Throughout each year we work with hundreds of volunteers to clear thousands of pounds of littered waste from Mission's streets and waterways. Each clean-up starts very much the same way: volunteers begin arriving, the coffee starts flowing, and we start discussing the task ahead of us.
After going over safety and equipment, and after I invariably joke that pickers are not swords or lightsabers (for those wondering), we discuss what counts as garbage. What is garbage? The answer might seem obvious but really, it's not so straight-forward. As stewards of the environment we want to do the right things: recycle, use cloth shopping bags, compost, don't litter, etc, so naturally during a litter pick-up, we want to be sure that only the essentials make their way into our landfill.
The often unsettling news is that not all recyclables are recyclable. At least not after they've spent a great deal of time outdoors, in the mud, or being crushed by vehicles. We instruct volunteers to ONLY keep the cleanest of recyclables otherwise they may inadvertently contaminate a tonne of otherwise perfectly recyclable product.
The good news is that Vancouver boasts the second lowest rate of contaminated recyclables in the country.
Check out this excellent CDC article for more information!