Green Living Blog: Recycling...during a pandemic

Green Living Blog: Recycling...during a pandemic

"What a year this week has been" is a meme I can definitely agree with when it comes to the current Covid-19 outbreak. Life as we know it has changed drastically in such a short amount of time. Many of us who are used to spending half of our waking hours at work are now at home. The confluence of this outbreak and spring has definitely influenced what we are doing while choosing to stay at home. Like many others, we are working out our cabin fever by spring cleaning. That means people like us are unearthing a lot of items we no longer want, right at a time when most places to take them are closed.

Kris and I are taking this opportunity to clear out the double garage of the home we moved into last summer. A lot of items moved with us that we weren't exactly sure what to do with. They have been living, hastily stacked, in one half of the garage. Add to that being home with our two kids, who are pounding through plenty of groceries (and the associated packaging) and we've got plenty of 'stuff' to deal with. Given the time on our hands, and the warm weather, here's what we've done so far:

1) Divide and conquer: We have set up different boxes or bags for each category of item we want to get rid of. They are organized by where we will eventually drop them off: electronic items for recycling, glass that will go to SARCAN, items to donate etc. Even if we can't take them in right away, having them all sorted will make it that much quicker once we can.

2) Save space by flattening: this is a habit we should all use all the time, really, as its good for saving space where you store your recycling. It has the added bonus of reducing the volume when it gets transported and processed down the road. To save space in our recycling bins, we take the bottom off large cans and flatten the remaining tube (see photo). You can flatten beverage containers in a similar way, as long as you do it lengthwise so the label can still be viewed. In the short term, if you don't want to hang on to beverage containers because they still take up too much room, you can also put them your recycling bin.

3) Keep it clean: since our recycling builds up in our garage for a while, we make sure there's little to no food residue left on it. I rinse all recyclables out after I do dishes each day, and let them all dry together. Clean recycling can sit for a long time with no smell, and the people on the other end who will eventually have to handle it (and sell it) will be thankful. 

We also have a few larger items, like a stroller and larger toys, that we plan to sell once the world opens up again. Right now is a great time to wash the kid grime off of those and get them ready for new owners.

I'm definitely thankful we are self isolating and spring cleaning on the other side of a move. I really feel for the people who are in the midst of clearing out a house for sale (what we were doing this time last year) during this pandemic. Getting rid of everything you don't want to move in a responsible way requires quite a bit of effort at the best of times. Donation centres being closed will make it that much harder. 

But if people in Saskatchewan are anything, they are resourceful. If you need extra storage space, reach out to friends with garages where you could store things, use sealed Rubbermaid tubs outside, or find a way to create more vertical storage with a rack for your own garage or storage closet (I have personally done all of the above!)

One of the few benefits of this pandemic is the reduced greenhouse gas emissions from so many planes and cars sitting idle. Let's make sure that it is also a solid waste success story, where we still watch our waste footprint. Imagine a world where we all took waste reduction as seriously as a pandemic, and how quickly things could change for the better. This is a perfect opportunity to be creative and come out of this with even better waste reduction habits than you went in with. Keep calm, and recycle on.