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  • Writer's pictureWayne Drury

The First Day Without Plastic is Today,

Today, December 21, 2021 is the first day of the ban on plastics in Canada as government chases climate change and global warming. Read all about it from Sustainable Circular Economy

What are We Talking About?                  

The six categories of single-use plastic items in the Regulations were specifically selected because they are commonly found in the environment, and are harmful to the marine environment. They include:

  • checkout bags

  • cutlery

  • foodservice ware made from, or containing, problematic plastics that are hard to recycle

  • stir sticks

  • straws (with some exceptions)

What is Causing the Problem?

First step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. The plastics ending up in the ocean is not the problem, it is the outcome. The problem is two-fold – one I learned this morning.

Problem 1:

Only 9% of the plastics is being recycled. That is correct. Digging into the “why,” it is as simple as dirty, contaminated plastic cannot be recycled. If a piece of plastic from your local fast-food shop has a small chunk of cheese stuck on it, or a smear of mayonnaise, no recycling for that piece of plastic.

Problem 2:

Human Nature. We are creatures of bad habits or good habits we have not learned. It is so easy just to throw that plastic away, and I have to admit, I have not seen much effort in our government helping us to make recycling that easy. We end up just throwing the stuff away as a big part of the problem comes down to collection. We should be able to solve that.

Why are we doing this?

On the surface, a great idea to get rid of the plastics in our oceans and waterways, and out of the landfills. But will this move be good for the environment?

Government has said, “many can be avoided, designed to be readily recyclable, redesigned, or replaced by alternatives that are more durable, have a lower environmental footprint and/or are easier to recover at end-of-life... (and this) aims to keep products and materials in use as long as possible, maximizing their value.”

The principles of a Circular Economy which Sustainable Circular Economy fully subscribes to. But, what in reality, does the government plan do this?

Some of the Numbers

I will not bore you with the calculations. But, the percentage of pollution from straws from Canada represents 0.000003% of the total plastics going into a marine environment each year. The total plastics from Canada represents about 0.4% of the total each year.

I am not for a minute suggesting the issue should not be addressed, but putting it all together, could there not have been a less invasive, less costly recycling solution?

What About Replacements?

You be the judge. Government’s estimates that 1.5 million tonnes of plastics will be removed from the garbage stream between 2023 to 2032, but the replacement products will add almost double that amount of waste. A total of 2.9 million tonnes from substitutes such as paper, wood, moulded products, aluminium and alternative plastics.

Not something they mentioned. And what are the impacts of digging up the raw materials, chopping down more trees, right through to you getting your hands on that new packaging going to add to the environment? No one is saying, but start asking questions and all the benefits from removing the plastics get quite murky.

Three million tonnes of plastics and counting. 9% is recycled while the rest, 2.7 million tonnes, of ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or the environment. Of that about 1% is straws.

From a Canadian perspective, the “benefit is small,” if not negative.

Add to all of this environmental cost of the alternatives, and this is not adding up to look like the decision is good for the people, the planet or sustainability. It fails to deliver on the principles of a circular economy of being good for the people, the planet and sustainability.

Another political boondoggle that is just going to cost us a lot of money?

The Solution?

From what I see, we are a ways away from having a workable solution. But then, government promised action, but they did not make any mention of action that is good for the people, the planet or is sustainable. We got an announcement and now we are stuck with it. What is the solution?

  1. Design a collection system that will allow us to move from 9% recyclable to 100% recyclable.

  2. Design replacements that will not add to the problem

  3. Put our hard-earned money that is going into support this boondoggle into a public education program to address our human nature. Focus on the kids, they will keep us old folks in line and “Bob’s your uncle.”

Did you know that Spain had a plastic recycle rate in 2019 of 51.2%? That would be a good start for us and a lot better for the people, the planet and sustainability. Why do I mention Spain? Because I like their on-the-street garbage collection boxes. Easy to use, clean and efficient.

If we could hit 51% that would remove 12.5 tonnes of our straws from the environment, leaving us with 12 tonnes to deal with. And, we would not have the problem of environmental contamination from the weight of all those substitutes.

Government in my view is slow to act; there are so many problems with the present announcement that the ban will not work. Sure, we will see less plastic, but “out of sight, out of mind,” government will be pulling all the stops to convince us they are doing the world a world of good with this. Not.

OK, it is in place. We have to suck it up, but let’s not forget it is a poor action and work on a positive solution that is good for the people, the planet and is sustainable.

Who Are We?

Sustainable Circular Economy is a boutique firm in Vancouver helping businesses and First Nation communities through the environmental morass of decision-making on the basis of the principles of a circular economy – reuse, repurpose and recycle. Our goal is to do the world a world of good by helping to develop outcomes that are good for the people, the planet and sustainability. If you are “stuck” and are considering some help, please give us a call. We would be humbled to help you.

I hope we can work together to do the world a world of good for 2023, delivering solutions that are good for the people, the planet and are sustainable.

Best wishes, Merry Christmas.

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