Single-use items are products and packaging that we typically throw away after one use. These items are often only used for minutes, but their impact upon our environment can last thousands of years. Even when these items are recyclable—and many of them are not—energy and resources have been used to produce them in the first place.
With many sustainable options available, using something once and throwing it away is truly a waste. That's why it's so important to think about whether we really need to use these items in the first place. A small shift in our behaviour can have a big impact, and the reusable alternatives are often better than the disposable versions.
Single-use items are convenient, but they have an impact on our environment as they often end up in our landfills or litter our land and water, and they can take thousands of years to break down. Learn more below about the impacts of single-use items, how you can make difference, and what the City is currently doing to encourage waste reduction.
Thinking ahead can make a difference!
The City of Kamloops is committed to helping residents and businesses reduce unnecessary waste and make more sustainable choices. Our Bring Your Own initiative encourages residents to take action and reduce waste by using reusable bottles, containers, straws, and bags. Taking the B.Y.O. pledge can save you money while you make a positive effect on the environment!
On April 2, 2019, Council asked staff to investigate eliminating carry-out plastic bags in an effort to reduce single-use items in our community. The initiative supports Council’s 2019–2022 Strategic Plan and the Sustainable Kamloops Plan, and it includes engagement with businesses and the public.
The City’s initial focus is to determine how to reduce or eliminate carry-out plastic bags from the waste stream. We also hope that this will reduce the contamination of recyclable and compostable materials. The City’s goal is to work with the community to determine our best path forward. The community’s feedback, together with learnings from around the world, will help to shape the City’s approach to reducing single-use item waste.
Learn more about the draft bylaw and current engagement opportunities at LetsTalk.Kamloops.ca/Bags.
It is estimated that more than 18 million plastic bags are distributed to Kamloops residents each year, and the average bag is used for 12 minutes. Shocking, isn’t it? Plastic bags are not accepted in curbside recycling because the bags get caught in sorting equipment and often get mis-sorted, contaminating recyclable paper. Your plastic bags can be recycled at a depot—use the WasteWise app to find depots and local retailers that accept plastic bags.
If you’re thinking of transitioning away from plastic carry-out bags before the upcoming bylaw takes effect, we recommend:
- bringing reusable bags, a basket, or other reusable carry-out options when you shop
- keeping your reusable bags in your car or at your front door to help you remember them— soon bringing them will be a habit
- businesses can consider switching to reusable alternatives such as paper bags made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled paper content, reusable bags made of cloth or washable fabric that is capable of at least 100 uses, or cardboard boxes
- Worldwide, five trillion plastic bags are consumed. That’s 160,000 plastic bags being used globally every second!
- Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled.
- Plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals when they are mistaken for food.
- Plastic will only start to break down after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1,000 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet!
Plastic straws and other single-use plastics are generally a non-essential part of life. You can do your part by saying “no” to a straw, or you can purchase a reusable straw to bring with you when you dine out.
- It takes up to 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose.
- Plastic straws are among the top ten most-found litter items in the ocean, and they have negative impacts on marine life and the environment.
- Plastic straws cannot be recycled as their shape makes it difficult to work their way into the recycling sorting equipment.
- Even straws marked as biodegradable or compostable are not accepted in recycling.
Coffee is the most popular hot beverage and the number one food service beverage in Canada. Canadians consume 14 billion cups of coffee every year, and 35% of these are consumed “to go”.
- Use a reusable cup when you purchase a coffee to go—many businesses offer a discount when you bring your own.
- Request a mug when you will be drinking your beverage at the place of business.
- If you forget your cup, at least rinse and recycle the cup, and place the sleeve and lid in the recycle bin separately.
- If you purchased a beverage every day in a single-use cup, this would create about 23 pounds of waste per year.
- Single-use cups for hot and cold beverages are included in a province-wide recycling program managed by Recycle BC.
- A single-use cup must be emptied and rinsed prior to recycling in your residential bin or cart. Placing a non-rinsed item in the recycling can spoil the rest of the bin by wetting the items, which encourages mold growth.
- Lids from these containers are also accepted by Recycle BC but, in order to be accepted, the lids must be separated from the cup itself.
Plastic cutlery has become a staple in both the fast food industry and everyday life due to its ease of use and accessibility; however, these utensils are not recyclable. It’s easy to say “no” these items with a bit of creative planning—just put some reusable utensils into your bag and carry them around with you. Buy a set from your local charity shop. Once you have used them, put them back in your bag and wash when you get home.
- If you’re taking your food to go, say “no” to the take out utensils and use your own cutlery.
- If you own your own business or are planning a catering event, consider using metal cutlery or offering disposable cutlery made from wood, potato starch, bamboo or other materials
- Every year, plastic spoons, forks, and knives contribute to approximately 300 million tons of plastic waste worldwide.
- Natural gas and oil are the primary materials used to create the polypropylene and polystyrene that are used in the production of plastic cutlery.
- Plastic straws and utensils can fall through the screens on recycling sorting lines that are designed to remove contaminants and are sent to landfills or incinerators.
- Plastic utensils have a negative impact on marine life and the environment.
Making simple changes to reduce our dependence on single-use items will:
- reduce the amount of material sent to landfills
- reduce contamination of recycled and composted materials
- reduce the amount of these items managed through our waste collection
- support our vision to be a sustainable community
- take the B.Y.O. pledge and commit to using resuable bags, bottles, cups, and straws