspired.

Beyond that, explains Katie, “our business is about making people happy and building relationships. Sharing delicious ice cream is one way, but we also support local schools, arts, and nonprofits that make a positive impact in our communities. Collaborating with local businesses also helps us create unique flavours!”

Check out Earnest at one of their 3 locations in Vancouver, and 1 in North Vancouver. Recycling Alternative’s favourite flavour is Salted Caramel but try them all and let us know your favourite!

Events and Festivals

There is always something happening in Vancouver in the summer! Whether it’s a weekend-long extravaganza like the Folk Festival, or a community event like the Strawberry Festival, Recycling Alternative is there to help divert their recycling! Look for Recycling Alternative at these local festivals  this summer:

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Coffee cups are complicated, are they recyclable or not? We want to help clear things up so here is all the information you could ever want to know about coffee cups (and then some)!

Let us start off by saying that there is no easy answer. Your household recycling will take coffee cups, but your office program (through Recycling Alternative) won’t. And I know what you’re thinking – RA is a zero-waste-focused, best-practices kind of company, why won’t they recycle coffee cups?

Most coffee cups are made by fusing a plastic ‘polymer’ lining into the paper fibre of the cup, or by coating the cups with wax to make them waterproof. These embedded polymers or coatings cause problems for the recycling processors, as they need to be fully removed in the pulping process in order for the paper fibre to be recycled into more paper products.

The process to remove these polymer or wax coatings from the paper fibre requires intensive water and electricity use to fully separate them. There are very few facilities in the world that use this process, and the end result is still a poor-quality paper, often containing microplastics residuals, which processors and recycling markets do not want.DPxD0TiXUAAFpyN

In British Columbia, coffee cups are accepted through your household Blue Box recycling program. This program is run by RecycleBC – a province-wide stewardship program (also known as EPR – Extended Producer Responsibility) that requires the manufacturers of these products to pay for the recycling. This gives them the scale and financial resources to collect, separate, ship and recycle the cups as best they can.

The question remains, however – what is really happening to these coffee cups?  Are they able to be recycled into a viable material that the recycling markets demand and can use, and if so what is their end market or product?

Recycling Alternative is focused on the bigger picture of waste reduction. We believe we cannot tackle some of the more challenging streams such as single use coffee cups (or Styrofoam food containers, or plastic straws) simply by continuing to expand what goes into our Blue Boxes for our weekly feel-good recycling fix.  We call that ‘wish-cycling’.

Tackling the challenge of polymer-lined coffee cups and other Single Use Items that are considered low-grade and undesirable in recycling markets, requires education and engagement to drive deeper behavior change and even more importantly, design innovation for better products that recyclers can process into viable materials, without using excessive valuable resources such as water to do so.

The more we try to solve these challenges by ‘wish-cycling’, the less incentive there is for producers of these low-grade Single Use Items to innovate and improve their packaging, and the less we the consumers feel the need to reflect on our purchasing choices and make changes to our current habits.

Recycling is at the bottom of the waste hierarchy for a reason, everything that gets recycled is just another material that had to be manufactured, using more and more of our planet’s limited resources. By increasing the types of materials accepted in our recycling streams we are just creating a moral license to create more waste, rather than focusing on the top of the hierarchy – reducing and refusing these materials before they are even created.

By sharing this conversation about the ‘recyclability’ of coffee cups and explaining the challenges and the questions we need to ask, we hope we are pushing our customer’s awareness of some of the bigger debates going on around recycling and single-use items. Until technology advances to manufacture better cups or improve the recyclability of existing cups, Recycling Alternative will continue to support reduction strategies, design innovation and consumer behavior change over wish-cycling.

In the meantime compostable cups can be a good option (for single use items), as long as they end up in the organics stream, and not in the waste or recycling streams where they can cause more challenges with contamination, litter or pollution.