November 1, 2022 Community, News, Sustainability Tips

Where does our waste and recycling go once we put it in the bin? Daniel Rotman, waste management and behaviour change consultant led the second Sustainability Session to answer questions and clear up confusion about what happens to our waste once we dispose of it.

Daniel explained his approach to waste using the Zero Waste Hierarchy. Rather than focusing on the best way to get rid of materials, the Zero Waste Hierarchy prioritizes not producing the materials at all. This can involve rethinking how our goods are designed or saying “no” to some of our daily habits (like single-use coffee cups and take out containers). By thinking intentionally about what we are consuming and where it ends up, we can divert our goods from the landfill.

So where does our waste end up? Daniel mapped the different, sometimes complex, route that garbage and recycling takes from UNA neighbourhoods to waste and recycling facilities across the region. Your recycled television might end up in Port Coquitlam, while your plastic container might end up on Annacis Island.

Another common concern is how to properly sort recycling, and what happens if there is too much contamination? Most recycling facilities have a 5-10% threshold for contamination before they are unable to process the recycling or compost they receive. Once that threshold is exceeded, the contents of the bin could end up in the landfill instead.

Why does every place seem to have different rules about what can and can’t be recycled? This is a common source of confusion, and it can be challenging to know what rules apply where. Daniel emphasized that education within communities and buildings is important, and that it is equally important to be compassionate with others and ourselves if we make mistakes or don’t know the rules. By sharing information and working collectively people’s behaviour will change.

The UNA’s monthly Sustainability Sessions are an opportunity for residents to spend their lunch hour learning about different sustainability topics and initiatives happening in the UNA and UBC communities. If you have a topic that you’d like to learn about email Robyn Chan, UNA Sustainability Specialist, at