Farmers’ Market Waste

Given that Oliver and I have made approximately 800 Saturday trips to the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market together, we’ve a pretty good finger on what gets thrown away there, both from looking at our own waste, and watching what’s in the bins.

Because we have a rigorous weekly routine, I can tell you exactly what we contribute to the pile every week:

  • Two pieces of paper towel, about 18 inches long each, used to wrap our smoked salmon bagels (compost).
  • One plastic cup for Oliver’s smoothie (recycled).
  • Two plastic cups for our iced tea (recycled).
  • Two small paper wrappers from Katlin’s chocolates (compost).

About 10 years ago I started leaving a coffee mug at the Caledonia House coffee booth instead of using a paper cup every week; I’d always thought this was for “regulars” only, and then I realized that it’s an opportunity open to everyone (and also that, after all these years, I’m probably ready to consider myself a regular). So that’s, say, four or five hundred paper cups with plastic lids that I haven’t had to throw away.

I know from our own behaviour that we pay more attention these days to recycling things at the market that can be recycled these days (obvious recycling bins were only introduced over the last couple of years).

But even as I type I realize that it’s absurd that Oliver uses one plastic cup for a smoothie, recycles it, and then uses another plastic cup 15 minutes later; we should do something about that.

I’ve had an interest over the last year in how successful the three-stream sorting (recyclables, compost, waste) that’s mandatory here in Prince Edward Island works in public venues like restaurants, parks and places like the market, what the Island Waste Management Corporation calls public waste.

The cooperative that runs the Farmers’ Market knows the challenges on a larger scale, for they need handle the disposal of everything that goes into the bins on a Saturday, and they’ve plans to step up their efforts to reduce materials in the waste stream, and to improve the sorting of the three streams at the source; here’s what’s going to happen starting tomorrow:

  • There will be three new centralized sorting stations for patrons: one at the front entrance, one in the lower eating area and one at the coffee corner.
  • Each sorting station will have a volunteer to assist the sorting process, and sorting information will also be posted beside each.
  • Market vendors are reviewing their plateware that is fully compostable, and there will be a move to order this cooperatively.

In addition to these public-facing changes, there will be some behind-the-scenes changes that vendors will make to improve the sorting of their own materials, and the large black and green bins that used to sit inside the market are being moved out to the back.

These are all very positive moves, and I hope that we patrons can step up and do our part to make these new systems work.

Among other things, this all demonstrates the power of cooperative enterprises to do things that aren’t solely aligned with the financial bottom line; I applaud the market coop for taking this on.