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Redefining waste for a cleaner tomorrow

by Maddy Capozzi October 24, 2017
Redefining waste for a cleaner tomorrow

In pursuit of waste justice: student groups launch Concordia’s first Zero Waste Week

How many times a day do you throw something in the trash? Do you give it much thought when you do? New research published by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that the amount of waste produced worldwide could double by 2025—from today’s 1.3 billion tons per year to a whopping 2.6 billion.

In an effort to promote sustainable waste management practices, Concordia student groups such as the Dish Project, Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and Waste Not Want Not are kicking off the university’s first edition of Zero Waste Week on Oct. 23.

The principal organizer of Zero Waste Week is the Dish Project. This student-run, zero-waste resource organization will be hosting multiple workshops from Oct. 23 to 27 that offer creative solutions for reducing waste. The Dish Project aims to reduce the volume of disposable items sent to landfills by storing and lending out reusable dishes to Concordia students hosting events. The service is available at little-to-no cost, making it accessible and economical.

The Dish Project offers a variety of reusable dishes for events on campus. Photo courtesy of the Dish Project.

“Up until recently, the Dish Project was mostly just focused on our operations of lending out reusable dishes to help reduce waste in and around Concordia,” said Vanessa Macri, the organization’s general coordinator. “However, after reevaluating ourselves internally, we thought that there was a gap with waste justice education on campus. So now we’ve started engaging with students a lot more. One thing that we thought would be a great vehicle to help us do that was Quebec’s Waste Reduction Week [from Oct. 21 to 29].”

Maya Spring, the Dish Project’s outreach and engagement coordinator, will be co-hosting four workshops over the course of Zero Waste Week. “I find that, in today’s society, there’s such a disconnect between us and the waste that we produce,” Spring said. “I think the first step towards breaking that disconnect is talking about waste, which is a huge part of Zero Waste Week and the workshops we’re putting on.”

CUCCR will also be participating in Zero Waste Week with a “Do It Yourshelf” shelf-making workshop on Oct. 27. For those who have yet to discover its hidden location in the Hall building basement, CUCCR is an initiative that collects used art materials and supplies from around campus and makes them available for repurpose by the general public.

Rather than solely focusing on waste reduction, CUCCR looks at how unwanted materials can actually be useful to people. Recent Concordia MA graduate Anna Timm-Bottos spearheaded this project with the help of funding won in Concordia’s Big Hairy Ideas competition. “I saw so much material being thrown out that I knew someone else could use if only we could capture it,” she said, adding that CUCCR plays a key role in Concordia’s sustainability efforts and in changing the larger culture around waste.

Waste-sorting games will be hosted in the downtown library cafeteria on Oct. 25 and 27 by Concordia’s composting advocacy group, Waste Not Want Not. Another beneficiary of the Big Hairy Ideas competition, Waste Not Want Not works to strengthen Concordia’s infrastructure in pursuit of zero-waste goals. Anyone conscious of their trash output is likely already aware of the many benefits of composting—not only does separating organics from other trash decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and creates fertilizer for plants. Waste Not Want Not’s mandate includes providing access to on-site composting facilities, increasing the number of composting bins around campus and educating students on why composting is integral to building a more sustainable future, according to the organization’s website.

“We’re hoping this week will open people’s eyes to the impacts of waste. It’s one thing to recycle and compost, but it’s another thing to understand where your waste actually goes,” Macri said. “We want Zero Waste Week to show that waste reduction doesn’t just stop at recycling and composting—you can also reduce, upcycle, reuse materials and get creative with how you’re repurposing waste. Hopefully folks will take that away along with how many opportunities there are at Concordia to get involved in the waste justice movement.”

For additional information about the Dish Project, visit www.dishproject.ca. To find out more about CUCCR, drop by H013-7, open Tuesdays to Thursdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. or visit www.cuccr.ca. For details about the Waste Not Want Not composting advocacy group, visit www.concordiacompost.ca.

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