Diversion with Purpose

Diversion with Purpose

Furniture Bank here in Toronto has been tracking data outputs for 10 years now. We all know that throwing a good couch or bed into landfill is a dramatic waste when we see it, and look to find clever ways to change behaviours. We are seeing a lot of movement and success engaging government and zero waste leaders explaining the role that organizations like us permit in the discussion of diversion and reducing carbon impact.

Last week I was fortunate to have a Calvin Lakhan from The Waste Wiki at York University visit us for a tour and to discuss his preliminary results on the top level LCA impact of a furniture bank.

Diversion with Purpose 1

Furniture Banks in general lead with the lives changed, children and families supported, and beds given. We generally do not lead with discussing how the social work we do has a knock on benefit to zero waste / landfill goals of local municipalities. Calvin was kind enough to highlight some less popular areas for more diversion – one being furniture, and connecting that diversion to local furniture banks. I have pulled the excerpt from his Linkedin report below – ‘Diversion with Purpose’

You can see it (and share it) on Linkedin here:  DIVERT WITH PURPOSE


Where will our next diverted tonne come from? Diversion with a purpose

Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University … See more
Provincial diversion rates have largely stalled in the past five years, and in fact, is trending downwards for the first time in more than two decades. The reason for this stagnation is heavily debated – some point to the proliferation of light weight packaging, while others suggest municipal inefficiency and lack of applicable legislation. Whatever the cause, the reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to divert “the marginal tonne”- where will our next diverted tonne come from? What will it cost? And what will be the environmental, economic and social benefit? What makes this issue particularly salient is that municipalities across Canada continue to set lofty diversion targets as a first step towards achieving a circular, zero waste economy.
The next tonne will not come from printed paper and packaging (Blue Box)

Furniture – A Missed Opportunity

Much like textiles, there is no prescriptive legislation for how furniture waste should be managed. In most instances, households bare the physical and financial responsibility for transporting furniture waste to landfills, and will often rely on “junk” collectors to provide this service.
While furniture waste generation is highly variable (depending on locality, season etc.), a review of Ontario waste audits suggests that furniture and white good waste makes up approximately 5% of the overall waste stream, representing approximately 125,000 tonnes of material annually.
However, unlike textiles, end of life furniture does not have a value (or at the very least, it is highly dependent on the item, and site/situation specific factors). As such, collectors have to be financially incented, with the generator (in most cases the household) paying to have items removed and sent to landfill.
Municipalities have traditionally played a limited role in managing these items, but what role can a municipality play in not only supporting keeping these items out of landfills, but maximizing social and environmental outcomes as well?

Charitable Initiatives – The Furniture Bank Case Study

Furniture Bank is a Toronto based charity and social enterprise that helps marginalized and at risk families furnish their homes. Furniture bank accepts gently used furniture and other household items, distributing them to families in need. This initiative helps divert more than 1500 tonnes of material from Toronto landfills annually, but perhaps more importantly, serves more than 5000 local clients in need on an annual basis.
In strictly economic terms, the City of Toronto benefits through avoided landfill tipping fee costs (as well as collection costs for large, bulky items), while the province benefits through the provision of a social service to marginalized communities (without incurring a direct cost).
Since 2010, furniture bank has diverted almost 10,000T of furniture/household wares from landfills, which has had an enormous environmental impact for Ontario (shown in figure 3):
Diversion with Purpose 2
Given that the vast majority of furniture waste (as noted earlier, in excess of 125,000 tonnes) is ending up in our landfills, there is an enormous opportunity not only to increase diversion rates, but achieve a truly sustainable outcome.
Leveraging organizations such as Furniture Bank (to serve as a used furniture collector) provides a rare opportunity to address all three pillars of a sustainable waste management program. We are able to increase diversion from landfills (environment), while transferring costs away from local government (economic) and simultaneously support social impact initiatives (social).
As noted earlier, research suggests that Ontarians express a strong desire to support social initiatives and charities through waste donations (used textiles, furniture etc.). In a two year study conducted by York University, households were more than twice as likely to donate their used materials to a designated charitable collector.

Diversion with a purpose

Waste management (at least in a Canadian context) has historically not been seen through the lens of social sustainability. It is largely seen as a service provided by municipalities, to help keep material out of landfills and promote circularity.
However, as we look to increase diversion rates, we have to ask ourselves two questions:
1) Where will the next diverted tonne come from? And
2) What do I want achieve by diverting more material?
As noted earlier, conventional means and mediums of diversion (i.e. Blue Box) have been exhausted – the next diverted tonne is not likely to come from newsprint or cardboard, but from organics, textiles and furniture.
In addition to finding new opportunities to divert material, what are we trying to achieve by doing so? Is it good enough just to keep material out of landfills, or should we seek to identify ways to maximize economic and social outcomes as well?
This article hopes to highlight that it is possible to “divert with a purpose” – municipalities (and the province) can play a critical role in supporting waste collectors that have a mission beyond “managing waste”, and look to improve the lives and well-being of Ontarians.
The opportunity isn’t just about the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material not currently being diverted, but the thousands people that benefit through strategic prioritization of material streams and waste collectors.


Ikea continues its journey to a Circular Furniture Economy

Ikea continues its journey to a Circular Furniture Economy

Ikea continues its journey to a Circular Furniture Economy 3

Was great to see major brands changing their operations to be part of the circular economy and tackle consumption and waste.

Making the furniture sector fully circular and having a positive impact on people and the planet is a tall order. Furniture Link is already collaborating and partnering with retailers to go beyond ‘just circular’ or ‘zero waste’ and work with a network of furniture banks who can reuse, recover, repair, and regift in communities of our most vulnerable families. There are many companies of scale, and all of them are approaching the circular economy, social responsibility and community engagement differently. Congrats to IKEA for leading the way to a ‘social circular economy’!

Raw materials, by far, are the largest part of that footprint, so reusing or recycling materials can have a dramatic impact.

Furniture Banks across North America are reusing these quality items and changing lives while supporting a better environment. We are seeing that by working collaboratively with retailers, can we achieve meaningful change and impact in all parts of the community, beyond the restailers primary customer group.

You can read more here: https://www.fastcompany.com/90328244/inside-ikeas-plan-to-reinvent-itself-as-a-circular-company 




If food waste can do it?

If food waste can do it?

Amazing to see business move into address waste.
Furniture Link is focused on waste in home furnishings and linking them to the thousands of organizations and their beneficiary families who cannot afford these goods as they recover from a crisis.

“Waste, at its heart, is an expense”

We completely agree with the sentiment, and it applies to furniture and household goods as well!

Read the full article here https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-23/big-money-joins-fight-against-1-trillion-in-wasted-food 

Big Money Joins Fight Against $1 Trillion in Wasted Food

Companies have raised more than $125 million in capital to improve the industry’s efficiency, but it’s proving hard to convince consumers not to throw away perfectly good food.
February 23, 2019, 8:00 AM EST
If food waste can do it? 4If food waste can do it? 5
Illustration: Cathryn Virginia
There’s gold in keeping bananas yellow.
Companies fighting food waste in the U.S. attracted about $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in the first 10 months of 2018, according to a report from ReFED, a coalition of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies. This amount is expected to rise.
Luring funding are products like smart tags that change color when milk goes bad, a mist to prolong the shelf life of fruit and software to help grocery stores order just the right amount of produce so they throw less away.
The solutions have skeptics, but the problem is generally acknowledged as an economic and ethical calamity. Every year, 1.4 billion tons of food—a third of global production—ends up in landfills. By some estimates, this adds up to nearly $1 trillion of annual squander and the production of about 8 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases. At the same time, nearly 800 million people go hungry every day.

Business Opportunity

“Investors are seeing that food waste is a big business opportunity,” said Michelle Masek, head of marketing at Apeel Sciences Inc., which formed a partnership this month with a major European supplier of avocados that will use a water-based solution the company says extends the ripeness as many as four days.

63 Million Tons

That’s how much food the U.S. wastes per year, with consumer kitchens the worst offenders
Source: A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, ReFED, 2016
The challenge is that individuals—not restaurants, supermarkets or farms—are among the main offenders. In the U.S., about 43 percent of all the waste happens at the end of the supply chain, in home kitchens, according to a 2016 ReFED report. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found 68 percent of what’s trashed is still edible.
People are aware of their shortcomings, according to a 2016 survey. They feel guilty, but not guilty enough to make a difference.
But not everyone is sold on the idea that the answer lies in more stuff.

Grocery Stores

“I worry about this food-tech, food-waste boom becoming a food-waste bust,” said Elizabeth Balkan, director of the NRDC’s food-waste program. If consumers want to throw away less food, what they have to do is plan better and store smarter, she said. It does “require lifestyle adjustments, but it shouldn’t be things that require a lot of costs and newfangled devices.”
The hope for serious change, and the greatest opportunity for investment, rests with grocery stores, where narrow margins and tough competition from Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc.’s Whole Foods Market and European transplants Aldi and Lidl provide bottom-line incentive. Not only is revenue lost from tomatoes gone mushy and expired cheddar, there’s the added expense of getting rid of it.
“When they started to realize the cost of food waste, we started to see a change,” said Anne Greven, global co-head of food and agriculture innovation at the Dutch lender Rabobank.

Imperfect Produce

Startups have stepped in. FoodMaven, which sells discounted surplus food and what it describes as “imperfect produce” to restaurants and commercial kitchens, announced $10 million of investment in January, from members of the Walton and Pritzker families, on top of $8.6 million from a first round of funding. Afresh Technologies, which taps machine learning to help retailers buy just enough to keep inventories in balance, followed a $1.7 million seed round in January 2018 with an undisclosed, but larger, funding round that closed in December.
Other companies include Bluapple, maker of a gas-absorbing device for refrigerators that claims to add a few more days to berries and greens, and Ovie, which says its Smarterware combines Tupperware and sensors to let you know how much time that leftover fruit salad or beef stir-fry has left. Companies like Copia and Goodr are making food donations easier.
Older companies, too, see the benefit of new products to address the problem. Newell Brand Inc.’s Rubbermaid advertises the containers in its Fresh Works line as capable of prolonging the life of items like strawberries and leafy greens.
Walmart “looks at food waste in a more holistic way,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. For example, the biggest U.S. retailer cut strawberry delivery time from farm to store by 50 percent, adding two to three days to the berries’ usable lives.
Through its Customer Value Program, Walmart reduces the price on items that will expire soon to increase the likelihood they’ll be purchased and created a standardized date label to lower the chances anything goes bad at home. Walmart donates to local food banks what doesn’t get sold.
“Waste, at its heart, is an expense,” said Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice president for global sustainability.
Visualizing a Circular Path

Visualizing a Circular Path


Some great working coming out of Australia on the role that the existing transport and logistics of waste sector. What I find most interesting is the focus on “What could be” if we approach existing linear models and adapt them into a circular outcome!

For example, novel collection, consolidation and redistribution services could be offered that enable the cycling of reusable products and components, not just recoverable or disposable materials.

This very aligned with what Furniture Link is engaging in bending linear waste into a circular model, without new costs or systems.

Very exciting times for all of us.


Treading the circular path

The new National Waste Policy acknowledges the importance of a circular economy, but is largely a missed opportunity, writes Jenni Downes, Senior Research Consultant at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute of Sustainable Futures.

Following on the heels of the China sword crisis, the path towards a circular economy in Australia surged forward last year, in large part due to the leadership of state governments.

The South Australian Government can take some credit as a first mover. Back in 2017, it commissioned research into the benefits of transitioning to a circular economy and dedicated Green Industries SA to progressing it.

In March 2018, the WA Government first indicated their new waste strategy would likely include circular economy principles. In June, the Queensland Government announced in a directions paper that it would progressively move towards a circular economy, and shortly after, the Victorian Government committed to developing a circular economy Policy by 2020.

In October 2018, the NSW Government leapfrogged these commitments by releasing a draft Circular Economy Policy statement for discussion.

The Federal Government also joined the conversation, agreeing as part of the seventh Meeting of Environment Ministers last April that an update to the 2008 National Waste Policy by the end of 2018 would include circular economy principles. The government met the year-end deadline, releasing the 2018 National Waste Policy in early December, following an intense, though brief, round of industry engagement and public consultation and agreement at the eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers.

The new national policy acknowledges the importance of a circular economy, but limits the scope of such to closing material loops according to the waste hierarchy. In essence, it is just a progression of Australia’s “recycling” economy.

This approach misses the truly revolutionary nature of a circular economy. A circular economy ideally aims to maximise the lifespan of whole products and components as well as materials and energy, by developing innovative business models that transform whole systems of production, distribution and consumption. These systems also support sharing, reuse, repair, refurbishing, reassembly and remanufacturing as well as recycling and energy recovery.

For example, this can include:

  1. Products as services: through sharing/collaborative consumption initiatives, pay-for-use, leasing/take backs/subscriptions/upgrades and performance purchasing agreements.
  2. Transformed products: these include modular design of dismantable components, allowing for easier upgrade, repair and refurbishment for ‘extended life’, and reassembly and remanufacture for ‘next life’, plus designing for recyclability at “end-of-life”.
  3. Innovative recycling: leveraging new technologies and capabilities to recover almost any type of resource at a level of value equivalent to, or even above, that of the initial material.

The role of the waste and resource recovery sector in the third opportunity is obvious. But the sector also has an opportunity to support and enable broader transformations, by reimagining its own role in the economy and growing beyond end-of-life services to support extended life and next life approaches, which aim to stop items from becoming waste in the first place.

While this may seem counterintuitive for a sector whose business models mostly rely on the production of waste, such contrary transformations are already happening in other industries. In the energy sector for example, where decentralised generation and storage are disrupting traditional revenue streams, energy businesses are beginning the transition from selling energy (where profits have traditionally been derived from how much energy people consume) to selling energy services (including energy efficiency, which deliberately reduces how much energy is consumed).

In the same way, this sector could, for example, look to combat problems from the China “ban” not only by improving quality of waste streams and supporting (or moving into) onshore reprocessing, but also by profitably helping reduce the amount of waste that needs to be recycled.

For example, novel collection, consolidation and redistribution services could be offered that enable the cycling of reusable products and components, not just recoverable or disposable materials.

Auckland has taken the first step in this direction, with collection contractors for kerbside bulky goods doing a first pass of the clean-up stream and delivering salvageable items to a “triage” warehouse where reuse/repair charities take items to on-sell/redistribute. In this vein, e-waste recycling facilities could add preliminary processes to salvage reusable components before shredding items to recover raw materials, while food waste collections could partner with food charities to hand over edible food before recycling the rest.

And these are just the beginning of what could be. As described by the UK Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, there is a chance for “a generational change” resulting in a sector that would look very different to the one that has recently been overseeing a shift from “landfill-led to resource recovery-led”.

Such revolutionary changes require both vision and investment. The National Waste Policy could have been a vehicle for both. There is still scope for such. The eighth Meeting of Environment Ministers agreed to the National Waste Policy, while also acknowledging the urgent need for a strong, national action plan with robust targets, milestones and appropriate funding to underpin and guide implementation of the policy.

To be developed by the next meeting in mid 2019, the action plan should include a strengthened focus on support for industry development, which could include beginning these step-change transitions.

However, the sector could also take a leadership role in developing this broader vision for itself and lead this year’s conversation on how an Australian circular society could be about so much more than just better waste management and recovery.


Source: http://wastemanagementreview.com.au/jenni-downes-circular-economy/

Canada’s dirty garbage secret

Canada’s dirty garbage secret

Canada leads the developed world in per capita production of garbage. What’s behind our nation’s wasteful ways?

By Charles Wilkins

November 4, 2017

On the morning of May 3, 2016, at the Canada Fibers plant on Arrow Road in northwest Toronto, a worker spotted something abnormal and quickly sounded the alarm. The cavernous echoing facility is the separation site for the 800 tonnes of “recyclables” that Toronto’s waste management department collects daily from blue bags and bins around the city. As the impressive tonnage rattles and roars through the plant, high-tech machinery winnows steel cans from aluminum cans, from glass, from paper, from cardboard, from Styrofoam, from numerous other kinds of plastic. The mountains of separated detritus are then compressed into bales the size of pianos, and are shipped off to buyers… who break them down and sell them to manufacturers … who build them up again and sell them to consumers … who break them down again, and put them in recycle bins, from which they are picked up by one of the 800 curbside collection trucks used by the city; and the whole surreal process begins again … and then begins again.

But all of this went kerflooey on May 3, when the machinery at Arrow Road failed to recognize and “sort” what police later described as “a human body part.” Within minutes, the rumbling of the plant came to a halt, and the site was summarily shut down. And remained so for some 24 hours.

For Derek Angove, the city’s amiable and devoted director of solid waste management, the problem was not so much the macabre presence of the body part (decidedly a matter for the police) but rather that for an indefinite period of time the plant would be out of commission, and there would be no place to unload or winnow the never-ending avalanche of recyclables that pours into the facility at a rate of about two tonnes a minute, aboard 18-wheelers that pick up the goods from any of seven municipal transfer stations across the city.

Within minutes of the shutdown, Angove was on the phone securing alternative sorting sites in nearby Burlington and other parts of southern Ontario. “My job,” he said an hour later, “is to make sure that every item of waste we collect — from kitchen scraps to Christmas trees to mattresses to old carpeting and toilets – keeps moving. If for any reason the stream begins to back up, the transfer stations are full before you know it, the collection trucks can’t unload, and we’re in big trouble fast.”


In a world increasingly inclined toward “suicide by garbage,” as the late American novelist Jim Harrison phrased it, Toronto might seem to be a mere whistle stop on the road to global self-destruction.

“Toronto is deceptive,” says Myra Hird, who teaches at the Queen’s University school of environmental studies in Kingston, Ont., where she is a specialist in waste management. “It tends to deal with its municipal waste so efficiently that the average person doesn’t see how much of it there is, or where it goes. Out of sight, out of mind, sort of thing.”

The last time Torontonians glimpsed the realities of their garbage habit was during the five-week municipal workers’ strike in 2009, when many of the city’s parks and outdoor rinks (devoid of ice in July) were buried up to four metres deep in stinking refuse. The previous glimpse came after 9/11, when U.S. border authorities temporarily stopped shipments of about a thousand tonnes per day of Toronto’s garbage to the Carleton Farms landfill in Michigan. At the time, another 4,000 tons of the city’s trash was being deposited daily in the Keele Valley landfill, Canada’s largest garbage dump, just north of Toronto in Vaughan — a site that was itself under pressure and about to close its drawbridge on Toronto’s daily outpouring of rubbish.

Any outsider granted a behind-the-scenes peek at that outpouring is likely to be struck by its volume and variety and cost – more than a million dollars a day to keep it all moving. But what really hits the uninitiated, and hits hard, is the flow of it all, the river — the nightmarish relentlessness with which the waste keeps coming, keeps needing a place to go, to hide, to die, sometimes to be reborn. All of which echoes the relentlessness of the country’s garbage production as a whole. Despite what anyone might believe about the country’s oft-cited ecological values and its liberal ambitions for the planet, Canada leads the developed world in per capita production of garbage.

“We tend to think that if other countries were more like Canada, the planet could be saved,” says Hird. “But if every country was like Canada in terms of all-out consumerism and waste, the planet would be even more messed up than it is.” What really hits the uninitiated is the flow of it all — the nightmarish relentlessness with which the waste keeps coming, keeps needing a place to go, to hide, to die, sometimes to be reborn.

The 720 kilos per capita of waste produced annually by every Canadian is about twice what is produced per capita in Japan, and as much as 10 times what is produced by a half-dozen countries in Africa. More alarmingly, our production is seven per cent higher than per capita ouput of waste in the United States, which all but invented consumer excess.

“As our greatest concentration of people,” says Hird, “Toronto is basically garbage central — a pretty fair representation of what’s happening, or not happening, with domestic waste throughout the country.”

Beyond the city’s annual processing of 200,000 tonnes of recyclables, its residents produce household garbage (the stuff we put in green bags) at a rate of 10,000 tonnes a week, or half a million tonnes a year. For maximum efficiency, tractor trailers, each bearing nearly 40 tonnes of compacted garbage, are meticulously clocked out of Toronto so as to arrive at the city’s Green Lane landfill near London, Ont. at a rate of one every 10 minutes, hour by hour, weekday after weekday.

Relative to most rural settings in southwestern Ontario, and despite its pastoral name, Green Lane is not so much a parcel of land, or even a dump in any typical sense, as another planet. Located just north of Highway 401, about 200 kilometres west of Toronto, the 130-hectare public landfill (Canada’s biggest) throws a memorable pong across the surrounding countryside but is otherwise barely discernible to anyone who does not actively seek it out. A grassy berm separates it from the 401, and the side road to the site passes a hardwood forest and creek remediated by the City of Toronto, in part as a kind of thank-you to Southwold Township for taking on Toronto’s garbage at a time when other constituencies wanted nothing to do with it.

The landfill’s relatively dressy exterior is significantly influenced by its manager, Anne Hiscock, a lawyer turned engineer whose office, on the site’s north side, is in a faux-residential building surrounded by a riot of yellow gardens that, a year ago, earned the site a place on the local Communities-in-Bloom tour.

However, as Angove and Hiscock accompany a first-time visitor up the long ramp to the lip of the landfill proper, Angove offers a gentle caution about what lies ahead: an experience perhaps unimagined, or even unimaginable. And he is well-justified in doing so. The visitor and his chaperones come over the last incline in the road, out onto a dusty mesa from which the valley beyond might be mistaken for a vast archaeological dig, one that has unearthed a somehow familiar civilization, or more precisely what remains of that civilization when it bags up the leftovers from its pillaging of the planet and tosses the bags into an 11-million-cubic-metre hole. Seeing the place for the first time is a moment for which no convenient hyperbole is too big (think Cortez, gazing at the Pacific, “silent on a peak in Darien,” as John Keats put it). Except that the ocean here is not of course water but garbage, fathoms of it, a sea on which 18-wheelers and Caterpillar landfill compactors move about like small ships, the sound of their engines silenced by distance and the persistent howl of the wind.

Typically, such a place would be host to legions of scavenging birds (Vancouver’s Ladner landfill, at Delta, hosts several thousand gulls and a thousand bald eagles). But on this day at Green Lane there are just two birds – rentals, of all things – both perched on the viewing promontory: an aging golden eagle and a Harris hawk, a kind of missile with wings, that Angove says is “the work horse” of the pair. Green Lane hires the tamed raptors from Predator Bird Services to come and sit by the site on perches, within metres of their handler’s vehicle. From there, the hawk takes an occasional tour over the garbage, to remind gulls that the landfill is not the paradise they might have assumed (the old eagle is more of an implied threat these days). “So, we have no birds,” says Hiscock.

And no rats. And no bears.

Green Lane, like all landfills, does have a hellacious population of microbes, quintillions of them, that eat away at the dump’s contents, producing methane gas, a serious greenhouse offender, at a rate of 96 cubic metres per minute (enough to fill a two-car garage nearly 1,500 times a day). The gas is collected by dozens of vertical and horizontal gas wells and is burned off or “flared,” although plans are proceeding to construct a power plant that will convert the methane to usable energy. At Keele Valley, Toronto’s former landfill, which was decommissioned 16 years ago, methane still pours from the buried trash in sufficient volume to fuel a plant that provides enough electricity to supply 20,000 homes.

A natural clay underlay at Green Lane prevents toxic leachate from getting into the groundwater. “We know the clay is impenetrable,” says Angove. “Tests showed water molecules just above it that dated back 10,000 years” — in other words to a time when the last of the Wisconsin glaciers was dragging its icy tail across the territory.