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Rethinking Film Festival Waste

Rethink Resource and the Toronto Food Film Fest entered their second year of partnership in 2020, with the goal of making the festival the first zero waste festival in Canada. The goal was twofold: 1. To practice what they preach and ensure that they too are doing their part for climate change, and 2. To inspire other events in the city and further afield in the future.

Founded by Shane Harker in 2016, Rethink Resource aims to be Canada’s most comprehensive and environmentally friendly waste management company. Their aim is to help businesses across the GTA and beyond by educating them to become efficient in their waste management. This raising of consciousness resulting in positive action elevates their clients’ impact as environmental stewards.

Shane Harker from Rethink Resource

Last year for the inaugural year of the Toronto Food Film Fest (TFFF), Shane enthused that together with the TFFF co-founders, Jacqueline Tam and Joanna Maracle, they were able to divert 95 % of the festival’s waste. “It would have been 100%”, Shane adds,” but people brought in their own food and drink which were not in the compostable cups we had provided. We call that outside contamination, and it is generally what creates a dent in the figures of our report.” Shane asserted that outside “contaminants are a normal part of the process and mostly the reason why its almost impossible to get more than 95%. “Its so great the ladies got 95% in their first year, now we just need to convince the big guys to serve their products in compostable materials.”

Toronto Food Film Fest 2019 Waste Diversion Report

The event industry is different from that of the restaurant bricks and mortar. Often the hosts of an event have less control regarding waste disposal than in a restaurant. Rethink Resource’s 95% successful waste disposal at TFFF is a formidable number. The other good news? Shane has now touched base with many of the food distributors and co speakers, who all wish to do their part for the environment. This in turn opens the door for the co-founders to work with organizations who share their values.

Compostable serving ware (including the forks!) used by Grand Cru Deli at the Toronto Food Film Fest.

While TFFF was virtual this year, the VIP boxes delivered were made mostly from compostable or reusable materials, from the shrink wrap used for their charcuterie, to paper wrapped local garlic, to the carefully wrapped cocktail making kit which came in an all-natural fibre bag.

Toronto Food Film Fest VIP "Launch Box"

Shane is confident he can count on TFFF participants who put planet over profit as their end goal. He plans to involve those restaurants paired with the participating films to get on board and help make the next Toronto Food Film Fest 100% zero waste. He also hopes to encourage everyone watching who may not be practicing a low waste lifestyle at home to look introspectively at their own households and move gradually towards efficient waste management.

Shane’s reach into the brewery industry is gaining momentum. He is working with 9 out of 20 Toronto Breweries, and delivering the spent grain to farmers who are thrilled to receive it and feed it to their cattle.

The juice pulp from a successful GTA based juice company? Rethink Resource has the answer. The pulp is fed to black soldier fly larvae which are then fed to fish. Shane is working on a facility to compost his customers waste as well as other innovative diversion options.

Shane has also helped quick serve restaurants take their own food waste and compostable packaging, create their compost, and then use the same compost to grow vegetables for that restaurant. He is enthusiastic about the results:

“There was nothing more satisfying for me than sitting down with the owner and eating burgers with lettuce and tomatoes on them grown in their compost. It’s a true circular economy, and if a busy restaurant with low profit margins can do it, most others can.”;

Max Meighen, owner of Avling is a convert. Max met Shane at last year’s Toronto Food Film Fest and they have since partnered with Rethink to make his Restaurant / Brewery in Leslieville achieve a lower carbon footprint. Avling has sent more than 75,000 lbs of brew grains to the farm to feed cattle. They also use exclusively compostable packaging on their patio during covid diverting all of it from landfill via Rethink Resource and composting.

Delicious Avling foods!

At the moment, Shane faces some challenges. The GTA cannot compost properly and Rethink Resource has to take their waste to Belleville. The municipalities in the GTA are not set up for composting the packaging. Composting currently costs more than double vs Landfill. Shane admits that it is not always cheaper to do the right thing but agrees with partners like TFFF that it is the only way to do things. Sharing the same moral outlook of course means that Rethink gets to work with companies who are on the same page. Rethink is working on a compost facility closer to the GTA to grow this market and make it more cost effective.

“I remain constantly inspired by clients like TFFF“, says Shane.” We have come up with some clever ideas on how we can create a waste solution and to ensure we are working well together. I am continuously humbled by the people I have met thanks to the festival who in turn want to work together to make the GTA as zero waste as possible.”

While Shane admits the process may never be perfect, we are all on our way to do better. The Government’s new plastics ban next year is a good step in the right direction. We have no doubt Shane will help provide the GTA and beyond, many interesting innovative solutions to help combat the problem of waste disposal.


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