Waste reduction programs

Give Waste a New Life

Waste reduction begins with you

If not you, then who? It’s no wonder “Reduce” is the first of the 3Rs. Waste reduction is the cheapest and most simple way to prevent garbage from piling up in landfills. Waste reduction also saves money and conserves the resources and raw materials that go into making new items.

Waste reduction means buying only what you need and making smarter choices about what you buy, such as environmentally friendly products, items that use recyclable materials, are produced locally, are packaged responsibly and can be reused or recycled.

Making just a few personal changes can help the environment.

Everyday waste reduction tips

  • Carry reusable cloth bags when shopping
  • Use a travel mug for beverages on the go
  • Home compost your garden and kitchen waste
  • Avoid purchasing disposable products
  • Donate clothing, furniture and other items that can be used by someone else
  • Take a ‘litterless’ lunch
  • Use glass or plastic containers for food leftovers
  • Avoid products with excess packaging and buy in bulk

Please remember: each of us has tremendous personal power to reduce the amount of waste generated. It’s time to do our part and make a difference. If not you, then who?

Looking for more waste reduction tips?

Waste reduction at home

  • About 40 percent of the food we throw out is still good to eat. Try these tips to reduce your food waste.
  • Before you replace something old with something new, attempt to have it repaired. This could save you some money as well as reduce waste.
  • Use a refillable mug for coffee or other beverages on the go.
  • Purchase items in bulk whenever possible… bring your own containers to the bulk store if possible.
  • Buy products that will last; make durability, not price, your primary purchasing decision-making factor.
  • Instead of buying new toys or tools, try sharing with friends.
  • Re-upholster worn out furniture instead of buying new – often the frame will far outlast the upholstery.
  • Buy products made from recycled materials whenever possible – sometimes these products cost less, making the choice even easier.
  • When faced with two similar products of different brands, choose the product with the least amount of packaging.
  • Avoid purchasing disposable products – re-usable products are better for the environment, and will save you money in the long run.
  • Avoid buying single serving or over-packaged foods – there is always an alternative with less packaging (and likely more nutritious).
  • Whenever possible choose products that are sold in re-fillable or recyclable containers.
  • Consider purchasing used goods before purchasing new; this is a great re-use and cost-saving option for the consumer.
  • Use your imagination! Thinking of new ways to reduce the amount of waste you produce can be fun and creative.
  • Try giving an item a “new life” by using it in an innovative way such as peanut butter jars for storing nuts and bolts or comic strips or colourful paper for gift wrap.
  • If you have an item that you no longer need but is still in usable condition, consider using the Waste Wizard to find a donation centre for that item.
  • Guelph loves its tap water; Enjoy it in a glass, from a pitcher, in your coffee, however you please. Our naturally filtered water is extremely clear and of excellent quality even before it is treated. Our water is always safe to drink and is waste-free!
  • Heading out the door? Tap water is always available. Bring Fill Drink at Blue W locations, visit the Water Wagon at community events, or the water fountains at Exhibition and Riverside Parks.

Waste reduction at school

  • Get staff and students involved in waste reduction efforts.
  • Encourage staff and children to bring “litterless” lunches in a re-usable bag or container.
  • Be creative and participate in waste reduction education activities and projects and strongly encourage volunteerism to make programs successful.
  • Use overheads, markerboards or blackboards instead of paper flipcharts.
  • Encourage double-sided paper use.
  • Post announcements on central message boards.
  • Form a waste exchange to enable students and staff to find new homes for unwanted books, clothing, jewellery, sports equipment and other items.
  • Consider acquiring a vermicomposter to eliminate small quantities of food waste in eating or food preparation areas – depending on the level of interest and commitment to the proper care and maintenance of a vermicomposter, this option may or may not be ideal for each situation.
  • Invite waste industry representatives to be a guest speaker.
  • Tour waste processing facilities to increase understanding about what happens to waste after it has been hauled away.
  • Bring your reusable water bottle and express your personal style, Fill it with Guelph’s awesome water, and Drink. No bottle? No problem! You can always Drink our awesome water from a water fountain. Find your closest options by using the Blue W map.

Waste reduction at work

  • Use both sides of paper and re-use envelopes and scrap paper.
  • Familiarize staff with the proper operation of office equipment to eliminate waste through misuse.
  • Purchase supplies in bulk quantities if appropriate to reduce packaging waste.
  • Centrally post or e-mail memos and documents as opposed to providing individual copies.
  • Institute an office policy to purchase products containing recycled content whenever there is an option.
  • Educate staff and reinforce on an ongoing basis about company waste reduction policies and programs.
  • Consider acquiring a vermicomposter to eliminate small quantities of food waste in eating or food preparation areas – depending on the level of interest and commitment to the proper care and maintenance of a vermicomposter, this option may or may not be ideal for each situation.
  • Try to purchase products in re-usable or recyclable containers.
  • Set up a recycling program.
  • Stay hydrated with Guelph’s amazing tap water. Keeping a nice glass on your desk or a reusable bottle with you will help. When on the road, find our water at a Blue W location.
  • Guelph loves it’s tap water. Be a community business by enjoying our delicious, crystal clear and safe tap water and encourage your employees to do the same. Become a Blue W location

Single-use products

The City’s approach to single-use products and packaging is focussed on reducing use and proper disposal.

Guelph is and has always been a strong advocate of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

These Rs are listed in order of benefit. The best way to cut back on any waste, plastic or otherwise, is by reducing your use:

  • Bring your own bags, boxes, bins and baskets when shopping for groceries.
  • Carry one, small reusable bag with you whenever you go out for those times you just happen to pick something up; some reusable bags pack up small to easily fit in your pocket or hang on your key chain.
  • Tell your servers you don’t want straws or stir sticks.
  • Carry your own reusable straws; there are straws available that pack up into a case you can carry on your keychain.
  • Join the “I love Guelph Tap Water” club and wherever you go Bring a re-usable water bottle, Fill it with our incredible water, and Drink up to stay hydrated.
  • Access Guelph’s water at a Blue W location. Bottles aren’t required.

The second best option for reducing waste is reusing whatever you can: single–use plastic bags don’t have to be single use;

  • If you’ve got them, keep some plastic bags in the car for those unexpected shopping trips, or pop one in your carry bag or purse.
  • Reuse plastic bags to pack lunches—you can reuse these more than once.
  • Plastic bags make great wet clothing or dirty laundry carriers; bring them when you travel, go for a swim, camp or hike—just a few examples.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle; leave an extra one in your car or bag.

The last R—recycle—isn’t an option at the City’s recycling facility when it comes to plastic bags, but many other places including the Guelph Food Bank,  the Guelph Humane Society and some grocery stores, will take them from you for reuse, recycling or proper disposal.

The City ran a plastic bag recycling pilot in 2017. The program was discontinued because of very low use and operational challenges. These plastics tend to get caught in or wrap around equipment which causes damage, halts work and lowers our recyclable processing efficiency.

What we’re doing to reduce single-use products and packaging in our community

We know that reducing single-use products and packaging, plastic or otherwise, is an important part of making our community more environmentally friendly, and that the City has a role to play in that too. Here’s where we’re focusing our efforts on this issue:

  1. We’ll continue to educate the community about the importance of waste reduction and proper disposal, with a focus on reducing waste first, including single-use plastics like bags and straws.
  2. We’re updating our Solid Waste Management Master Plan in 2019. One of the key issues we’ll be looking at is single-use products and packaging including plastic bags and straws.
  3. We’re working with other municipalities to make sure the people who make waste—plastic or other—are also responsible for managing it. Full producer responsibility would mean the manufacturers and commercial users of plastics and other waste or recyclables are also responsible for collection, recycling and disposal of those items, including costs.

The Municipal Resource Recovery and Research Collaborative, which includes Guelph, is also supporting a National Zero Plastic Waste strategy to reduce single-use plastic products and packaging.