Solid Waste & Recycling


Real Time Urban Archeology

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I have been struggling to find another waste auditor to round out my team and am actively looking for resumes.
Not surprisingly it is difficult to find people to sort garbage. It is surely not the most pleasant thing to do (but there are certainly less pleasant things if you really think about it). I have a great team of auditors that are loyal and get it. They see beyond the physical sorting and understand the value that the data provides.
Waste auditing is like real time urban archaeology. You are provided with some really unique insights into how people live their lives at their homes and at their businesses. You see what they eat and what they otherwise consume. In very general terms you find lots of paper, food, plastics and “other” waste in the garbage stream, on a weight basis, and in some ways you are creating a variation of the same story every time you conduct a waste audit. This is not surprising, of course, given that is what we buy to live and save for plastics (which are plentiful but not heavy) they are the heaviest part of the waste stream.
You see, anonymously of course, people’s secrets- the empty liquor bottles and magazines of a certain ilk that will not find their way to the Blue Box. You see the really keen with little waste and few recyclables in the waste to the very slovenly-where no effort whatsoever is made. You see socioeconomic differences where ironically it is often the less affluent neighbourhoods that throw out more and recycle less.
What is most surprising to me is the performance relative to available programs. If you have a Blue Box and Green Bin program available to you would expect very little garbage and certainly not items that would go into those streams. We are not perfect-sometimes far from it. Recyclable paper and plastic ends up in the garbage. Food waste ends up in the garbage. Most of this is a function of laziness. We participate voluntarily in these programs and the lack of obligation tempers full participation.
Our biggest failing is the food waste that ends up in the garbage. Sure there is spoilage and fruit and vegetable trimmings but you would be surprised to see what people throw out. The fact that we are so prosperous and have so much food that we develop Green Bin programs to collect our excess and unwanted wood would come as a shock to those in other countries where there is not enough food. It should also come as a shock to our own prosperous country that notwithstanding this plenty features annual food drives for local food banks for people that do not have access to enough food. That we cannot even put all of that excess food in a place where there is at least some environmental benefit is just disappointing.
The point of waste audits is to measure, evaluate and educate. It is to let residents and businesses know their score, how they are contributing to whatever goals have been set and ultimately to present a fact based Call to Action- here is what you can do to help us meet our goals. Ultimately we all need to be nudged a bit to move us closer to the right direction.
This still does not make the waste audit exciting or glamorous but does put its value in an appropriate perspective. It is about as close to the ground as you can get. The data that is collected is invaluable. It is first principles data that can be used to build out from the current foundation and from which further concrete plans can be laid out.
Waste auditors understand and have a perverse passion when it comes to waste. They know this is a means to an end particularly when they evaluate the data and craft the reports.
Please see the attached to see my waste audit crew in action in Waterloo Region this past week.

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