by Michael Scott
CEO, Waste Diversion Ontario www.wdo.ca
TORONTO, Oct. 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Each year, we recognize waste reduction
for one week in this province and across the country. This year,
Ontarians and Canadians will celebrate "Waste Reduction Week" from
Monday, October 21 to Sunday, October 27 using the theme, "Too good to
Schools, businesses, governments, non-profits, individuals and
communities mark this occasion in different ways. Some hold events and
challenges to help raise awareness about recycling specific products,
like cell phones, tires, and hazardous waste. Others share waste
reduction tips or conduct waste audits to improve their future
performance at keeping waste out of landfill sites.
At Waste Diversion Ontario, www.wdo.ca, our metrics and focus are for the most part on the third 'R' -
Recycle. But the diversion story also includes the first two 'Rs' -
Reduce and Reuse. There is a lot of important work happening in Ontario
to reduce and reuse our wastes. We collect some of that information in
our annual Municipal Datacall. But we are not yet doing enough at WDO
to help communicate the "reuse" and "reduce" success stories occurring
in Ontario's municipalities.
Waste Reduction Week is a great way to draw attention and show respect
to all three Rs.
And it's also important to remember that we can't make progress dealing
with our garbage without waste reduction being on the minds of people
every day as they sort their Blue Box materials and other household
We've come a long way since garbage was first treated by anyone in any
way. Those were the days of the one 'R' when people "refused" to do
anything with their "refuse" except pile it up in heaps around them,
resulting in urban squalor and disease.
It is believed that the first landfill was developed in Knossos, Crete
way back in 3,000 B.C. Garbage was dumped into large holes and covered
with dirt at various levels. In 500 B.C., Athens, Greece created a new
law under which garbage had to be dumped at least one mile from the
In 1354, "rakers" were employed in London, England to collect trash with
rakes, load it on carts, and remove it on a weekly basis. These rakers
are perhaps the world's first official garbage collectors.
Early on, the British took littering very seriously. In 1515,
Shakespeare's father was fined for 'depositing filth in a public
street' in Stratford-upon-Avon. Meanwhile, it took until 1657 for
Manhattan to pass a law against throwing waste in the streets.
In 1551, German papermaker Andreas Bernhart started putting his paper in
wrappers that were labeled with his name and address, marking the first
recorded use of packaging.
About 300 years later, Alexander Parkes created the first man-made
plastic called "Parkesine", an organic material made of cellulose. He
demonstrated this invention at the 1862 Great International Exhibition
in London, England with plastic kitchen items.
In 1950 in Canada, two Canadians invented the disposable green
polyethylene garbage bag: Henry Wasylyk of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and
Larry Hansen, who worked for Union Carbide Company in Lindsay, Ontario.
These garbage bags were first sold to Winnipeg General Hospital,
because they were invented for commercial use. Union Carbide bought the
invention and manufactured the first green garbage bags for home use
under the name Glad Garbage bags in the late 1960s. Frank Plomp of Toronto also invented a plastic garbage bag in 1950,
but he was not as successful as his counterparts.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines garbage as "something that
is worthless, unimportant, or of poor quality". It's interesting how,
with the passage of time, the definition of garbage has evolved to
become the exact opposite. British "toshers", "mudlarks" and "dustmen"
of the early 1800s scavenged sewers, river mud and coal fire remnants.
It was dirty, but necessary work, just to get by. Collected items like
coins and other valuables, ash for mortar, and dog dung for purifying
leather helped to put food on the table.
Today, garbage is a much more valuable and highly-prized resource. Base
and precious metals, rubber, paper and glass are now being mined above
ground for good money.
The people of Knossos, Crete in 3,000 B.C. would never have envisioned
the day when humans could make a decent living working with garbage and
celebrate keeping it out of landfill during a special week-long event.
We've come a long way. But we have much more work to do.
SOURCE: Waste Diversion Ontario
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