Recycling in Toronto
We enjoyed our stay in Toronto, met a few nice people and I happen to be here for an event with Bea Johnson (zerowastehome.com)
So what did I learn from my plastic free travel in Canada after 4 weeks in Toronto?
A lot! Like everywhere else :D
The last 4 weeks in Toronto I visited Terra Cycle, met some lovely girls from the Zero Waste Community, went to the Bea Johnson event (zerowastehome.com), went bulk shopping, and made some smaller beach clean ups. I refused single use cups and cutlery and enjoyed coffee in ceramic cups and organic cakes on real plates.
It looks like the green scene in Toronto is definitely growing and engaged.
The most interesting, confusing, or "different to other cities I´ve been to" things I learned the last 4 weeks have been these:
1) It is really easy to find plastic free produce, you always have some plastic free choices. In every supermarket i´ve been to. But yes, like everywhere else, it depends on the shops, and you will find heaps of unnecessary wrapped fresh produce too. Also oats and pasta in carton/paper packaging, even milk in glass deposit bottles. And some supermarkets also have a small bulk section with nuts, dried fruits and chocolate covered nuts or other sweets. Just remember to bring your own paper bags or mesh produce bags. I always save the paper bags I get when I have coffee „for here“ and they put the cookie in a bag for mushrooms, nuts, beans.
2) If you don’t order “for here“ you will most likely get a single use coffee cup because they no longer ask you if you want to take away or drink in house! And if you order a small cookie together with your coffee „for here“ you will get the coffee in a mug and the cookie in a single use bag (I tried to reuse the bag most times for some bulk shopping or lunch to go).
3) All the fancy black lids for coffee to go cups (I see them everywhere here in Toronto), they are NOT recyclable in Toronto! Only the white lids. Makes me feel a little sad because it seems to be a real big deal here to provide black lids.
4) The Toronto green bin don’t take compostable plastic items. I wrote them an Email and I checked the „waste wizard“ (if you live in Toronto check the website: Toronto waste wizard.) Compostable coffee cups, compostable plastic, sugar cane plates, Bamboo cutlery, wooden chopsticks, they all need to be thrown into the normal waste bin!
So no need to feel better if they offer compostable single use items here! They’re not useful unless the places offer a special compost bin that goes to a special compost facility, but if people take the cups with them and then dispose in a green bin, it will get sorted out and ending on landfill or get burned.
5) You put all your recycling in one bin. In Germany we collect paper in the paper bin, plastic in the "yellow bag", mixed waste in the black bin and compost in the brown bin. We collect glass to put them into glass recycling bins located on parking lots, or street corners.
6) While aluminium foil always has been a chocolate wrap alternative in Europe because I know they recycle aluminum foil quite successful (because the production of new foil is really toxic and ……just need to make sure that you collect all the foil until you have a ball of a tennis ball size. You can also put inside of the foil ball the aluminium bottle caps.).
Well theres no need to buy chocolate in supermarkets here. They want you to throw aluminium foil into the normal waste bin!
Waste Lizzard is a great tool if you live in Toronto and want to know where to dispose your stuff.
7) To eat with and out of disposable items even if you eat in house, is a way more common here than in Europe at the moment.
8) They don’t have a bottle deposit system and you can see this because bottles are littered everywhere (Like in every other country without a deposit system)
9) They have bins in public places everywhere. Theres always a waste and a recycle bin! (big ones and always with lids, but sadly the wind sometimes make them fall on the side and then you realize the lids are not closed even though they are provided with locks). And sadly a lot of people don´t know what belongs in which bin....
And the streets in the city are really clean too. We stayed a week in Berlin Neukölln before we got here so the difference was huuuuge! (Everybody who’s been to Berlin Neukölln/Kreuzberg knows what Im talking about). But still, on the beach the plastic is there! From coffee cups, to straws, to wrapper and old and new plastic bags, ice cream spoons, bottles... Like on every other beach. (Even though the beach is not surrounded by an ocean, but by a lake.)
10) You have the chance to buy bulk in a lot of places. Its common to buy in bulk, although it´s not about refusing plastic, it´s just about buying the amount you want/need. But since a couple of weeks now, you can bring your own container/bags to Bulk Barn, a big bulk store chain. Or go to one of the smaller/private owned bulk stores like Urban Bulk Emporium. They really appreciate if you bring your own bags or jars, and you might end up with a really nice chat with the owner.
11) Also the prices of organic food, farmers market produce is more expensive than in Europe, and I bet it’s too expensive for a lot of locals too, but if you can afford it, visit one of the many farmers markets in and around town. Food stalls, music, bread, fruits, veggies, etc. etc…. and you can always bring your own reusable bags and container!
12) You often cant really regulate the radiator…. So I grew up in Germany and my parents taught me: don´t open the window when the radiator is on! Because then you heat for nothing and the energy and money is blowing out of the window. In some houses in Toronto? If it´s too hot you open a window. If your freezing you can´t heat it up. A friend who lives here since 6 years now told us about one Christmas where the radiator went crazy and they had 48 degrees celsius (118 degrees fahrenheit) in the house! And they couldn’t do anything but open windows to cool down, and then they needed to get dressed for -30 degrees Celsius outside :D
Can you regulate your radiator in your home?
13) Refill your bottle: I love that this is available in so many public places here in Toronto. Even some coffee shops have refill station for bottles. Thats awesome and a great way to avoid all the sugary and plastic bottled drinks.
14) Toronto has a great place called : the tool library, where you can rent tools! What a brilliant idea. There are so many tools you might need once a year or once every 5 years. Why buy and them let it sit in the dark corner of the cellar, rent it!
15) You need to put your compost/food scraps in a plastic bag to put them into the green bin. That was new for me too. In Germany on the compost bins they say: No plastic bags belong into the bin. Here in Toronto they say: put everything in a bag.
Recycling is the most confusing thing ever!!
Nothing else is so different from country to country and even from town to town.
16) And last but not least I witnessed for the first time in my life how easily birds can mistake plastic trash for food. It broke my heart…. I witnessed how a few sea gulls picked up hard plastic pieces that got washed ashore, they flew up a few meters and let it fall down. Thats how bird open nuts, shells, crabs to eat them… I felt devastated and cried for a minute because I couldn’t help them. Then I grabbed my bag and started to clean up all the plastic trash that I passed on the beach on my way home….
Tell me in the comments, do you know exactly what can be recycled in your city?
If not, are you going to check on that?
And when you are traveling, are you checking what can get recycled in those countries or maybe you have never thought about that but will do in the future?
We still have a long way to go.
And I learned, the easiest way to avoid all the confusion is to avoid as much waste as you can!
So always remember:
Refuse what you can,
Reduce what you need
Reuse what you have,
Recycle what you cant refuse
and Rot/Compost the rest.
Make some daily happy choices :)
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Hi my name is Jule
I am a nature and ocean lover. A passionate runner and minimalistic traveller. On this blog I share my experiences, thoughts and ideas about the "sustainable lifestyle" and how you can stick to this while traveling.
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