Zero Waste

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Zero Waste

Zero waste essentially shifts the idea of making a product "go away" at the landfill to becoming an input resource to be used again. Ideally, that starts with waste prevention, ensuring waste is not created and brought into the waste stream in the first place. Under a zero waste model, those materials that currently cannot be recycled or composted (roughly 20-35% of waste depending on the sector), will be redesigned so they can become an input via reuse, recycling, composting. Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, to conserve and recover all resources, and to not burn or bury them.

Zero waste model

 

Although there are many definitions for zero waste in use around the world, Whitehorse, in partnership with Zero Waste Yukon, has adopted the position that the concept of zero waste in the territory will minimize waste generation and maximize resource recovery through reuse, recycling, composting and other efforts to achieve the greatest possible resource diversion.

Zero waste follows a "4R" hierarchy: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle/Compost. Important to note is that "Recover" of the potential energy through various incineration/pyrolysis technologies is not included in this model of zero waste.

Zero Waste Wide

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Waste in whitehorse

The total waste generated in Whitehorse (including recycling, organics and landfilled waste) has increased 83% since 2000, but the population has only increased 24%. Some of this can be attributed to Whitehorse's housing boom and the accompanying increase in construction and demolition waste. Some of this can also be attributed to increased consumption.

Over 28,000 tonnes of waste were generated in Whitehorse in 2014 - this amounts to over 900 kg for every man, woman and child. This is over the national average of 770 kg/person/year, and well over other jurisdictions in Canada. In 2014, 26% of waste in Whitehrose was diverted, meaning it was reused, recycled or composted. All the rest of it was landfilled. The good news is that 26% is a fantastic improvement over historical rates which had stubbornly plateaued since 2010, and is the single biggest jump from one year to the next. This definitely reflects our increased focus on waste and our efforts to divert more. The bad news is that we're still lagging behind other jurisdictions in Canada that are diverting much more. Waste generation in Whitehorse has also been increasing over the years, outstripping population growth. We can do better. We need to redefine garbage, and divert more from what ends up in our landfill. We also need to reuse more, and consume less. 

A Whitehorse waste audit from 2010 indicated that landfilled waste contained:

landfilled waste

Meeting our goals is completely within reach. If organics, cardboard, wood, recyclables, metals, household hazardous waste and e-waste are removed from the waste stream, we would see about 70% less thrown away, and we would easily reach our goal of 50% waste diversion. 

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