The Long Road to Waste Reduction Week

by Michael Scott
CEO, Waste Diversion Ontario

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 waste".

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,, 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 trash.

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 city.

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

For further information:

Julie Kwiecinski
416-226-3252 (office)
416-550-1995 (cell)

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