First floor waste management station, the old Boehmer Box Factory, 283 Duke Street West, Kitchener, Ontario. Photo by: Katelyn M. Brown

Alternatives Journal is fortunate enough to be able to call The Old Boehmer Box Factory home. Within this building there exist many different organizations as well as a wonderful co-working space. This presents a unique set of challenges about how to best reduce our waste as a small community. We at A\J feel it is imperative to take the best practices we write about and integrate them in our own office culture. Keeping that in mind, this is our guide to the disposal systems we have in our building.

Every year, approx. 700 kgs of garbage are produced per person in Canada

(Statistics Canada, 2014). That's almost 10 times more than the average Canadian weighs.

In the common co-working space, we have two blue bins for recycling, a small compost bin and a bin for garbage. Since they are all in the same area, having the bins labelled appropriately will ensure that they are used properly, and also ensure that recycling is just as simple as throwing something in the trash. One of the blue bins is labeled for "paper" and the other is labeled for "bottles, cans and plastics".  The waste disposal service we use has a dual stream collection service, meaning that sorting the recycling saves money and prevents them from sending it to the landfill. The garbage bin that we do have in the space is going to be labeled as "non-recyclables". This label has potential to change how people in the office view their waste, as it puts recycling and not recycling on a similar level of ease. Instead of the term "garbage" which normally encompasses anything we no longer want, it forces you to think about the best way to dispose of your item.

In Canada, 15,136,259 tonnes of waste comes from non-residential sources

(Statistics Canada, 2014).

The first floor of the building has two waste areas. Below we’ve included a diagram labeling each bin’s designation.

Photo: Katelyn M. Brown

Photo: Katelyn M. Brown

Since each office is encouraged to have their own small compost and recycling, this is to make it very simple for them to empty their own receptacles. Here is a great resource for creating small compost liners.

According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 24% of waste produced in Canada is actually recycled or composted (2013).

One of the most important steps to having a fully understood and utilized recycling/compost system is having the proper signage. There will be detailed signs posted on/above these bins to make sorting simple, and the following table contains the basics of what goes in each bin.


Bottles, Cans, Plastics


Organic Waste

Plastics 1-7

Office paper

Fruits and veggies

Cans (steel and aluminum)

File folders

Meat, fish and bones

Glass bottles


Pasta, bread, cereal

Milk + Juice cartons


Dairy products and eggs

Plastic yogurt containers

Windowed envelopes

Coffee grounds, filters and tea bags

Plastic cutlery


Candies, cookies and cake











Here are some helpful tips for sorting your waste:

  1. Make sure to rinse any item before you put it in the recycling bin. This ensures that the recycling is not contaminated and can actually be resold as a resource!
  2. Any container (normally paper/cardboard) that has been soaked with food cannot be recycled. For example, a pizza box with grease on the bottom unfortunately can't be recycled as the oil pollutes the recycling process.
  3. Plastic straws are garbage! They are made from a very poor quality plastic on top of being very small and so cannot be recycled. Try a reusable one: (
  4. The lids from disposable coffee cups can be recycled (bottles, cans and plastics) but the cups themselves are garbage.
  5. Styrofoam is also not accepted in recycling, even though it may have a symbol for it.
  6. Aluminum foil can be recycled! Although you should already be reusing it multiple times, when it finally comes time to recycle the foil, it goes into the blue box (after being rinsed off of course)!
  7. You may be able to compost napkins at home, but the organics system we have does not accept them. Food, coffee grounds, filters and tea bags are all acceptable in the organics bin.
  8. When you are recycling cardboard make sure you flatten it first.

Hopefully this has helped to inform you on some of the steps we are taking to reduce our waste as a small collection of organizations at the Boehmer Box Factory. Use this resource to start the conversation about waste reduction in your workplace!

Katelyn Brown is an Environment, Resources and Sustainability student at the University of Waterloo. She loves discovering and learning about all the natural wonders of the world, and aims to help conserve and restore them.

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