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The Zero Waste Countdown Podcast
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The Zero Waste Countdown Podcast

Author: Laura Nash

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We feature scientists, business owners, activists, entrepreneurs, cooks, and other experts from around the world who have found ways to live more sustainably.
123 Episodes
123. BC Salmon Farms

123. BC Salmon Farms


  The Canadian federal government recently announced that it would order about 19 salmon farms closed in British Columbia (BC) but without any local community consultation. Farmed salmon is BC's number one agri-food export and provides thousands of tonnes of nutrients to people around the world, so why would they do this?     Michelle Franze is the Manager of Communications, Partnerships and Community at the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) and Co-Founder and Director of BCSFA Youth Council. She joins the ZWC to explain how fish farming works, why it's so sustainable, and the reasons behind the Canadian federal government's ordered shut down.        
122. Urban Salmon

122. Urban Salmon


    Caption: A team led by researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma, UW and Washington State University Puyallup have discovered a chemical that kills coho salmon in urban streams before the fish can spawn. Shown here Edward Kolodziej (left), an associate professor in both the UW Tacoma Division of Sciences & Mathematics and the UW Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering; Jenifer McIntyre (right), an assistant professor at WSU School of the Environment in Puyallup; and Zhenyu Tian (background), a research scientist at the Center for Urban Waters at UW Tacoma, are at Longfellow Creek, an urban creek in the Seattle area. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington   Coho Salmon have been dying off in urban areas of the Pacific Northwest for years. Scientists have been working hard to figure out why, but have thousands of chemicals to sort through that enter creeks through storm runoff.     Caption: A team led by researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma, UW and Washington State University Puyallup have discovered a chemical that kills coho salmon in urban streams before the fish can spawn. Shown here Zhenyu Tian (left), a research scientist at the Center for Urban Waters at UW Tacoma; Jenifer McIntyre (right), an assistant professor at WSU School of the Environment in Puyallup; and Edward Kolodziej (right, background), an associate professor in both the UW Tacoma Division of Sciences & Mathematics and the UW Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, are at Longfellow Creek, an urban creek in the Seattle area. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington   Edward P. Kolodziej is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington with a Civil and Environmental Engineering background and currently working at the Center for Urban Waters. He was part of a study that isolated the preservative compound 6PPD found in tires as the culprit responsible for killing coho salmon.     Edward joins the Zero Waste Countdown from Tacoma to tell us all about the study, why salmon are so important to the health of our ecosystems, how the culprit was found, and what we can do going forward to prevent salmon die-offs.     Caption: A preservative in vehicle tires keeps them from breaking down too quickly. 6PPD reacts with ozone and is transformed into multiple chemicals, including the toxic chemical the researchers found that is responsible for killing coho salmon. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington  
2.7 million takeaway coffee cups are being sent to landfill in Australia each day. Luckily, Catherine Hutchins and Aniyo Rahebi founded a new startup called Good-Edi, making edible takeaway coffee cups to mitigate the problem of coffee cup waste.       The cups are made locally in Melbourne with the goal to one day provide edible cups to all of Australia. The cups are grain-based, vegan, and they take less than two weeks to break down.  
    Jocelyn Burzuik, President and Senior Construction Manager at Sundance Construction, joins the Zero Waste Countdown once again to talk about a very important issue here in Canada that she has lots of personal experience with: clean drinking water for First Nations and remote Canadian communities.   When treated water is filtered with chlorine it creates trihalomethanes (THMs), causing problems for northern communities that lead to people bathing in bottled water to avoid rashes, and sometimes people need flights into bigger cities with hospitals for treatment. We also see antibiotics being prescribed to combat H. pylori which leads to antibiotic resistance in our communities.   But can't we just drill a well and be good to go? It's not so simple. Even where I live, drilling a well for one family was complicated, problematic, and expensive. Drilling to get enough water for a whole community in the north is much more complicated and expensive when we add in the costs of getting equipment to remote places. UV with ultrasonics could be the answer.   Jocelyn discusses identity politics and how the Canadian government divides people up by race, which ends up with some communities not being able to share their federal infrastructure with other communities.       Extra Reading:  
Jocelyn Burzuik is the President and Senior Construction Manager of Sundance Construction in Manitoba, and when it comes to her new housing development, affordability is directly related to sustainability! Jocelyn combines her Metis heritage and First Nations concepts of community, with the physical housing designs of Icelandic culture, to build a northern Canadian neighbourhood built with wellbeing and sustainability at the forefront. While housing developments often go up as fast as possible after a forest clearcut for the most profit possible, Jocelyn is building within nature, and using affordable designs specifically tuned to our northern climate for best efficiency, and affordability for demographics such as retirees and single parents. Concepts that promote maximum wellness and sustainable longevity for the home buyers is Jocelyn's top priority.
118. Carbon Tax Problems

118. Carbon Tax Problems


    Canadians pay a lot of taxes and have a lot of expenses. Far too many Canadians are struggling with poverty and have very high electricity bills, our phone bills are some of the highest in the world, and our internet is expensive.   Our cities and towns were built in the spirit of American-style car culture that makes it difficult to walk anywhere. Much of these cities were designed as urban sprawl and we have to brave a 60 degree Celsius weather variation that goes from freezing cold to very hot in the summertime. It's expensive to live near our workplaces, in large part because our government allows for so much foreign real estate ownership and our immigration rates are so high, so many people get pushed out of city centres and need a vehicle to access food and employment.     The last time I was in France, a bottle of wine was 1/4 the price of the same bottle purchased in Canada, and we have to import a lot of our fresh fruit, nuts, and berries from places like Mexico, Chile, Peru, and California because it's too cold and dark to grow a lot of food here. Transporting fresh food into Canada take a lot of fossil fuels, although we do have fresh food grown during the wintertime in massive greenhouses that require lighting and heating, and our prairie provinces are star producers of many grains. We receive giant cargo ships of goods in Vancouver and Montreal from overseas that are loaded onto trains and trucks and delivered all over our massive country. Not only is it expensive to live in Canada, but we are completely dependent on oil and gas.     Dan McTeague spent 18 years in the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal Member of Parliament and is currently the president of He joins the Zero Waste Countdown to talk about the trouble with Canada's carbon tax that was forced upon unwilling provinces who didn't come up with their own carbon pricing scheme. The results have not been pretty. In fact, the argument can be made that the carbon tax takes money from the poor, and gives it to the rich. For example $12M from a "climate fund" was given to the 2nd richest family in Canada to buy new fridges, and the Ontario government used to hand out up to $14,000 to wealthy people who can afford the $137,900 Tesla Model X.     I mentioned in this episode a CBC article that says the carbon tax reduces emissions. You'll notice the title is "Scheer says British Columbia's carbon tax hasn't worked. Expert studies say it has". Many people only read headlines as they scroll through social media, but when you actually read this article, it shows one year of decreased emissions then uses the excuse that population increase should erase emissions increase. Juggling data around like this is how you can lie with statistics to say whatever you like. The CBC article says emissions have dropped in other places that have implemented a carbon tax but fails to mention any increase in efficient technology. Further in the article the CBC repeats the tagline that "most" families will get back more than they pay in carbon tax, but the trouble with using obscure words like "most" is that there's no proof, no data, and no concrete evidence. I claim it is false that "most" families receive a bigger rebate than what they pay to the government in carbon and fuel taxes, because the carbon tax on my transportation costs is more than double my rebate, without even considering the increase in food prices and propane prices (propane heats my water and while I have an electric heat pump to heat my home, propane is required for temperatures lower than about minus 15 Celsius). If you scroll down to the bottom of the article you will see CBC felt compelled to issue a correction that the carbon tax is revenue neutral, which falls in line with what Mr. McTeague is saying, that this is just another tax that fills the coffers of greedy politicians. When you compare the title of this CBC article with the actual content, it's misleading. Here's an article from a trustworthy source that contradicts the CBC article claiming the carbon tax reduced emissions in BC: They are quoting data from the Sierra Club who explains that due to cherry picking certain data fields, BC emissions are actually 4 times higher than what they're actually reporting, so if we aren't scrutinizing this data ourselves, how do we know the truth? Personally I'm not sure what to think with all this contradictory and politically motivated information, but it seems that emissions in BC were higher in 2015 than in 2010, indicating that emissions in BC have increased despite the carbon tax. The BC government cherry picked data to show emissions decreased by purposely leaving out BC's energy exports (coal!), and their forestry industry, demonstrating how easy it is to lie with statistics.     There are many factors to consider for increases and decreases in Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), such as new tech, government policies, markets, international relations, immigration, and a worldwide pandemic. If you don't know which factors were included in the charts that show increasing or decreasing emissions, you really can't tell if the article you're reading is true or not. You can see here on BC's government site the different emission charts, and you can see coal mining does have a chart, but I doubt this includes the actual usage of that coal in other countries.      You can basically say GHGs have gone up or down, depending on which information you want to cherry pick to make your argument. This is why we need to be weary of data, statistics, and even news sources we have grown up trusting, because they often have an agenda.   It's up to you, the listener, to look into the information you see, hear, and read, but I know that can be exhausting. I'm trying to uncover the truth on my show so that we can go forward making the greenest policies that work best for people, and not just line the pockets of wealthy politicians and their friends while plummeting honest working class citizens into poverty.     Extra references:     Billions could be missing from the new file of the previous Minister of Climate Change Catherine McKenna   Covid models have been wildly wrong, and so too can climate models   SNC Lavalin is very involved in Canada's nuclear industry, but remember the SNC Lavalin scandal even The Simpson's talked about?   SNC Lavalin has done some very unethical things   Trudeau fired our first indigenous female Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould when she questioned the government's ethics over the SNC Lavalin scandal   Is SNC Lavalin trustworthy enough to be handling our nuclear waste and nuclear reactors in Canada?      
117. Solar Oysters

117. Solar Oysters


Oysters from Chesapeake Bay, Library of Congress Oysters are little nutritional bombshells. They're packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids, and particularly of note during Covid: Vitamin D and Zinc. More than 80% of hospitalized Covid patients were found to be lacking Vitamin D, and those with low zinc levels tended to fair worse with the virus than those with healthy levels. Solar Oysters has designed a solar powered barge that will farm oysters vertically through the water column in the Chesapeake Bay area. Elizabeth Hines is the Vice President of Maritime Applied Physics Corporation engineering firm that's working on the design.   While solar panels aren't usually the best option for electricity grids, due to their intermittency and need for fossil fuel or nuclear backup, off-grid solar panels produce clean, free energy once built and installed. Oysters are a sustainable source of protein and nutrients that require little inputs.
116. Veteran Compost

116. Veteran Compost


Justen Garrity founded Veteran Compost over a decade ago after his military service. The company focuses on two things: Employing veterans and their family members; and Turning food scraps into high-quality compost. Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans have an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average. That means that a combat vet has a harder time getting a job than the average person. Justen is not only compassionate about helping veterans, he's also helping the environment significantly by reducing landfill and making an eco friendly compost for healthy soils.
Susanne Khün holding up a fulmar    Susanne Khün has a Ph.D from Wageningen Marine Research in the Netherlands where she has put years of research into her thesis called "Message in a belly - Plastic pathways in fulmars".       Tune in to hear all about Susanne's research on whether seabirds are ingesting plastic from fish, what's happening with toxicants from plastic once in their guts, and how ships are contributing to a fulmar's diet.       There's even some really good news about plastic pollution in the North Sea you won't want to miss!
  Scott Coffin has a Ph.D in environmental toxicology from the University of California Riverside and works for the California State Water Resources Control Board.     Scott has done many studies on toxicants in plastic that involve some fascinating scientific techniques. He found that estrogen receptors are being activated by many different toxicants in plastic, not just BPA, and discusses how this is not only worrisome for fish populations but also for humans.   Source:    
    For this year's holiday episode I've collaborated with three sustainable Canadian companies with eco friendly gift ideas for the holiday season!   Dave O'Connor from Genuine Tea won best tea in Toronto in the Now Reader's Choice Awards and offers high quality teas without plastic tea bags, as well as a new line of ready to drink teas.      Madeleine Tan (pictured below with her sister) from the Rose Company in Vancouver offers a number of sustainably packaged self care products and has offered the discount code ZEROWASTECOUNTDOWN for 20% off your online purchase.        Kathryn Hogan is the founder of KMH Touches, a company offering silk and vegan dental floss that's plastic and PFAS free, so good for your body and good for the planet.         
Lisa Zimmermann is a Ph.D researcher in the Department Aquatic Ecotoxicology at Goethe University Frankfurt and part of the PlastX Research Group. She recently conducted a study that was published in September 2020 called: Are bioplastics and plant-based materials safer than conventional plastics? In vitro toxicity and chemical composition.        Lisa discusses what she found in the study, and the implications those findings have on our choices as a consumer when it comes to packaging. She was also featured on episode 102. Toxins In Our Plastic Products.      Further comments from Lisa after recording:    1) On the question whether plants can contain toxins: Yes, some plants naturally produce toxins, e.g., as a natural defense mechanism against predators, insects or microorganisms. In a usual balanced, healthy diet, the levels of natural toxins are well below the threshold for acute and chronic toxicity. For instance potatoes contain solanines and chaconine but especially in the sprouts and green parts, that are not eaten nor used to extract starch for bio-based plastics. Compared to these single natural compounds, in the production process of conventional and bioplastics many synthetic compounds are intentionally added (e.g. additives) or get unintentionally in the product (e.g. reaction products). Some of these might be toxic at certain concentrations.     2) On how the study transfers to human health: The results of the study cannot be transferred on humans directly. Reasons include that in vitro tests were performed. Here isolated cells are used that can give first hints of effects but don’t reflect the complexity in the human body. Besides, the study examined the intrinsic chemical toxicity present in the products. In a next step, migration studies with food simulants are needed in order to identify the toxicity and chemicals migrating under real-world conditions and to estimate the human exposure to those.  Thus, the study is a first step and demonstrate that the chemical mixtures contained in the analyzed plastic product have the potential to be toxic to human health (if exposure concentrations are high enough).  
111. Nuclear Energy

111. Nuclear Energy


    Paul Acchione is an engineer and management consultant in Ontario who has worked in the nuclear and fossil fuel industries for over 48 years and has a wealth of knowledge about how nuclear power works, how nuclear waste is stored here in Canada, and the benefits nuclear power brings to an electricity grid.    Darlington Nuclear Power Station   We discuss how public opinion of nuclear energy has changed over time during his career, the current issues around renewables, and why it's unlikely we can save the Pickering nuclear station here in Ontario, which means one of the cleanest grids in the world is about to get a lot dirtier.   
According to Hazel Technologies, the U.S. wastes more than 25 billion pounds of post-harvest fruits and vegetables annually, which amounts to over $86B in wasted resources.           Aidan Mouat is the CEO of Hazel Technologies, and they have developed small biodegradable packaging inserts that are dropped into boxes of avocados during shipping. By time-releasing temporary ethylene blockers, Hazel's tech slows the fruit's aging process. The USDA-supported solution is entirely atmospheric, does not touch the produce, and leaves no residue. Further, the technology has been tested by the country's top agricultural universities (UC Davis, Cornell, Oregon State).      Hazel has more than 150 customers (across 12 countries) which include Zespri (the world's largest kiwi distributor, based in New Zealand), Oppy (Canada's largest produce distributor), and many more. Hazel's tech is projected to be used with 3.2 billion pounds of fresh produce in 2020, preventing more than 270 million pounds from going to waste.
The Olio sharing app from the UK is reporting record numbers of users sharing food and other items during the Covid pandemic.  Tessa Clarke joins the Zero Waste Countdown to share food waste statistics and explain how her sharing app works with over 2 million users. 
   Emily Thorn Cortha is founder & president of Thorn Associates, an energy and carbon management consulting corporation, and one of Canada’s top industrial energy efficiency experts. She joins the ZWC to discuss how our electricity grid works in Ontario - it's actually very clean!   Emily currently chairs the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ (OSPE’s) Energy Task Force and is a past elected director of the Board of OSPE. She is also co-founder and chair of the Board of Directors of StepUp, an organization dedicated to breakthrough energy management performance through improved gender equity, and past director of Energy Optimization and Management at Hatch Ltd., an international engineering consulting firm.  A laureate of the 2018 RelèveTO Young Professional Award and the 2020 International Energy Engineer of the Year Award, Emily has been a project manager, technical reviewer, and energy engineer for over 70 energy projects, resulting in over $100 million in implemented energy savings. One of five Canadian instructors for the Certified Energy Manager course, and a Certified Measurement and Verification professional with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Emily has been featured in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) video, on Radio Canada and on multiple podcasts. She has published 10 articles in respected journals such as Chemical Engineering Progress and has been a keynote speaker at multiple energy conferences.
Lauren Gregor is the founder of Rent A Romper based in LA, which is a monthly clothing subscription service for young children who tend to grow out of their clothing extremely quickly. Lauren joins the ZWC to talk about the environmental benefits of a clothing subscription model for kids, as well as the convenience for busy parents with growing children.
  Zion Lights is the UK Director for a group called Environmental Progress, which is a research and policy organization fighting for clean power and energy justice to achieve nature and prosperity for all.     She was previously a spokesmen for Extinction Rebellion, and she’s the author of the book: The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, she’s written for the Huffington Post, and you can find her Ted Talk on YouTube here.      We discuss the value of nuclear power, and why it's important to talk with people you may not agree with. 
Dr. Denise Hardesty is a principal researcher at CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere in Hobart, Tasmania. She's done extensive research over the years on marine plastic debris by studying sea birds, sea turtles, and waste reduction campaigns. We discuss what happens when certain marine animals digest plastic, whether it's safe for us to eat seafood that contains plastic, and what it's like to be a distinguished scientist in the field of marine debris research.
Bob Powell is the CEO of Brightmark, a disruptive and innovative company based in San Francisco who's turning plastic waste into Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), while also recycling all types of plastic.  For this “Call for Plastic Waste” - Brightmark is working to procure 1,200,000 tons per year of ALL post-use plastic types 1 through 7 from the Eastern half of the United States for recycling at its existing and soon-to-be-built plastics renewal plants nationwide.   Brightmark’s Ashley, Indiana plastics renewal facility, where the plastic will be processed and transformed, is the nation’s first commercial-scale plastics-to-fuel plant. The financing for the facility includes $185 million in Indiana green bonds, which were underwritten by Goldman Sachs. 
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