Knock Knock, Who’s There?

Certainly my favourite part of being involved with the Recycling Committee or “Green Team” in my building has been the one to one neighbor to neighbor engagement, or more specifically, door knocking. In February 2014, we started a foodscraps recycling program in our building (or rather strata of 4 buildings) in anticipation of the City of Vancouver’s 2015 bylaw banning foodscraps in landfill garbage.

One of our key engagement and education tactics was going to be good old fashioned door knocking. We knocked on every door in our 186 unit building to talk to our neighbours about the new foodscraps collection bins in our garbage room, and invited questions and participation. We handed out some FAQs, a list of “What’s Accepted and What’s Not (in the foodscraps bins)”, took some kitchen catcher examples, and gave out compostable liners as “swag” (don’t get too excited now).

We tried to hit the sweet dinnertime slot when more people would likely be home, but still, the combination of unoccupied units (which is a whole other topic) and just busy vancouverites meant a lot of unanswered knocks. We tracked those unit numbers so we could try another time and moved on to the next door. Of those that did answer the knock, which was probably 20%, responses ranged from someone yelling from behind the closed door, go away!” to,come in for a glass of wine, we’re just making some food, have you had dinner yet?”. Thankfully, of the doors that I knocked on, the former response only came once, and unfortunately, the latter offer of wine and dinner only came once.

The rest of the responses fell in between.

Mostly, people were surprised that someone would be knocking on their door in a multi-unit residential building where entry was accessed by key or granted by buzzer only; but once they opened the door and realized we weren’t trying to sell them anything, and that we also lived in the building, dialogue flowed; and in fact, it was hard to stop talking. There is certainly a desire for neighbours to connect with one another and on a continuous basis. Personally for me, in addition to being happy about having more people recycle foodscraps and making new friends in my building, I feel safer living in a building where I know my neighbours. It’s much more than just a cuppa sugar.

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Trashtalk Champions Network to Share Learning

Trashtalk teams from all participating residences recently met to enjoy a delicious feast and talk trash. The event was designed for teams to meet and share information to date. Topics for conversation included research about different food scraps hauler options, specific challenges in getting a food scraps program up and running in their buildings, and engagement strategies to encourage their neighbours to participate.

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As Harvinder Aujala, Information Services Manager at the Recycling Council of BC (one of Trashtalk’s Partners) observed, it was inspiring to listen to the enthusiasm and hard work of local Recycling Champs leading the Trashtalk project. These are all volunteers putting in their own time to make positive changes in their communities.

Several residences are kicking off their food scraps programs in December with more set to join in January 2014.


Diverting our Food Waste

In Metro Vancouver, we send over 1 million tonnes of “municipal solid waste” to the landfill, 40 percent of which is food waste. This could be diverted from the landfill and in fact, food scraps will be banned from garbage starting in 2015. This video shows what we can do to recycle our food scraps, profiling an innovative program called Food Scraps Drop Spots (foodscrapsdropspot.ca).

Check out this video from David Lee (who also happens to be one of the Recycling Champions in his apartment building) to see where your food scraps go.


Food Waste

Trashtalk’s participation at two recent events highlighted the fact that one of the biggest sources for food scraps is food waste.

First, Trashtalk was invited to present at the October 9, 2013 Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Breakfast (see presentation here).

After our presentation, one comment/question was about Trashtalk’s use of a half-eaten apple as an image for food scraps recycling. “Why is Trashtalk using an image of wasted food as a symbol for food scraps recycling? Trashtalk doesn’t want to promote throwing away a perfectly good apple does it?!”

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A good question that got us thinking about the underlying issue of the causes of food waste.

Second, at the recent Metro Vancouver Zero Waste conference, two key presentations again highlighted the problem of food waste as the principal source for food scraps. Dr. Richard Swannell of WRAP (a UK non-profit devoted to reducing waste) presented the findings of their 2011 report that estimates that of 7.2 metric tonnes of food waste in the UK in 2010, 4.4 mt was “avoidable” and 1.4 mt was “possibly avoidable”. The point being that residents of the UK – and other Western nations like Canada – are throwing out billions of Euros worth of edible food each year.

Locals Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin, makers of The Clean Bin Project (Zero Waste for a Year!), spoke of their new film due in 2014 titled Just Eat It. The film will reveal how much edible food is wasted all along the food chain: from farmers, shippers, producers, retailers and consumers.

Their film will be a local take on another documentary called Taste the Waste that I saw two years ago at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Stunning fact:  “The food thrown away in Europe and North America would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world three times over.”

Not to mention the environmental costs of producing and dealing with such waste.

Something to think about the next time you are recycling your food scraps.


Update on Metro Vancouver Sustainability Community Breakfast

This morning’s Sustainability Community Breakfast was on the topic of Food Scraps Recycling in MURBS (multi-unit residential buildings, basically apartments and condos). Murray and I had the pleasure to speak on the Trashtalk project, and I will write a little bit more shortly. Some really great questions and comments were raised, and it was enlightening to hear about the programs going on in other municipalities such as New West and Burnaby. For now, here is a teaser (thanks to recycling champion with the great question, Jim Yee, for taking the photo) and for those interested in a copy of the slidedeck, here it is (half eaten apple and all). There was also some live tweeting action #MVbrkfst.

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Trashtalk Participants by the Numbers

 As the 2015 Metro Vancouver ban on organics approaches, 11 residences in Vancouver are getting a jump start on figuring out how to effectively recycle their food scraps as part of the Trashtalk project.

Participants so far include 7 residences in Mount Pleasant ranging from 35 to 184 units, 3 residences in the West End (15-148 units) and 1 in Kits (45 units). There are 7 strata residences, 2 co-ops and 2 rentals.

One of the interesting lessons learned to date from planning for food scraps recycling is the potential savings for waste related costs.

According to Adam Morton, one of our Recycling Champions in the West End:

“Simply preparing for the food scraps program, discovering how it can work best in our building, has shown us how we can save significant amounts from what we pay to have our garbage taken away. The exercise has paid off, independently of ecological considerations and compliance with anticipated regulations.”

We look forward to sharing more lessons learned as the Trashtalk project proceeds.

Trashtalk still has openings for a few more residences. If  you are interested in participating, Sign Up and enter your information. We will contact you shortly.


Trashtalk in Full Swing – Deadline for More Applications: September 16, 2013

With the project first phase in full swing, Trashtalk welcomes more applications for its second phase intake.

Trashtalk is a pilot project working with recycling champions in apartments, condos and co-ops to establish food scraps recycling and improve current recycling programs in Vancouver multi-family residences.

With the 2015 Metro Van ban on organics looming and Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan targeting new food scraps recycling as a key path to its Zero Waste goals, now is the time to sign up for Trashtalk.

Trashtalk is currently working with co-ops, condos and apartments in the West End and Mount Pleasant but welcomes applications from anywhere in Vancouver.

There are lots of good reasons to participate including free assistance to plan and implement a food scraps recycling program and modest financial support to engage your neighbours. Check out our resource:  Six Reasons to Participate in Trashtalk.

For more info, Sign Up or send us an email:  trashtalk@telus.net

Food Scraps Drop in Olympic Village