I’ve been given wings to fly from UsedVancouver.com – a company that is allowing me to put my wishes for the environment into action. They are a classified site where people list or buy used items so talking about up-cycling and reusing is right up their alley. We just completed an awesome car seat recycling campaign and the reaction to this community project was fantastic. Car seats are probably the toughest item to dispose of with an earth friendly focus (read this article to understand why) so it felt great to assist with keeping 44 car seats out of the landfill! And yesterday I had the pleasure of delivering these car seats to Gibsons Recycling Depot because they deconstruct car seats and recycle the metal and plastic from the base and straps. UsedVancouver.com absorbed the cost of this initiative and needs to be recognized for their dedication to community projects.
I first learned about Gibsons Recycling Depot when writing my predictions for 2012 and thinking about ownership of waste. Talking to their staff and checking out their website really inspired more meaning to what being Eco-conscience with consumerism is all about. Thinking about the life cycle of a product before we buy it is so important to our health and the environment. Now after physically visiting the depot, I had another light bulb moment about improving my consumer footprint and it’s a sign located as you drive into the depot with a simple, but important message “what do things really cost?” I took a picture and it’s included below:
You just need to tour your local recycling depot to understand the answer to that question. Your answer might be different than mine, but I interpret it to mean that the little things we as consumers purchase – things that we don’t need to survive (clothing, shelter, food, education) that we can afford in the moment because they seem affordable and give us temporary/instant gratification. These items have a higher cost than we think. An example is the plastic toy that costs $2 and seems like a really inexpensive purchase, but what happens when you try to get rid of that toy in 5 years? It can’t be recycled and will hang around in the dump and outlive your children..is the true cost of that toy still $2? No it’s not. And when you visit a recycling depot like Gibsons, you see the true cost of ‘stuff’. They have a place to put almost everything and if it can’t be recycled – they try to sell it in a little make-shift store. I’ll never forgot the container (where items go that need to be taken to the landfill) with plastic toy trucks around the top. There are containers for most plastics, tin cans, glass, dirty wood, clean wood, etc. but these toys were made up of too many pieces of non-recyclable parts. It’s what I pointed out to my son that I brought with me for a ‘field trip’ because it resonated with me. The true cost of these items can no longer be measured in what the owner originally paid – the cost of having something last on earth forever has a high cost.
But, don’t think I came away disheartened – actually it was the opposite. When you see how efficient a recycling depot is, the knowledge the staff has, and know items are closing the loop on their life cycle – it’s inspiring. My favorite part of the depot was the glass recycling section. For people that think that glass is too heavy, too expensive, etc. as a food packing option – if the glass gets to a recycling depot…magical things happen. The glass is sorted into different colors (green, brown, clear) and then tumbled in a huge machine and broken down into cullet. There are so many uses for glass and because it can be recycled an infinite amount of times – it’s a great material. Some uses are ingredients in paint or building supplies, sand on beaches, ceramic tiles, fiberglass, etc. If you look at the top picture with the sign, the white material that looks like snow is actually glass that’s been recycled into beach sand. Here is the glass going up the conveyor to become cullet:
So this week I got to complete a project of collecting car seats and delivering them to a recycling depot that is clearly setting the bar high with their dedication to efficient disposal – it’s been amazing to be on these field assignments and I thank UsedVancouver.com for sponsoring. I share my experience and highly recommend parents taking their children to see the behind the scenes of a recycling depot before the holiday season approaches. A clear message from my tour is how wasteful the holidays can be with people just buying to ‘buy’. Giving stuff that doesn’t have purpose or meaning needs to be curbed and helping children to realize what is truly important with gift giving or celebrating can be redefined and still create memories and fun. We just need to be creative and think about where things go after we are finished using them!
My Guest Post for The Soft Landing called ‘New Year’s Prediction – Ownership of Waste‘