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Forest City Waste's Leila Nattagh

I was interested in learning about different programs in our community that care about the environment and want to make a powerful impact. Leila Nattagh tells us about her company Forest City Waste and how they are assisting businesses to re-evaluate the way they deal with waste and recycling. Leila also gives us tips on what we can do in our own households to be more cognisant when using products. Thank you Leila for taking the time to share with mindyourmind! 

Can you tell us about Forest City Waste?

We are independent waste consultants working to help businesses reduce their costs related to waste and recycling services. We do this through efficiency programs, diversion programs, and rate negotiations with their current hauler. 

How did this business start and why in London?

In my previous job, I was heavily focused on all things waste. I worked at a non-profit where I was tasked with keeping track of landfill diversion rates, finding homes for the items that could not be sold, doing waste audits, monitoring invoices, and looking for efficiencies wherever I could. In my time there, I was able to increase landfill diversion rate (% of garbage NOT going into the landfill) by 35%. After leaving my employer, I decided to do consulting and waste consulting seemed like a natural transition. 

What is a “waste audit” and how does it help a business save money and help the environment?

A waste audit is looking at a 24-hour sample of the waste that a business produces. The waste is weighed and analyzed to determine the amount, nature, and composition of waste produced. 

What would a reduction plan outline?

A reduction plan is born out of a waste audit. Based on what your audit reveals, the recommendations in the reduction plan are focused on landfill diversion. Say, if the audit reveals that 25% of your waste output is cardboard, our reduction plan proposes that you explore ways of recycling this so it doesn't end up in our landfills. As well, costs associated with garbage pickups will be reduced by 25% since the volume is lowered. 

How does the environment/climate change impact our mental health in today’s society?

Our environment affects our mental health more than one might think. On a local-level, if the ecosystems around you are deteriorating, you will notice. Green spaces are being replaced with highways and subdivisions, natural sounds are replaced with traffic, and the air quality suffers. On a global scale, there's been a lot of uncertainty with regard to the future of climate change.  What happens when the temperature increase 2 degrees and the sea level rises. News like this can really create an unsettling feeling in everyone, thereby reducing mental wellness. 

The Canadian government is going to ban single-use plastic by 2021. Is this too big of a problem to solve and will it actually happen?

I think the ban will happen but I don’t know if it is the solution that we need.

Anything that we're talking about, whether straw or plastic bag, it has a function that we, as consumers, want. If we ban it, we need to think about the alternative in a science-based approach. What I mean is that we need to analyze the entire life-cycle of the two options and assess how much resources each of them uses from beginning (manufacturing) to end of life and what happens during its disposal. For example, did you know that a plastic bag is actually the more environmental choice compared to a paper bag ? A paper bag uses more resources than a plastic one, it cannot be re-used as much as a plastic bag, and the paper bag takes up too much space in the landfill. Back to the ban- we need to really be careful when considering the alternative options to make sure our overall footprint is not higher than before.

Why is it important for people to reduce their environmental impact and does one person’s actions really make a difference on a global scale? 

Everyone of us is responsible for the environmental crisis that we are now facing because we are all consumers. As such, we all need to be accountable in finding solutions and working together to mitigate climate change and lower our overall footprint. I truly believe that our daily actions can make a difference on a global scale because there are so many of us!

Realistically, how can people reduce their environmental impact in their day to day lives?

There are many ways in which we can make a difference. I believe in the 80/20 rule. Try to live green 80% of the time. You can’t let the environmental concerns rule your life or else you won’t have any fun. Some actions you can easily take are reducing packaging by packing your lunch [at home] for work/school. Or maybe it’s carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Shop thrift or borrow as much as you can. Shop local and organic as much as you can. Take your bike for your smaller errands. Turn off any extra lights. Wash your clothes in cold water and hang dry. Skip out on one meat-based meal a week. Do one thing a day and it will slowly become a habit.

How can businesses in London do better in regards to reducing their waste? Do you work with fast food chains that produce a lot of garbage?

The first thing businesses can do is find out what is in their garbage. They can call us for a waste audit or simply take a look inside bins every night before heading home. This will give them an idea of what can be diverted. Perhaps, all the recycling programs are set up in a business but the communication is lacking or employee engagement is low. We can consult on best practices to get everyone involved. Building partnership is another way to reduce waste and another way that Forest City Waste can help.

Right now, we are working on a project to get a local market on board with composting and reducing plastic packaging- stay tuned!

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