What a Waste

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CBC’s Marketplace show investigates the ultimate destination of plastics and other ‘recyclable’ materials that we diligently bring to the curb every week.

The findings were not good.

One company – Wate Connections – just added the materials to landfill.

Waste Connections is an American company with a Canadian subsidiary based in Ontario (they say they moved their headquarters to Canada for tax reasons, but are still active across North America). Here’s more information about the company and here’s their website.

Another – GFL – burned it, apparently not caring about the implications for PCB or other chemical waste being pumped into the air.

GFL is also apparently a Canadian company that services all of North America. Its list of subsidiaries is extensive and the value of its business on an annual basis is about $5 billion.

One actually did what they said they would do. Merlin Plastics is a smaller company that’s based in BC that seems to actually be doing what they promise to do: recycle plastic.

That’s 2/3rds of the companies sub-contracted by the public NOT doing what they were tasked to do.

All three companies make green promises on their websites and in promotional videos, using buzzwords like “sustainability” and “environmental solutions.” One Waste Connections video goes as far as to say, “sustainability and becoming more green … have been hallmarks and backbones of Waste Connections from the day we formed the company.”

Marketplace put those promises to the test, acquiring about nine tonnes of film plastic, mostly shopping bags, that had already been sorted and crushed into square bales. Since the bales were already compressed and ready for processing, the trackers wouldn’t get crushed or lost in the sorting process.

Are these companies are stealing from the public under the guise of being environmentally responsible? How much money has the public funneled to these companies to simply ‘erase’ our plastic decadence?

Let’s face it: just taking the crap away isn’t going to solve our plastic problem.

We need to drastically reduce our reliance on plastic and have a plan to reuse what we make more efficiently.

Right now, here’s the situation:

According to Greenpeace, nearly half of Canada’s plastic waste exports were sent to China before the country cut its imports of scrap plastic in 2018.

Even when China was an option, the federal study of Canada’s plastic industry markets shows only nine per cent of Canadian plastics were getting recycled.

That means of the 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic consumed by Canadians in a year, about 2.8 million metric tonnes were thrown away as garbage.

We – citizens of the planet, especially those that mass consume like there’s no tomorrow – are allowing too much plastic to enter our lives.

It seems like plastics were introduced only within the last generation, but we all know that it will take many generations to solve this problem.

This has to stop.

That means we need legislation NOW that forces companies to do the following:

  1. Minimize plastic use with packaging and other materials for consumer goods
  2. Eliminate plastic whenever possible from the supply chain
  3. Tax plastic use that is not eliminated from the supply chain
  4. Force companies to use plastics that can be EASILY recycled into new materials (ie. no PCBs or other secondary chemicals that might have to be accounted for in the recycling process).

Like the climate change ‘debate’, proponents of plastics fail to see the opportunity in all of this. Requiring a FULL recycle process for plastics and other consumer materials will create economic opportunity with respect to supplying re-used and properly recycled materials for public consumption.

In the interim, we need to pursue the companies that are defrauding taxpayers.

The end result is that we may find that the ‘Blue Bin’ program is unsustainable. The mission will be to minimize our plastic waste to such an extent that we don’t need to spend billions subsidizing companies like Waste Connections, GFL or others.

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