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The Clean Air Partnership is a registered charity, founded in 2000. Our mission is to work with partners to achieve clean air, facilitate the exchange of ideas, advance change and promote and coordinate implementation of actions that improve local air quality.

My Sustainable Day-Cation in Burlington Day 4: Trash!

Trash.  Junk.  Garbage.  Everyone knows it’s there, but nobody wants to talk about it.  Well, that’s all changing in Burlington.  They want everyone to talk about it.  They want everyone in the City to come out and join their Community Clean Up and Green Up event, coordinated by BurlingtonGreen  this Saturday, April 21st.  They want everyone to know about it, because being aware of your garbage is the first step towards diverting it away from landfill.

Sure, it’s easy to focus on good-looking, photogenic topics like cycling infrastructure, green buildings and local food, but garbage has always been the ugly duckling of the topics I write about.  Up until recently, garbage bins were just garbage bins, sitting there waiting to accept another piece of refuse that found its way, unsorted, into our landfills.  But that’s all changing in Burlington, and I’m here to prove that Garbage can look good too.

Now, the easiest way to deal with a garbage problem is to simply eliminate the source of unnecessary trash.  Every day, we generate a lot of unnecessary waste as we go about our daily lives.  One of the easiest targets when it comes to unnecessary product packaging is bottled water.  For Burlington, the question was not so much whether they should restrict the sale and use of bottled water from their municipal facilities, but how they could provide residents with a viable alternative once they went through with the restrictions.

The logo for the City's "Thirsty? Try the Tap!" campaign

The response was the City’s “Thirsty? Try the Tap!” campaign, and a well-coordinated strategy of installing and upgrading water fountains and faucets throughout municipal facilities.  Water fountains throughout the city are now equipped with faucets which fit most water bottles, there are fill stations on the outside of City Hall, and even a super-fancy-automatic water dispenser in the high-traffic area on the second floor of City Hall.  This program has proved highly successful, and is a very visible reminder to all Burlingtonians (I’m going with that one, because I like the sound of it the best, and it’s fun to say) to be mindful of what they are consuming and how they are consuming it.

The water fountain and, to the left, a high-tech automatic fill station.

The fancy automatic fill station actually made me want to finish my water just so I could refill my bottle.

Even outside, residents can still fill their water bottles at City Hall.

But what about all those other things that aren’t so easy to get rid of?  The paper, the plastic, the food waste?  I can still remember, back when I was a wee little kid growing up in Alberta, that you only had one bin in your house: the garbage bin.  Recycling was something you did with your bottles and cans because it provided you with some spending money (as a 6-year old, 3 dollars was a handsome sum for an afternoon’s work!), but that was about as far as it went.  It would have been hard to imagine the amazing variety of containers and programs taking place in Burlington today back then!

Today, Burlington’s downtown is well equipped with highly visible, colour-coded waste receptacles.  Containers of Black and Blue dot the landscape outside, providing residents with a colour scheme that they recognize from their waste-separation efforts at home.  Inside 10 City Facilities, you can also find Green Bins for organic waste which have been installed as part of a partnership between the City and Halton Region, and if there’s ever any doubt about what goes where, some bins are equipped with signs directing residents where each piece of refuse goes.

Clad in familiar blue and black, Burlington's waste bins provide a clear direction to residents regarding where their waste goes.

Blue, Green and Black bins provide for even more separation and diversion, and a simple sign provides direction to those who might not be sure exactly where their trash should go.

To my mind, however, one of the best things about these waste receptacles is just how darned good they look, and how much they add to the landscapes of Burlington.  I know it sounds weird to say that a garbage can looks good, but seriously, the black-blue-and-green bin adding a splash of colour to the streetscape, the solar-powered BigBelly containers, looking like a primitive R2 unit standing on the street and, most impressively, the Moluks, giant blue and black receptacles found all through the City, including along the Waterfront where they really are a feature of the landscape, perfectly integrated into the picturesque waterfront of downtown Burlington.

BigBellies, solar powered, self-compacting trash bins, need to be emptied less frequently than standard bins, reducing fuel use in the collection stage. Also, they look really cool.

Owned by the City, the BigBellies have green messaging all over them rather than advertising from outside agencies.

Two of the City's 126 Moluks, this pair on the lakeshore provide a visually striking answer to the trash problem at the popular Burlington waterfront. The bins have a huge capacity and are emptied much less frequently than a standard bin.

Of course, that Waterfront is home to some of the largest gatherings of people in all of southern Ontario every single year, including one of my favorite events, Ribfest.  And whenever that many people get together to eat, there’s gonna be some trash generated.  But Burlington has a secret weapon.  Well, they have several secret weapons in their war on waste, but the one I want to focus on will greet you with a great big smile.  He will want to talk to you at length about garbage.  He can sort tall piles of trash with a single glance (OK, so maybe I made that last one up).  His name is Kale, and you will hear much more about him tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

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7 Comments on “My Sustainable Day-Cation in Burlington Day 4: Trash!”

  1. Michelle April 20, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Let it be known that years of citizen advocacy and action and awesome city staff effort went into the great programs you’ve highlighted so nicely. Another important decision was the adoption of a zero waste policy and the financing of a new city staff position by a supportive City Council to help with the effort that went into developing these great program.

    Your posts are making me feel very good about living in Burlington. Thanks for that!

    • cleanairpartnership April 20, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      There’s a lot to feel good about in Burlington for sure! Thanks for reading!

  2. Nicole Watt April 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Halton Region was proud and excited to help the City of Burlington move forward with their waste diversion initiatives. By working closely together we were able to implement a great GreenCart organics program into many of their public facilities. Residents can now practice the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) at home, work, and play!

    Keep up the great work City of Burlington!

    • cleanairpartnership April 21, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      It’s great to see such incredible collaboration between a Region and their municipalities! All of Halton Region’s local municipalities are doing great work, I really look forward to visiting some of the other Halton area municipalities in the coming weeks.

  3. Unemployment Insurance June 27, 2014 at 4:10 am #

    Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing
    like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you!
    Take care!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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