Community & Culture

Where Does Your Trash Really Go?

“Can you throw this away for me?” There’s a lot more involved than you might think.

Which Bin Do I Put It In?

What does “throwing away” really mean? For most people, it means gone, out of sight out of mind, but for my environmentalist mind, I can’t comprehend that. The garbage that we dispose of is almost never thrown away to be gone forever. For example, garbage that gets thrown away in the wrong receptacle is usually a large culprit. What is the most recycled material? It’s actually not plastic, it’s aluminum! Plastic bottles fill the wrong receptacles all the time at Ryerson. This is a problem for several reasons. When something that belongs in the recycling bin ends up in the trash bin, there is no issue. But if trash ends up in the recycling bin in large quantities, then that whole bag of supposed recycling is now contaminated and no longer deemed recyclable. So, the trash and recyclables are sent to a waste facility where they are sorted. Once sorted, the trash is sent to a landfill and the recycled material is sold to international buyers or sold domestically.

Recyclable (But Only Where Applicable)

Now, we all know that Ryerson students love their Tim’s and their frequent Timmies runs. Tim Horton’s cups, specifically their hot drink cups are non-recyclable outside of their stores. This means that inside their stores, they label their receptacles where the cups can be disposed of to actually be recycled. Their trash gets shipped to facilities where they have the ability to recycle the cups. However, when these cups leave the store and are thrown in recycling bins not owned by Tim Hortons, they contaminate the batch.

Even Tiny Trash is Damaging

Small actions make a great impact! Lake Ontario is a polluted body of water due to our human actions. Most people never think twice about throwing that candy wrapper on the ground or spitting out their gum on the floor. But, gum has latex in it which is a form of plastic that when left on the ground requires the use of power washers; or, if it ends up in the recycling bin, it contaminates the products it touches.

Lose the Scrubs

We get it, you need to wash your face and body with the best product around, but those little beads that help scrub those pores and get deep down are actually an environmental toxin. Microbeads are small plastic beads that are too small to get filtered out of the water that goes down your drain, and so they end up getting directly disposed into water. They get into the systems of fish, which by the way we eat. Even more, thanks to something we like to call the water current and cycle, these little beads get transported across international waters and contaminate everything.

Your Actions Matter

If you throw out a plastic bottle into the ocean, which eventually gets shredded by the impact of the water, into little shards of plastic. These accumulate in oceanic gyres which are miles long by miles long. These are areas where the water currents meet and create areas of mixing, which accumulates tons and tons of waste (we have 5 gyres on this earth by the way). Marine animals are impacted by this man-made garbage patch and people from across the globe get in contact with these animals who have these in their system. See the problem? What is important to realize is that the action of one person can impact the whole planet.

 

Today is Earth Day: tell us what you do to be a little greener everyday.

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