Apartment buildings and mixed-use developments often see tremendous waste generation due to the limited space available for storage. Families and single tenants conserve their cabinet and storage space for the most important items, relying on disposables to fill the gaps. It’s all too easy to just put out the trash. It gets it out of the way, keeps things tidy, and makes room for more products. But, with a little bit of thought and minimal time, you can cut down the waste produced in high-rise residential buildings. Let’s have a look at some ways you can help.
According to S2S Group, “Throughout a single year, the world produced 53.6 million tons of E-waste.”
The problem is that no one wants it, which has led to 85% of the world’s broken-down electronics getting dumped in Ghana, parts of Asia, and other West African nations. This further erodes the environmental and economic stability of these regions.
In fact, e-waste is the fastest-growing type of trash and it’s causing huge problems. Much of it is burned or dumped in landfill sites causing pollution and health hazards to humans and wildlife.
Part of the problem that’s causing e-waste levels to increase so dramatically is the world’s growing population. Couple that with increasing economic prosperity and you have a bigger marketplace of ready customers with an increasing desire for handy gadgets.
Technology also moves incredibly fast. This means that products are soon out of date and perceived as no longer ‘up to the job’. Sadly, this means that they are often discarded and replaced. Ask yourself, do you really need the most powerful laptop if you use it for little more than writing emails and checking social media?
As well as consumers demanding ever more up-to-date technologies, manufacturers are producing products with shorter lifespans because the next-gen of technology will come soon to replace them.
Electronics that we buy today are no longer ‘made to last’. They’re made to satisfy the consumer for a short period of time and then be replaced.
Much of the e-waste created in the western world is exported. In some places, this waste is dumped above ground in huge amounts. The local population frequently makes a living by scavenging through the components and units, hunting for valuable materials that can be sold on. This may well be their only income.
These ‘precious finds’ are all too often manually dismantled, often by children. The correct protective equipment for these workers is rarely available. Parts are burned in the open air or sometimes dissolved in acid. The negative impact on health can be catastrophic. Our e-waste is known to contain hundreds of toxic substances. There are documented risks to the entire nervous system, the lungs, kidneys, and links to various types of cancers.
Of course, these very same harmful chemicals are easily able to enter the ground and affect both water and food supplies.
The good news is that this one’s an easy fix for electronics owners and takes little effort. Most Staples and Best Buy locations will gladly recycle your e-waste for you, or you can trade your old smartphone for cash at mall kiosks like ecoATM.
If your old laptop still works, consider asking a charity if they have any use for it. Just because you may not have the tech-savvy or the desire to fix it doesn’t mean that someone else can’t make good use of it. There are also parts in your laptop that can be used to fix other devices. This may well prevent them from being thrown out.
Difficulty Rating: 2
Impact: The animals, soil, and future generations will thank you big-time for this one. Electronic waste leaches dangerous chemicals into the soil that pollute water, destroy arable land, and kill wildlife.
People who may be harmed by exposure to the toxic chemicals in the e-waste you create may be spared from debilitating diseases.
Recycling notebooks, laptops, and other such gadgets gives people an opportunity to use them even if they may not be able to purchase a brand new product.
We throw away far too much food. The amount of food you buy to simply put in the trash would very probably horrify you! This one can be dealt with easily. Simply get yourself a composting bin and start recycling your food scraps to use as compost.
If you’re part of a living community, why not ask your building’s waste management company if they will provide a food scrap bin for you to share? Some waste management consultants will implement an entire food scrap recycling program in a building that holds several units.
To start your composting project off, try having a contest, kick-off party, or other fun activity to introduce the idea to your neighbours and get them excited about it. If space and laws permit, you could even pick up compost from the same company for your community garden. Food waste makes excellent compost and you can use it to grow more fresh foods yourself (just make sure they don’t end up going to waste too!)
Difficulty Rating: 5
Impact: Every year, 30-40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted. In Canada, the figure is even higher at nearly 60%. On average, that’s around 50% of the food produced for each person. Turning this food into compost and using it to grow more food would have a major environmental impact.
Growing fresh food commercially is energy-hungry. Vegetables must be watered, housed, and heated. Food must be harvested and transported to shops where it’s further heated or refrigerated.
Using your food scraps to make compost means that you – or your community – can start to grow your own vegetables. This has a hugely beneficial effect on the environment. Not only are you reducing food waste, but you’re also saving the energy used when food is commercially grown and sold. Don’t forget that there are also big savings to be made for those willing to devote a little time to this kind of project – so it’s kind to the planet and kind to your pocket too!
Are you regularly buying more food items than you need? Do you find yourself putting items in the trash every week that are no longer fit to eat? Try taking a good look at what you’re buying each week and work out if you really need everything on that list. Encourage others in your building to do the same. You can even set up a grocery auditing committee that can help people with this task.
Planning ahead for meals helps eliminate waste. If you decide before you go to the grocery shop exactly what you need to prepare the food you’ve planned, you’re less likely to buy more.
Shop local wherever you can and remember to take your own reusable bags and boxes! Your building may also set up a packaging recycling project where used bags and boxes are available for everyone to use. (Please note that this suggestion may not be appropriate depending on the levels of Covid19 in your community).
Difficulty Rating: 5
Impact: Reducing food waste means less food needs to be grown and transported to shops. It’s also a great way to save money.
Using your own packaging materials and making sure you use them again means less packaging needs to be manufactured.
Instead of throwing out your old clothes, books, and household items, it’s time to think about how they can be reused, repurposed, or gifted.
Try hosting a bring-and-buy sale with your neighbours. Your old copy of Romeo & Juliet from 10th grade English might be just what the neighbour’s kid needs for school. You can also set up a book exchange – simply a box in your building where you can put unwanted books and pick up new ones to read.
The clothes that you no longer like, or those that no longer fit you, may be just what someone else is looking for. Clothing swap programs for residential buildings are a great idea, both for reducing waste and for improving community spirit. If your building doesn’t have a clothing swap program, and setting one up isn’t realistic, you can always drop these items off at the local thrift store or Salvation Army location. Somebody is sure to appreciate them. The same solution can be used for kitchen supplies.
(Please note that this suggestion may not be appropriate depending on the levels of Covid19 in your community).
Difficulty Rating: 4
Impact: Textile waste accounts for 7.6% of the solid waste in municipal landfills. A donation-first lifestyle can make a big dent in that number. The polyester component in many clothing items is also damaging to the environment. Reusing these items means that less polyester ends up in our ecosystem and fewer clothes need to be manufactured.
Don’t throw out your broken appliances, furniture, toys, or damaged clothes just yet; there may be some life left in them. If you don’t know how to fix these items, consider setting up a repair clinic for your building or local community. Ask around to see if anyone in the building has the necessary practical skills. You may find that you are quite good at sewing, your neighbour has carpentry skills and someone else is a whizz with electronics.
Difficulty Rating: 9
Impact: This idea takes a lot of time and commitment, but since many household appliances at the landfill rust and expel harmful gases, it’s well worth a try.
This also enables you to reuse many other things that would be simply thrown away.
Good for the environment and good for your pocket too!
It also gives people the opportunity to learn new life skills that will benefit them far into the future.
With so many people moving in and out of the average high-rise residential building, bulky items often get hauled to the dumpsters and abandoned there. Thrift stores and charities are usually happy to get their hands on these desks, sofas, lamps, and other large items.
To keep them out of the landfill, try setting up a group to take these unwanted items off the hands of the tenants and deliver them to new homes. You’ll find that some charities will also pick bulky items up if they have a use for them. Remember, your trash is another man’s treasure in many cases.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Impact: Bulky items take up a great deal of space in landfills. They often contain fillers like metal and polyester that never decompose and cause damage to animals, plants, and ecosystems. Reusing these pieces lightens the load on disposal facilities and reduces environmental damage.