When it comes to the problem of plastics and how to change our current situation there has finally been some very sensible talk from a federal minister.
At a recent meeting of environment ministers in Halifax, Catherine McKenna, federal environment minister, told reporters that the long-term plan, to address the use of plastics, would be making the companies using the plastics manage, collect and pay the costs involved for recycling or discarding that waste.
We have just seen taxpayers pick up the tab for numerous containers of “plastic” waste being returned from abroad because we tried to off load our unrecyclable “plastic” on them.
The taxpayer was not responsible for that waste. It started with a company choosing to sell its product in plastic.
It continued with a consumer not wanting the plastic but having no choice. The plastic was collected from a consumer who thought he/she was doing a good thing put it in the recycling box. It was sold to a broker – yes, sold.
The broker made a deal with a foreign country, for lots of money, to accept plastic for recycling. In fact it could not be recycled and caused a lot of international ill will for Canada.
As a society we have to put more emphasis on the other two Rs of the three Rs for environmental concerns in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, where the last one is often the only one concentrated on. In reducing overall waste at its highest capacity, reusing is the way to go.
Kudos to McKenna for recognizing that you and I having no option but to buy four litres of milk in a big plastic jug that we can’t reuse and do not want is not good. The companies selling their product like that will never get the message as long as they are allowed to continue packaging in plastic.
Most provinces sell milk in plastic bags that can be reused again and again. The other alternative is to sell it is glass bottles that can be reused again and again.
According to recent reports the clam-shell packaging that we have come to accept in produce departments, among others, is one of the hardest to recycle.
About 30 years ago a produce department in a supermarket allowed you to pick and choose the strawberries you wanted and place them in a brown paper bag that was weighed to determine the price. All we need is one supermarket to offer that choice once again shoppers will not have to buy clam-shells anymore.
At the moment the consumer has very little choice. If McKenna follows through on her suggestion we will see the biggest shift in the plastic container business.