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Science North leads the way with recycling effort.

Going green at the office can be a neat-freak's nightmare with loaded blue boxes cluttering the office, waste paper piled at the photocopier and dirty china or ceramic coffee mugs at every desk.

Yet these are signs that in-house recycling programs are taking root.

And, in most cases, these programs have been self-generated because blue box recycling programs do not include institutions or businesses.

At Science North in Sudbury the recycling effort is more appropriately known as a reduction program. The program is designed to reduce energy and water consumption and to "make Science North a lot more environmentally friendly," says Tony Ingram, a staff scientist and a long-time ecologist.

Ingram is head of the environmental action group at Science North.

"Our biggest problem was our cafeteria," he recalls.

However, soon there will be nothing disposable in the cafeteria, and waste will be reduced by 80 per cent, according to Ingram.

"It's an old system that worked really well (once) - china, glasses, cutlery."

The change also means using no plastic or wooden stir sticks, no paper packets of sugar (except for packets of aspartame) or plastic cream containers. Food waste will be composted starting this spring.

The cafeteria program will cost Science North at least $27,000, including a government grant. It involves such work as the installation of a dishwater and new drains.

Visitors services manager Marie Foran admits that the centre does not expect to save money with the change because of the added cost of washing dishes.

Last year Science North tried to reduce the amount of fertilizer used on its lawn. This year the aim is to use no herbicides or pesticides unless there is a major infestation, says Ingram. The centre already uses bacterial insecticides, instead of chemicals.

"We feel it's important to tell people why we're doing this and why it's going to help," says Ingram.

He believes Science North's actions are a small, but necessary step.

"Like anything, big things start small. I think we can make people a lot more aware."

In Timmins the Ministry of Natural Resources is also taking some environmental action with office composting and recycling. The ministry's forestry division manages the recycling effort while the fire division oversees the composting.

While there is no blue box recycling program in Timmins, Don Buck's forestry division gathers up the cans and bottles generated by ministry staff and hands them over to a local resident who collects recyclables.

The fire division's composting started with 45-gallon plastic drums. Last fall it grew into a three-bin composter that is nine feet long, four feet high and four feet wide.

All office food and coffee grounds go in one side. Another section will be opened this year for leaves and grass clippings. The middle bin will contain a mixture of the two for a better Ph level, says Ian Hagman, a senior fire technician.

Enthusiasm for the project is good, he says.

"When anyone inadvertently slips and throws a banana peel in the garbage can, there's a chorus of voices. There are a lot of watchdogs around," he laughs.

But dealing with fine paper waste remains a puzzle with limited solutions.

Forestry technician Mark Joron says the best the ministry can do at its office is shred the paper. It is then sent to a local pottery outlet and used for packing. As well, some paper also goes to an animal shelter and to farms.

Joron notes, however, that computer networks and electronic mail have reduced the amount of paper generated by all ministry offices in Ontario.

Ingram says reductions in paper consumption and energy use mean financial savings for all businesses. Science North has so far reduced its energy costs by 30 per cent.

For those businesses which want some help implementing an environmental plan, a written guide is available from the Harmony Foundation of Canada.

The 176-page Workplace Guide: Practical Action for the Environment was more than a year in the making and broadens the scope of Harmony's Home and Family guide which gave hints for environmental action at home.

Dealing with energy conservation, waste reduction and staff training, the workplace guide is a how-to manual for businesses that want to establish their own environmental programs.

It is by no means, however, a quick fix, says Kris Wong, Harmony's communications coordinator.

"We've tried to minimize the idea that you can get off doing a little bit quickly. Overall, there are a lot of quick actions you can take, but the solution will come in quick action and long-term planning."

The workplace guide can be ordered by calling the Harmony Foundation at (613) 230-7353 in Ottawa. The guide sells for $37.45 each, including GST.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Report on Office Technology
Author:Young, Laura E.
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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