City of Vancouver - Single Use Item Reduction Strategy Update

APRIL 29, 2019

Good morning, my name is Dr. Love-Ese Chile. My doctoral thesis was on sustainable plastic. After graduate school I started a consultancy, Grey to Green Solutions, to help stakeholders understand circular plastic complexity. And I established Circular Waste Labs, which provides testing, circular product design and R&D services to businesses in the lower mainland.

I am speaking today to voice my support for the recommendations outlined in the SUI Reduction strategy update. But also to urge the council to look beyond bans to building the infrastructure that will allow plastics to circulate in a closed loop.

The SUI restriction is driving people to adopt sustainable alternatives, but without the appropriate waste management support and infrastructure, compostable plastics will not have their desired environmental impact.

With that said, I propose three main points of focus for the city:

Firstly. Ensuring efficient composting of sustainable alternatives is central to the success of SUI reduction plan. 

Private sector compost facilities need to see regulations and policies that incentivise collaboration with technical experts and consultants. Who will help them explore new technologies, new methods to improve biodegradation of compostable plastics. And to optimise their processes to allow for later stage separation of contamination.

Secondly, increasing local access to testing and certification facilities.

A by-law that requires compostable packaging to be tested and approved at local compost facilities will be very difficult to enforce as getting this testing done for all products at each local compost facility is unrealistic. However, there are potential solutions in encouraging Supply Chain Responsibility. Where compost producers and sustainable product manufacturers support regional biodegradation testing facilities. These facilities could work with compost operators to determine appropriate degradation standards and to give local composting certifications. They could also explore the impact of compostable plastics on soil as well as giving users and buyers a central place to find information on products.

Finally, improving collection and separation of compostable plastics through public education.

Collection and separation are often left to the consumer however there is low public understanding about what to do with the sustainable alternatives. We should get out in front of the issue and share with the public the complexities of circularity. We need wide spread education that explains and outlines the difficulties that come with having multiple options available, while highlighting the importance of being vigilant and looking for the correct waste streams for different products.

The City should focus on innovation in composting and recycling, which are collecting and converting materials locally. It is important to not only to support businesses using these products, but to enable and support businesses trying to grow the infrastructure for sustainable alternatives.

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