View Court Housing Co-op
Some recycling history
Recycling has been a long time project here at View Court. Likely, it all started with our Free table area previously known as the “Free box” which demonstrated how we reuse household items and clothing. For years when members move within and outside our Co-op this table waxes and wanes with fascinating items that sometimes reappear several times. Every month or so, members collect clothes and deliver them to such places as the Eastside Women's shelters or Big Brothers and other household items to the VGH Thrift Store, Salvation Army or Goodwill.
About two years ago, a few members got together to discuss ways to improve and enhance our City of Vancouver (COV) blue bin area since some bins were overflowing days before our pick up date. Although the primary concern was the container blue bin the mixed papers and newsprint bins were also reaching capacity at times. Our discovery with the container bin was that it contained plastics which the COV would not recycle and refundable containers which the COV would not get the refund. On the contrary we noted soup tetrapacks in the garbage which the COV does recycle We soon realized action was needed on three main points: the loss of revenue from refundable containers; how much our members choose food items with excessive packaging and; how our members are generally unaware of what the COV will and will not accept.
Refundable and recyclable beverage containers
The COV container blue bin overflow was our most immediate concern. To remedy this, we set up an additional bin for refundable beverage containers: glass and plastic bottles, tetrapacks, and wax cardboard. Items were delivered to our local "Go Green" Recycling centre, a mere 4 blocks down the hill from us at 7th and Ontario St. On this trip, we learned that how "Go Green" also accepts milk and milk substitute containers (tetrapac and wax cardboard) which the City of Vancouver does not (with exception to plastic milk containers). Although refunds were not given for these containers the depot would recycle them for us at no additional cost.
The refunds were small at first, although it was sufficient for small bi-monthly donations to local charities as recommended by some of our members. Three specific examples include; The Vancouver Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), the BC Pulmonary Hypertension Society and the General Wolfe, school playground project. After each donation, a posting above the recycling depot would inform members what charity the funds were delivered to. As an alternative, some members continued to leave liquor bottles outdoors for people living on the street.
Over the year, the delivery of refundable containers was made by two members alternating weekly or bi-weekly. The funds are collected, recorded and deposited into a bank account along with other project funds. While the winter and summer months tend to be busier, there were more funds and opportunities for donations. A wish list was created and purchases made to items including ink refilling at our communal computer/printer station and wireless cable to expand our network.
Other plastics and materials
Although separating refundable reduced the number of containers in our blue bin, there was still numerous plastics labeled other than (1, 2, 4 and 5) which the COV will not accept. We added another bin for alternative plastics (#6) of which, items such as muffin and other baked goods in clam shell plastics, were the largest contributor to the overflow.
Around this time, the COV Civic strike began and would soon affect the flow of our recycling system. Notices were posted on the recycling bins about sensible shopping and encouraging members to consider only purchasing items packed that were recyclable. Bi-weekly deliveries of all recyclable materials were brought to Regional Recycling on Terminal Avenue in order to keep the piles from overflowing. Some members opted to store their recyclables in their suites and lockers until such time as the Civic strike ended.
Pacific Mobile Depot
In September 2007 we contacted the Recycling Council of BC, and were told that a recycling depot in Victoria called the Pacific Mobile Depot accepted a large variety of alternative plastics and would soon be setting up a depot in North Vancouver . Although the Victoria depot occurred each weekend, the North Vancouver depot would only occur in one location every third Saturday of the month starting in November 2007. After two months of collecting a various plastics a large container was collected, sorted and delivered using a car from the Co-Operative Auto Network. The cost of out first load was approximately $7.00 (as donation), however, including the costs of car usage and delivery it was over $20.00.
Clearly, we needed to cut down on the transportation cost and environmental impact of driving in order to continue to pay for recycling as well as make donations to local charities. As we had already used bike "CAN Carts" from the COV Bicycle Hotline, making the switch to bicycle was an easy alternative to the car. During the first few months, one person would cycle down to Waterfront Station to take a ferry over to North Vancouver and a short trip to the depot at 333 Chesterfield Ave only three blocks up from Lonsdale Quay.
If you got the ferry schedule on time, the trip would take 45 minutes one way. The return was a little longer once you stopped for coffee, croissant and to take in the view of Vancouver from the North Shore. In May we had three members on the journey, which was lots of fun especially since the weather was superb. In the coming months a temporary local depot pick up site will be organized between housing co-ops who participate on the green co-op list serve firstname.lastname@example.org . By the fall a local Vancouver site will hopefully be established.
In recent months: even more ways to recycle!
Throughout this past winter, our recycling program expanded with reorganizing the collection bins and posting new signage outlining the process of sorting and delivery. Metals were included to our recycling bins with inflexible metals being delivered to Regional Recycling on Terminal Avenue. Batteries were collected and delivered monthly or bi-monthly and a collection of cotton rags/holey clothes for the AMS Bicycle Co-op was delivered to their site at UBC for bike repair technicians. Flyers were distributed to some members informing them of what materials were accepted by Pacific Mobile Depot and reports were provided to members at the Annual General and Budget General meetings. A map and directions to Pacific Mobile Depot was provided on our website for members wishing to partake in a future venture. Occasionally an ad hoc gathering of keen recyclers would organize and pack cardboard boxes and the CAN cart for a delivery the next week. Eventually an e-mail went out to members informing them of a packing gathering and few would attend, bringing with them snacks and music.
In May 2008, moving to a larger recycling area allowed for better organization of materials so members could sort easily making the packing process easier. The delivery in May was larger than expected, requiring two CAN Carts and three members which was helpful when contending with elevators at Waterfront station.
Bulk buying and a smaller “footprint”
Throughout the winter, over packaging continued to be a concern for members. Members would purchase large items such as bulk toilet paper but found them too large for our suites so they were kept in storage lockers. Sharing a pack of toilet paper between members became a common practice which became the springboard to our "bulk store". Reducing our carbon footprint has been a consideration among many members so purchasing in bulk seemed to be a natural next step. Although we tried to consider local products when possible, some food items were likely to come from further distances. The interest was in products that were "green", unscented, organic and healthy. The next few months, a wish list was posted asking members to submit their preferred food types for purchase. Rice, flour and grains were among the highest on the list considering the looming global increases in these products.
The store now contains organic: rices, flours, quinoa, Black and Garbanzo Beans, Oats as well as environmentally friendly toilet paper, laundry soap powder and liquid dish soap. In order to know what is available, please register and log into our website and check this link http://viewcourt.vcn.bc.ca/beg_borrow_and_steal .
We are always open to new suggestions !
Join us --- it’s economical , environmental and FUN !
Slowly we are moving forward to more sustainable lifestyles here at View Court. It’s great to have more people making ethical choices when purchasing products and learning about reducing, reusing and recycling.
If you ever want to get (more) involved, learn more about any of the processes or be a part of our journeys to the North Shore, please let Kari or I know.