Archive for the ‘Pilot Projects’ Category

While California moves to ban the use of Styrofoam containers from the take-out food industry, Montreal is at least trying to figure out how to recover and recycle this ubiquitous material.

Montrealers still have until August 31 to bring their Styrofoam containers and other Number 6 plastics to the Eadie Ecocentre, at 1868 Cabot Street, as part of a pilot project to determine whether these materials can be recycled in a way that is both economically and environmentally viable.

“We have to prove that it (recycling Styrofoam) can be profitable. We have to create a demand for this material,” says Claude Maheux-Picard, head of the pilot project being carried out by industry, research and City of Montreal partners.

For more about the Montreal pilot project, please see my original article at Montreal.OpenFile.ca, “Montreal pilot project tests recyclability of Styrofoam”.

The Plastic No. 6 dilemma

California’s ban

Meanwhile, California is on its way to banning take-out Styrofoam containers entirely. The Senate has approved a bill that would “prohibit a food vendor, on and after January 1, 2016, from dispensing prepared food to a customer in a polystyrene foam food container and would define related items.” (Note: “Styrofoam” is actually the trade name for expanded polystyrene foam.)

The bill would apply to all restaurants and grocery stores, but only for prepared foods. Polystyrene foam containers would still be allowed in cities or counties with a recycling program for this material. (See full text of Bill 568, or its history and status).

Fifty California jurisdictions have already banned foam takeout food packaging, including Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu and Ventura County. Expanded polystyrene foam is of particular concern to Californians because it is the second-most-common type of beach debris, according to a study by the Southern California Coastal Water Quality Research Project. (Source)

The Assembly is scheduled to hear the bill at the end of August; if it passes there, it will move to the governor’s desk.

Back in Montreal…

It seems unlikely that Montreal would even consider such a ban. Food vendors love Styrofoam because it is lightweight, solid, an excellent insulator, and cheap. “There are definitely other options on the market, but they’re more expensive,” says Claude Maheux-Picard, head of the Montreal pilot project and technical director of the Centre de transfert technologique en écologie industrielle, the research centre that will study the material collected.

Steve and Jono Aitchison, Burritoville owners, display their compostable restaurant ware.

But a few local vendors have made the switch. Burritoville has been using strictly compostable items for take-out since it opened at its Bishop Street location three and a half years ago. To wrap the burritos, they use paper with a soy-based waxy coating; take-out cartons are made of sugar-cane fibre, plastic containers for sauces are made from corn syrup; take-out cutlery is made from potato starch.

“It’s definitely more expensive,” say cousins Stephen and Jono Aitchison, who own the restaurant along with Dave Tamas. Jono points to one of the sugar-cane fibre cartons. “This costs 27 cents. A Styrofoam container would be less than 1 penny.”

To help offset the costs, the restaurant charges an extra 25 cents for take-out orders. It doesn’t quite cover the costs (one order usually includes several items), but it helps — and it raises customer awareness. They also encourage customers to bring their own containers for take-out.

“The process to make the compostable containers is still ‘dirty’ (pollutes and uses resources),” notes Stephen. But he and Jono believe using compostable containers is still one step better than using one-off containers, or even recyclable containers, which don’t always get recycled. (See their local supplier, ECO 2 Bureau, for more “green solutions” for home, office, restaurant and event needs.)

And they make yummy burritos, too.

Some more links

Yes on SB 568 – California Foam Reduction” 

Recycle Styrofoam cups: Is it possible?

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When my daughter was a baby, we happily used cloth diapers, using a diaper service at first, and later washing them on our own. But when she started daycare, I went out and bought disposables. I didn’t even bother asking the daycare if they would consider cloth diapers. I figured it was not an option.

One Montreal environment group figures differently. From September to November 2010, the SODER (Société de développement environnementale de Rosemont, which runs the Éco-Quartier program for the Rosemont–Petite Patrie borough) ran a pilot project in four daycares, where educators used cloth diapers for 30 babies and toddlers.

The program was a success. Now, SODER is preparing an offer of service to make the program available to all of the borough’s daycares on a regular basis.

“The educators were reticent at first,” recalls Charlotte Reydel, executive assistant at SODER. “They were thinking of the kinds of cloth diapers our parents used to use.” However, she says, once project organizers showed them some of the models available on today’s market (highly absorbent and attaching with Velcro or snaps), educators agreed to give them a try. At the end of the project, 90 percent of educators hoped the program would continue.

Making it easy

For the pilot project, organizers kept things simple: children still arrived at the daycare in disposable diapers and left in disposables at the end of the day. However, with the new offer of service, parents will have the option of using the washable diapers at home as well.

The key to success, said Reydel, is to offer a ready-to-go, hassle-free package. SODER collects the diapers and sends them to a laundry facility used by hospitals. “Some daycares may have tried cloth diapers before, but if they have to wash them themselves, it’s too much extra work.” She notes that the laundry facility uses peroxide, not chlorine, and ensures that there is no bacteria residue.

As far as Reydel knows, the service SODER is preparing to offer — designed specifically for daycares — will be the first of its kind. In addition to researching the different models of washable diapers on the market, project organizers visited the daycares to adapt the offer of service to their needs, and to make appropriate modifications to their diaper changing stations, for example.

The washable diaper pilot project was made possible with funding from the Caisse Desjardins De Lorimier, the Fonds Ecomunicipalité IGA – Jour de la Terre, and the Regroupement des centres de la petite enfance de l’île de Montréal.  It is just one of several projects under SODER’s Sustainable Communities initiative.

The SODER has also just released a guide on how to become an ecologically responsible daycare. The Guide du CPE éco-responsable du Québec, developed in collaboration with several daycares, is available online at www.cpedurable.org.



  • The average baby uses between 5,000 and 6,500 disposable diapers before becoming toilet trained
  • Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of garbage in our landfills, and take hundreds of years to decompose
  • In Quebec alone, we dispose of 600 million diapers per year
  • Some studies have shown that disposables increase scrotal temperatures in baby boys
  • Single-use diapers have been shown to consume greater quantities of energy and raw materials, and to generate more potentially toxic pollutants on a per-diaper-change basis

…vs. Washables

  • Washable diapers can be reused 200 times, and take just a few months to decompose; flat cloth diapers also enjoy a second life as lint-free rags
  • It takes 3.5 times less energy and 2.3 times less water to manufacture a cloth diaper
  • Washing cloth diapers at home uses about the same amount of water as a toilet-trained child or adult flushing the toilet; because of economies of scale, a diaper service generally uses less water and energy per diaper
  • With cloth diapers, you can be sure that no harsh chemicals come into contact with baby’s skin

SODER: Couches lavables

Baby Auric Diaper Service: Diaper Facts



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