On a beautiful sunny Saturday in September, the work of the EcoSafe Zero Waste team in collaboration withmanagement from Lehigh Materials in Sechelt, BC, demonstrated that with minimum supervision and just an occasional bit of “coaching” at the waste disposal station, the EcoSafe “Striving for Zero Waste” program works.
At the end of the day we finished with 10 large Schaffer Carts of source separated recyclables and less than a 5 gallon pail of garbage! The make up of the food and recyclables was 6 bins of “Food & Compostables” and 3½ bins of “Recycling”.
Lehigh Materials is a major resource company and employer on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. Each year they host an open house for the public to demonstrate what they do and how they are reaching out to the community to find environmentally sustainable solutions for the reclamation of the mined lands. Over the years the Lehigh operation in Sechelt has received many local and international awards for their environmental initiatives. This year in collaboration with Salish Soils, the Sechelt First Nation and the First National Educational Society, Lehigh provided access to a Research and Education Demonstration Garden project which is located on the mine site. The vision for this project is to support local food production and provide opportunities for new sustainable agriculture businesses on the reclaimed lands.
In addition to site tours, children’s activities and popcorn, Lehigh hosted a Zero Waste lunch with support from the EcoSafe Zero Waste team. The menu included beverages, burgers, hot dogs, salads and deserts for close to 1,000 visitors.
In organizing the event, EcoSafe worked with Lehigh management to arrange for the purchase of uniquely marked and identifiable certified compostable products to be use for the lunch and to plan the setup of a “Striving for Zero Waste” station. By working with Lehigh management and the Hauler on the front end EcoSafe was able to assure Salish Soils President Aaron Joe that the “Food & Compostables” we collected would be delivered to their composting site virtually free of contamination. And at the end of the day we declared “Mission Accomplished” with only 5 gallons of waste destined for the landfill from a total of approximately 250 gallons collected. The final diversion rate after we pull any potential cross contamination is expected to exceed a whopping 95%. Next year we plan to work back into the supply chain to achieve similar results in the food preparation area.
Joe explained that currently Salish Soils produce only premium composts made primarily with commercial fish and forest waste with some green waste from local landscapers and residents. “As we move forward we want to develop and test commercial and residential food scrap programs that will meet our standards and not compromise the quality of our products. Our vision is to use the compostable waste generated in our communities to produce premium organic soils that can then be used to build a sustainable food supply for the Region” stated Aaron with a noticeable sense of pride.
The Lehigh Open House is a good example of how events can be effectively managed to eliminate waste. Salish Soils has plans to move forward with trials with local Super Markets, Restaurant Chains and Institutions as well as a residential green waste and food scrap program with the local Sechelt Nation. To achieve these high levels of diversion with minimal contamination was once considered almost impossible but with the cooperation of the Packaging and Food Services industries, Composters are increasing moving to accept a larger portion of the waste stream that has for far too long been buried in landfills or incinerated.
The EcoSafe “Striving for Zero Waste” program is a collaboration of Packaging Manufactures, Distributors, Haulers and Composters that are pooling their collective resources to build ranges of certified compostable products to replace traditional plastics including the dreaded Styrofoam. By controlling what we use and allow to enter the waste stream we eliminate the necessity of dealing with all the “contaminants” that inhibit recycling and composting. And the really good news is that these new materials are mostly made with annually renewable natural resources such as starches and plant fibers that support the building of a truly “Sustainable” economy for future generations.
Hats off to Lehigh, this was a truly “beautiful day” from many perspectives!