Recycle, sure, but first focus on reducing and reusing


Pointe-Claire was the first West Island city to collect household organic/green waste with its green rolling bins. Blue bins are for recyclables like paper and plastic.

Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette

Don’t forget that your recycling efforts should start with personal eco-friendly choices and good practices on the home front.

The waste-management model leads with reduce, followed by reuse, and then recycle. Tossing in the garbage is the last choice. This means making smart consumption choices is the first step to producing as little residual waste as possible.

After learning in class about ocean garbage patches, my son developed a disdain for plastic straws. The box of plastic straws we have at home was purchased several years ago for a school art project, and several restaurants in the West Island are now offering paper straws.

That said, fast-food eateries serve drinks in single-use cups with plastic lids. Still, baby steps in the right direction.

My eldest child is working on an ethics class project. She aims to convince fellow high-school students to stop buying single-use water bottles and instead fill a reusable bottle with Pointe-Claire’s tap water. She’s been bringing her reusable water bottle to school since kindergarten. She chides her parents for occasionally buying a case of water in single-use plastic bottles, ignoring my argument that at least they can be thrown in the blue recycling bin.

A few years ago, in an eco-friendly move, free plastic shopping bags were dropped in favour of consumers supplying their own reusable bags.

But the public needs to keep up the pressure by demanding more eco-friendly behaviours from stores and businesses — and then embracing these changes until they become routine. Some grocery stores are already allowing shoppers to use their own plastic containers instead of purchasing food in pre-packaged plastic. An online petition was launched this year to lobby a popular coffee-doughnut chain to stop using disposable cups in favour of reusable coffee mugs with lids.

West Islanders, overall, have been using their blue recycling bins for years. Most local municipalities have organic/kitchen waste collections, and provide special yard debris and bulk item collections to keep materials from heading to landfills.

There are also dropoff points for corks, used batteries and household hazardous waste.

West Islanders embracing all these eco-friendly collections is good, but cutting back on producing waste in the first place is important as well.

For avid gardeners, rain barrels and home composting bins are a natural choice.

You can donate gently used clothing or household goods to one of NOVA’s thrift shops, the West Island Assistance Fund or to Renaissance.

I invite readers who have tips or suggestion for reducing waste at home to post their comments at or via twitter at @akramberger1.


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