A Vancouver West-End high rise shows how it’s done.
by Jill Schroder
Vancouver, Canada, the greenest city in the world? Many city residents would find that a completely realistic target as the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan moves into its 2nd year of implementation.
Zero waste is a prominent and ambitious feature of the Action Plan, which seeks to reduce solid waste going to the landfill or incinerator by 50% from 2008 levels. To achieve this goal the City has committed to several targets, amongst them:
– the expansion of existing citywide programmes to allow the collection of all household food waste, and
– the development of education and enforcement programs to keep recyclables out of the waste stream.
Multi Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) now comprise 60% of the total residential sector within Vancouver, and were initially slow to come on board with recycling programs. Our west end high rise – Panorama Place – was an early pioneer in this area.
Our experience shows that there is no cookie-cutter solution to all recycling programmes in a MURB. Each building is unique and one has to experiment and find what works for the specific situation. Our experience suggests that groups must take the recycling bull by the horns, get a team together and appoint a leader who takes notes, has to-do lists, sets time frames and moves things forward. There also has to be support from the management, strata or board or the programme won’t fly. We have educated people as we went along, and have celebrated and engaged the community along the way. We received funding for our recycling programme (in part) from the Greenest City Small Grants Program through our local Gordon Neighbourhood House.
Our small but dedicated Green Team now collects significant amounts of material, none of which is currently acceptable in the City’s Blue Bins, and that would otherwise be destined for the landfills. Since we started our programme several years ago, we’ve saved tonnes of material from the landfill and reduced our garbage output by the equivalent of one dumpster pick-up per week (besides saving money).
We currently recycle (in the order in which we started collecting them) batteries, all light bulbs, hard and soft plastics, styrofoam, appliances and electronics. Some residents have large items, TVs or microwaves – and we take those too! Our recycling area is under cover, but unlocked, so binners sometimes come and take things, which is fine by us. All of the material is transported by Green Team members to Pacific Recycling (formerly known as Encorp).
We have a box for collecting travel sized toiletries and partially used beauty products, which goes to a homeless shelter in the downtown east side. This was a resident initiative, not part of the Green Team recycling, but we supported it. We purchased a laundry room bulletin board and a bookshelf where we have a lending library of books, magazines, CDs. When this space overflows, we take the material to the Denman Mall to the Thrift Shop or Kay’s Place, where they can use or resell it. We have a supply of Dryer Balls for common use, to avoid the chemicals and waste of products such as Bounce.
In November 2013 we became part of the Pilot Program for Food Scraps Recycling, which further expanded the recycling plan for our community, and now includes all residents. Food waste is hauled to Harvest Power in Richmond, B.C., an amazing facility!
So far we have found that programme compliance by tenants is high and contamination from waste low. Overall, the Green Team and our various recycling initiatives have done great things for the environment, in raising awareness, and in building a sense of community in our MURB.
Certainly there have been a few obstacles along the way, mainly in the form of nay-sayers and a lack of mobility on the part of some tenants. We have countered that by providing information and seeking testimonials from people who were reluctant at first but then saw that it works, saves money and is the right thing to do.
If any readers are interested in further information or starting a program where they live, feel free to get in touch!