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A Guide to Halifax's Waste System: A Present and Future Approach

The System

It’s easy to feel disconnected from the waste we create – and easy to put our bins out on the curb once a week and keep our waste out of mind. Not only, our waste system makes it easy to do this each week – landfills are mostly (but certainly not always) placed at a distance from communities, and it’s usually the case that we must seek out waste resources and educational materials for ourselves.

Do you want to learn more about how waste is collected and sorted in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM)? If so, the first step is to debunk what goes where as per HRM’s waste sorting standards. Check out this visual guide from the municipality to see what goes in each bin. HRM also offers an interactive search feature for specific items.

Do you want to know more about what happens to your waste after you put it to the curb? Do you want to see the real images of landfills, waste processing and sorting facilities? Thankfully, Chelsey has some of her own images to share. In the spring of 2019, Chelsey took the Master Composter Recycler (MCR) course. The MCR course is totally free and offered through HRM – it’s a great step to take if you’re curious about what happens to trash once it’s off the curb.

Through the course, Chelsey visited three HRM waste sites: the Otter Lake Waste Management Facility (a landfill), the Material Recovery Facility in Bayer’s Lake (recycling centre), and the Organics Processing Facility (for compost).

If you’re interested in taking a tour of a waste facility, or simply are interested in talking to a regional waste expert, you can contact your Local Waste Educator. If you’re in HRM, contact to organize your tour!

Innovation and Hope

Thinking about the waste system, and seeing photos of a landfill, can be troubling. But blissful ignorance won’t do much to transform how we manage waste. If you feel confused, frustrated, daunted, or upset when thinking about waste, harness that energy, and let us show you some ways to direct it!

Experts in waste management say that waste reduction is the most effective way to address any waste issues – it ranks the highest in the waste hierarchy, alongside waste prevention at the manufacturing, institutional, and consumer levels. If you’re curious about ways you can reduce your own waste as a consumer, the ‘low waste movement’ has loads of cool tips to choose from, from bulk buying your groceries, creating a library of tools and household appliances to share between neighbours, or hosting a clothing swap. There is truly something for everyone in this movement, a tangible change tailored for everyone.

Individual action is fantastic – it can feel empowering, inspire others to do the same, and help establish a new-normal for reduced consumption and waste. Of course, system change is necessary to tackle issues pervasive in the waste system, such as garbage separation, and extended producer responsibility. This requires us to remain educated on waste policy and management, harness our purchasing powers by making purchases with accurate labeling (not greenwashed), and encourage and support innovative ways of waste management.

There is no shortage of innovation and hope in Nova Scotia when it comes to improving waste systems, technology, and education:

- Sustane Technologies Inc., located in Chester, Nova Scotia, has created an innovative approach to municipal solid waste separation and processing. At their facility, they can “recover and repurpose almost 90% of the garbage that would have ordinarily ended up in a landfill”.

- Divert Nova Scotia is highly and active in transforming waste systems and production in the province, through educational initiatives, recycling programs and by supporting a network of 78 Enviro-Depots.

- LakeCity Works use single-use plastics from the municipality to manufacture robust outdoor furniture, such as picnic tables and chairs.

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