CBC News

Trash strike: Lessons learned

By Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

Today was the first day of residential garbage pickup in Toronto after a five-week strike. As I walked to the subway station, the stench from fetid trash piled up on the sidewalk was almost unbearable.

The smell of trash is something I definitely won't miss about this strike. But I have to admit that I can thank the strikers for one thing: raising awareness about the ridiculous amount of garbage we all produce.

For months, I've been on a crusade to reduce my trash. I focused on packaging: not using plastic bags when buying produce, purchasing products with little or no packaging and refilling my cleaning supply bottles at Grassroots.

But I was unprepared for the lesson I learned during the strike. Before it, I had given little thought to my food waste. The city has a green bin program for organics. Each week, I dutifully tossed out a small bag or two of past-its-prime produce.

As the strike rolled on, though, I was running out of freezer and fridge space for my food waste. And I was realizing that it wasn't just peelings and end bits. Much of it was unnecessary. It was little consolation to find out that studies show about one-third of bought food is thrown out.

With my organic waste threatening to overflow, I had to do something. Here are some of the ways I tackled my growing mound:

Just eat it
I usually toss fruits and vegetables about to edge past their prime, but during the strike I found myself taking a second look. Could I rejuvenate that lettuce with an ice bath? Could I use that bruised peach in a baked dish? Often, it was edible with a little coaxing.

Freeze it
Most food can be frozen, even items you wouldn't normally think of. So before it turns brown, look online to see whether the food is freezer suitable.

Plan your meals
Perhaps an unappetizing option for the creative foodie who enjoys cooking on a whim, but setting out a meal schedule for even a few days can drastically reduce food waste. During the strike, I realized that my kid-in-a-candy-store mentality to grocery shopping caused me to make all kinds of impulse purchases. Plus, planning my meals reminded me of how often I was eating out.

Buy bulk
As a woman living alone, I'm not usually a fan of buying bulk. First of all, I can barely lug enough groceries home for week. I also live in a small space and don't eat a lot. But bulk bins have lately become my best foodie friend. I shovel rice, beans, pasta and baking staples into plastic bags, then transfer them into jars at home. Then I reuse the bags during my next visit. Ta da. Saving the planet several plastic bags at a time.

Shop around
I have found that some stores, like Metro, excessively package their produce, such as putting small cucumbers on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. So try to find a store that leaves its produce loose. Farmers markets are always a good option.

Learn about your food
Did you know that bananas shouldn't go in the fridge? Neither should tomatoes. But if you buy unripe peaches, leave them on the counter until they are ripe and then keep them in the fridge. Prevent your perishables from perishing too soon by doing a bit of research. Farmers at the markets are a great resource and eager to share their know-how.

Those are a few of my lessons learned. How about you? Did your food habits change during the strike? How do you reduce food waste?

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.


Bill Lee


Eat lower in the food chain. Learn to brown or cook things that you eat raw (oranges, peaches, onions, apples) things with a lot of sugar that reveals itself under high heat.

Get a mandolin and slice hard veg and fruits as julienned or paper thin slices. Often when in that shape they don't need to be cooked (as much) at all.

Cut the meat and fish consumption down to half the size of your palm per person per day.

Set up a compost pile, in kitchen or yard for the really bad.

Shop and count units per week, rather than a bag of apples. See Mark Bittman's 101 salads last Wednesday in the NYT and mark those without "thin-leaved" ingredients. Much of spoiling is losing water. Temperature monitor the closets, floor etc. for the coolest part of the house/room. Store some 'root' vegetables there instead of fridge.

Take cash and a list when grocery shopping and when out or checked off, stop. Rotate your fresh stuff more often, grow some yourself, beg neighbours for fresh, still growing unrotted veg. Despite Toronto rain, it can be kept off a small garden of still growing non-rotten veg.

Get http://www.sourceforge.net/nutrition/nut and see what you have been eating in the past week and what gaps you need to close in nutrition.

Stay away from organic food stores.

Posted August 5, 2009 03:58 PM

Colleen Edmunds (nee janzen)


Hi Amber

We follow many of the tips you suggested for using food - plan, shop properly, just eat it (as a society, we usually don't consume enough fruit/veg).

I make a big pot of soup with "on the edge" vegetables. Add some beans or lentils. Then I freeze it in cottage cheese containers, which is suitable to take for my lunch or to have a quick supper ready at home.

Posted August 6, 2009 12:25 PM



Another thing I do is save all the end bits and peelings in a big zip lock bag in the fridge.. onion ends, celery ends, garlic skins, carrot peels, even apple cores and egg shells! When the bag is full I empty into my slow cooker and cover with water.. a few hours of simmering produces a tasty (and free) vegetable stock that only needs a little seasoning!

Posted August 6, 2009 02:51 PM


This is a good idea you have started. If the H1N1 hits hard, there may be intermittent trash pick up, and intermittent grocery delivery. JIT may not work.
Having a plan of what to do with waste (and how to reduce and reuse) will help in those times.
How about input from lots of others of ways to save money, the planet, and reduce waste of food?
Aside from the egg shells, I am going to start doing that in the winter months - that is when we have lots of vegitarian chili.
Thanks for this article Amber.

Posted August 6, 2009 11:25 PM



All good suggestions.
A composter makes wonderful sense, and potting soil.

Posted August 14, 2009 12:35 PM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment


Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Food Bytes »

About the blog

From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.


Food features

Recent Posts

Double happiness without shark fin
Monday, August 17, 2009
I dream of ice cream
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Seeing Julie & Julia
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Trash strike: Lessons learned
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Shadows of the Irish Famine
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Subscribe to Food Bytes


August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (7)
June 2009 (8)
May 2009 (13)
April 2009 (12)
March 2009 (10)
February 2009 (9)
January 2009 (9)
December 2008 (16)
November 2008 (13)
October 2008 (12)
September 2008 (11)
August 2008 (9)
July 2008 (12)
June 2008 (10)
May 2008 (16)


Agriculture (13)
Amber Hildebrandt (27)
Amuse-bouche (39)
Andree Lau (31)
Culture (52)
Elizabeth Bridge (12)
Health (15)
Industry (32)
Jessica Wong (32)
Kevin Yarr (21)
Leigh Felesky (3)
Politics (12)
Tara Kimura (34)
Trends (39)
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

World »

2 New York City police officers 'assassinated,' gunman kills self
A gunman who announced online that he was planning to shoot two "pigs" in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight Saturday before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities say.
Mersane Warriain, Australian woman, charged with murdering 8 children video
An Australian woman was charged with murder on Sunday in the deaths of seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her home, police said.
Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia
A spokesman for Muhammad Ali says the former heavyweight boxing champion has been hospitalized with a mild case of pneumonia.
more »

Canada »

Ian Bush charged in home invasion of Ottawa war veteran video
A 59-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly forcing his way into the home of a 101-year-old war veteran, robbing him and leaving him bound with a plastic bag over his head.
Stéphanie Raymond wins step in military sexual assault case
In a 21-page letter to former corporal Stéphanie Raymond, the Canadian Armed Forces' Chief of Staff admitted the treatment she experienced after filing a complaint of sexual assault against a superior was not in line with military procedures.
Amaria Diljohn ID'd as victim in Scarborough TTC bus hit-and-run video
The 14-year-old-girl struck and killed in Scarborough by a transit bus that failed to remain at the scene has been identified as Amaria Diljohn.
more »

Politics »

Danielle Smith defends floor crossing as 'a victory' for Wildrose Party video audio
Danielle Smith is defending her decision to cross the floor to the Progressive Conservatives, calling it a "victory" for the Wildrose Party, in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House.
Russia facing more Canadian sanctions over Ukraine video
Just one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Western sanctions for his country's current economic woes, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced Canada will be imposing additional sanctions over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Sir John A. Macdonald toonie to celebrate 1st PM's 200th birthday
Sir John A. Macdonald will be honoured with a spot on the $2 coin for the 200th anniversary of his birth, according to a notice posted Friday.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Bill Cosby sex accusations met with intentional silence: experts
With police urging any possible sex abuse victims to come forward, two lawsuits pending and more than 15 women making accusations stretching back years, Bill Cosby has little to gain by speaking publicly, legal experts say.
North Korea offers to join Sony Pictures hacking probe video
North Korea has proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. into the hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, warning of "serious" consequences if Washington rejects a probe that it believes will prove Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyberattack.
Should the media be reporting on the Sony hacks?
The FBI says North Korean hackers are behind the leak of Sony emails and other data, as well as threats about the release of the film The Interview. Day 6 talks to two experts about whether reporting on the hacked Sony emails plays into the hands of the hackers.
more »

Technology & Science »

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical kings, government
Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist James W. Hardin.
Sony defends cancelling The Interview release after Obama says studio 'made a mistake' video
Sony Pictures is defending the decision to cancel the Christmas Day release of The Interview, saying they had no other options when theatres said they were cancelling screenings of the comedy.
The top 10 science stories of 2014: Bob McDonald
Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald chooses the 10 stories that he thinks defined the year in science.
more »

Money »

House prices inch up, oil slides more & BlackBerry's throwback: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP video
From house prices ticking ever higher, to crude oil's slide that seems like it will never end, it was a busy week in financial news. The CBC's Jacqueline Hansen gets you caught up in her weekly video recap.
Analysis British holiday advertising packs star power, emotional punch
In recent years, the holiday season in the U.K. has seen people across the country paying more attention to their TV screens than usual — not so much for their favourite shows as for the holiday commercials.
Average gasoline price dips to 99 cents and falling video audio
For the first time in 4½ years the average cost of gasoline in Canada has dropped below $1 a litre.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
NHL: 4 stories from Saturday night video
The Canadiens cruised to victory over the Senators, the Canucks got the best of the Flames, and in Toronto, the Leafs were no match for a pair of pesky Flyers. Meanwhile, Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin provided a highlight reel goal in a win over the Devils.
Profile Kaillie Humphries: Playing with the boys
After the history-making announcement that women would be allowed to compete in World Cup four-man bobsleigh races this year, Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries set her goals: learn quickly and win. Her journey begins Saturday in Calgary.
Best of 2014 Masai Ujiri: Most influential in Canadian sports video
Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is our audience's pick for the most influential figure in Canadian sports in 2014.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »