Waste not, want not 

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It's been almost two months since recycling in Whistler got an overhaul.

Everyone's had to get used to cleaning every jar, manically making sure that no lids get in with the glass and recycling now has office hours — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As you would expect with anything new, there have been growing pains. Confused residents are throwing out more than they used to, if conversations at the recycling and garbage depots are indicative of the trend.

"Well, it's better to put it in the garbage than make a mistake," said one man questioned about how it was all going, as I stood there staring blankly at the sign on the rigid-plastic bin trying to figure out if that's where I'm supposed to put my jar lids.

On the other hand if you contaminate the waste it's useless. If there is more than five per cent contamination in any load it's rejected by those who buy the recycled goods from Carney's, the company contracted to run the new program by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) under the new Multi-Material BC.

There have been grumblings about the attendants too — they are either too attentive or not attentive enough.

And for some small businesses the rigid rules on "residential waste" only are getting carried too far in the everyday practice of getting rid of waste.

For example, one small business was told it can't bring its small amount of cardboard to the recycling depots because it comes from an office though the amount is no more than you would get from the recycling needed after a new fridge arrived at a home.

Another was called out for trying to recycle, or deposit garbage, from the office kitchen — garbage bags that contained the same type of juice cans and leftover food waste we all have every day at home.

The solution? Disposing of it at the depots wearing street clothes, not work clothes.

That seems a little ridiculous.

Asked for any information about how the first full month of operations went, an RMOW communications officer said a report was on its way from Carney's and, "We will be able to share the results in the next few weeks... We have had positive feedback on having the attendants at the sites, and we have heard very few complaints about the restricted hours. The new system seems to be working well for people. We thank members of the public for their work with the new system to help our community meet our waste management goals."

The RMOW went with the new system under MMBC in part because it saves taxpayers about $125,000 in recycling fees. In the first year, however, that won't be achieved as $60,000 was spent on the gates and fencing, improved signage, lighting, traffic flow and security cameras. As the residents continue to get used to the new program one hopes that that idea of creating less waste really begins to take root in our everyday lives.

A recent CBC program, What A Waste with Dr. Torah Kachur shared some shocking statistics on food waste — the average Canadian wastes between $500 and $800 worth of food a year. That is every single one of us.

According to the UN 1.3 billion tonnes of food is squandered worldwide each year.

"Food has in general gone down in price — the increased production has driven down the costs so food is seen as cheap and expendable and we eat what we want and we throw out the rest," explained Kevin Hall, an obesity researcher for The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. — one of the world's foremost medical research centres.

"You could probably fully feed 170 million people with the food that is wasted."

Much of this waste, Hall explained, is not at the farm or packaging level; it comes from us the consumer. We averagely throw out about one third of the groceries we buy.

He went on to calculate referred costs. For example, he found that one quarter of total fresh water used to grow food in the U.S. each year is used for food that is never consumed.

And he calculated that 380 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce food never enjoyed in the States.

Sobering statistics that should spur us all to watch our waste.

Editor's Note: The one thing we can all count on is that change happens to all of us. This is true at Pique as well. For the last several weeks readers have been enjoying contributor Leslie Anthony's new column "Range Rover" and I'm thrilled to say it will continue in its new spot. Michel Beaudry has decided to extend his leave from the Pique for a while longer and we wish him well in his travels. This week readers will also see the first of David Suzuki's column "Science Matters" come to our pages every two weeks. Broad ranging in its scope, the column looks at issues related to science and the environment we all inhabit.

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