Monday, March 12, 2018

Curbing An Addiction

A recent post outlined the terrible toll plastic pollution is exacting on the world's oceans and wildlife. We pay a very high price for personal convenience, but our addiction to plastic runs very, very deep, as you will see in just a moment.

But first, Tim Gray makes a plea for Canada to take a lead in the battle against this scourge, and for a very good reason:
Canadians are among the most wasteful people in the world, with 25 million tonnes of waste, including plastic, ending up in landfills in 2014. Of course, millions of plastic bottles and other plastic waste never even make it to the landfill, but instead end up in our streets and environment.

In our oceans, our plastic joins the waste of other countries to kill a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year, according to the UN Environment Program.
And just how can we work towards taming this monumental problem?
Provinces set the legislative frame for how waste is tackled. For example, all but two provinces and one territory have plastic beverage bottle deposit return programs that achieve high recovery rates. Ottawa could mandate that all provinces achieve at least a 90-per-cent recovery and let each of them design its own system.

This would ensure that the laggards in Manitoba and Ontario (which throws away 1.5 billion plastic bottles every year) get their acts together. If provinces don’t achieve the target, the federal government could impose a tax on the bottles and give the funds to municipalities for waste abatement programs.

The federal government could also require that major multinational corporations — like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pepsi and McDonald’s — increase the amount of recycled material in their products and packaging to 100 per cent by 2023. High recycled content targets create market demand for recycled materials. They also make companies more likely to support collection systems that provide high volumes of high quality plastics, like deposit return programs.
Although Gray doesn't mention it, another avenue would be for us to wean ourselves off our heavy use of plastic. That, however, is easier said than done, as you will learn in the following video:

You can read about the above initiative here.

Just because something is difficult does not make it beyond our means to achieve. By educating ourselves about the problem and taking steps to reduce our reliance on plastic (through cloth shopping bags, reusable water bottles, etc.), we can all contribute to the reduction of one of humanity and nature's biggest blights.


  1. Past generations have confronted huge problems, Lorne. What makes the difference between us and them is our political will.

    1. That political will leaves much wanting, Owen, as our current crop of 'leaders' seem more interested in pandering than in leading.

  2. I don't know what it's going to take. I don't think deposits and fines are going to change things for the average person. There has been some research indicating that monetizing bad behaviour just makes it happen more. (I will try to find some links) I think some manufacturing is simply going to have to be banned. I doubt very much whether any government is willing to do that, though.

    1. Hi Karen, I don't know what the answer is either, but I think reducing the use of plastic bags is a pretty effective way when you charge a nickel for each.