Our Alternative Approach to Run Against Plastic

Welcome to Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and home to the Great Lakes. Ontario’s population alone makes up 38.8 per cent of Canada’s total population, so you can bet that there’s a lot going on here! We’ve selected a few organizations to introduce you to this week, all working towards reducing plastic waste in our environment in different ways. And though there are some amazing organizations here, we encourage you to check out our Plastic Organizations database to find even more!

One of our favourite things that come out of Andy’s many plogging trips are the stories of the people he meets along the way! 

When we last checked in with him, Andy had just gotten started on his second plogging trip of the year, but it seems like word travels fast! Kind strangers as well as old friends have stopped along the road to chat with Andy, offer him dinner and a drink, and sometimes even a ride to help him through the mountains.

Our kindness is our strength, especially in these uncertain times. As Andy says, “The road is ever long but never lonely.”

We begin this week’s tour with A Greener Future (AGF)! AGF was started in 2014 by Rochelle Byrne in an effort to share her environmental knowledge, passion, and discoveries with others. Since then, this nonprofit organization has expanded into a number of projects and events that collaborate with local communities to remove litter from the environment.

Located in Oshawa, Ontario, AGF focuses their cleanup efforts on Lake Ontario’s shorelines through their Love Your Lake program. Taking place every summer since 2016, this program involves 100 volunteer-powered cleanups that span from Niagara-on-the-Lake all the way to Kingston. AGF records collection data at every location so that they can see what’s being picked up and what litter most needs addressing. However, this year, due to health concerns, Love Your Lake will take on a slightly different format! Instead of volunteer cleanups at the shore, AGF will use paddle boards to clean up litter on the water while still covering their same area of impact, Niagara-on-the-Lake to Kingston. Love Your Lake 2020 is a great example of how we can all still make a positive impact on our environment while social distancing.

Another one of AGF’s ongoing programs is Zero Waste 101, a video series providing tips on how individuals can reduce waste. Byrne and her family live a zero-waste lifestyle, so she’s able to provide practical advice and real life examples for viewers. Topics covered in the series so far include making parties, holidays, kitchens, and more all zero waste. Through Rochelle’s personal experiences, Zero Waste 101 is a helpful resource for people considering going zero waste in their own lives because it shows them that it’s possible!

These are just a few examples of all the important work that AGF is doing in Ontario. Though they’re still a small organization with only two employees at this time, they’ve already been able to accomplish so much and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

Visit A Greener Future’s website to learn more about their programs and to get involved in cleaning up Lake Ontario.

Moving onto our next organization, we have the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO)! RCO is a not-for-profit organization that works with the public, municipalities, and industries on waste solutions. They even helped introduce Ontario’s Blue Box program in 1981! Established in 1978, the RCO has been a strong voice for waste reduction and solutions in Ontario for over 40 years through their varied programs and projects.

One of the RCO’s ongoing programs is the Plastic Action Centre (PAC), a resource centre for all of Canada that combines statistics, media, and tips, all relating to plastic waste reduction. On PAC, users can search through a directory, filtering their search by province, topic, or sector, to find information relevant to their personal cause. PAC also has a strong social media presence where they’ve recently launched their webinar series for this year. The new webinar series profiles Canadians who are tackling the problem of plastic waste.

And maybe you’ve heard of Waste Reduction Week? It’s yet another RCO program! This year, Waste Reduction Week takes place from November 19-25, and each day of the week has its own theme that addresses waste issues in Canada, such as textiles on Tuesday and plastics on Thursday. Though Waste Reduction Week is only one week out of the year, the RCO uses this platform to produce and share year round content with their audience through social media.

Waste Reduction Week is held in partnership with other not-for-profit and recycling organizations, as well as provincial and territorial governments from across Canada. This program encourages all Canadians to take action against waste by changing their behaviours and learning more about the problem.

The RCO promotes waste reduction and solutions through many programs, including but not limited to the ones above. Through educational resources, such as the Plastic Action Centre, and annual initiatives, like Waste Reduction Week, the RCO helps Ontario recycle.

Learn more about their work and programs on the Recycling Council of Ontario’s website.

Last but not least, The Great Lakes Refill Company (GLRC) is a zero-waste grocery store in Sarnia. GLRC was started by two sisters, Melissa and Lisa, to help others in their community reduce waste through simple lifestyle choices. Though living entirely waste free takes some time and practice, GLRC is showing their customers making a difference can start with something as easy as changing where you shop.

One of the great initiatives run by GLRC is their bring your own container (BYOC) program, which reduces plastic waste in packaging. The program also helps customers to more consciously consider their container’s material, as glass jars or metal tins will last longer than plastic alternatives. For customers who don’t have their own containers, there’s an option to purchase one from GLRC to use with every visit! This system helps the shop stay package free, keeping single-use packaging such as plastic film or wrappers out of landfills.

What kinds of things do you expect to find at a zero-waste grocery store? You may be surprised by the options! GLRC carries a wide range of items, from food to lifestyle and even beauty products. Included on their list of bestsellers are dish soap, flour, coffee beans, and reusable makeup removal pads. They also emphasize locally made products in their store, selling face soaps, kombucha, and maple syrup from nearby producers. The diversity of these products helps show us the many ways in which we can all be reducing waste in our own lives as well as supporting local businesses to uplift our communities.

GLRC is an example of the zero-waste movement becoming more accessible and popular in our society, which enables more people to get on board. People sometimes shy away from the idea of zero-waste because they fear it means sacrificing products they love. But, through GLRC’s example, we can see that you can still get everything you need (and more) by shopping zero-waste!

Check out the Great Lakes Refill Company’s website to shop their products and learn more about the people behind the counter.

Come back next week to tour through Manitoba with us! Or read last week’s tour through Quebec!


Rachel Petersen was a Communications Intern for Plastic Oceans Canada, studying Professional Writing and Communications at Humber College.