OPINION: Recycling refocused

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! The three Rs are familiar to most of us, but it wasn’t always the case. When I was a young mother in Squamish in the 70s, there were no opportunities to recycle.

In 1994 my husband and I travelled across Canada. Prince Edward Island was ahead of the recycling game with numerous bins in public places — including bins for compost. This was still unheard of in Squamish.

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Fast forward to 2019 and most Squamish residents are into recycling and composting though my friend wishes it were made easier. She says, “I use numerous bins: one for batteries, others for hard plastic, soft plastic, styrofoam, paper, glass, and compost. It’s too complicated.”  I reply, “Maybe the bigger issue is, why do we have so much stuff in the first place? How much is enough? Can we do with less?"

Every January I sort through drawers and cupboards to give away clothes and miscellaneous items that are no longer needed. I follow the Marie Kondo method — Kondo is the author of “The life-changing magic of tidying up."

Several full bags go to Pearl’s Value and Vintage Store, some sweaters and rain gear to Squamish Helping Hands, a dinner set to a college student and travel books to a friend. The big recycle bin is filled to the top for the second time this month with hard plastic, boxes and other packaging. So much waste! That’s why I have resolved this year to focus more on the other two Rs — Reduce and Reuse.

Buying in bulk at the grocery store keeps packaging to a minimum. A “zero waste store” where customers bring their own containers to eliminate all packaging, would be ideal. In our numerous bargain stores, shopping second hand does more than save money. It may save those items from the landfill. Reusing items (or not purchasing them in the first place) saves energy that comes with having to take apart and re-make products. It also reduces waste and pollution because the need for raw materials is reduced, which saves both forest and water supplies.

There are numerous businesses and organizations in our town that support the local economy and in turn reduce transportation costs, keep waste out of the landfill and build community through sharing resources: Squamish Rebuild, The Repair Cafe, the Squamish Men’s Shed, Refresh Market, the local craft fairs, the weekly farmers' market and more.

These are all good initiatives and I resolve to make more use of them. Do you have a favourite organization and/or website that has inspired you to change your habits?  Have you found interesting ways to reduce and reuse?

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