September 21, 2012

RANT: Recyling? What Rot!

Peer pressure works; when the city implemented its "green bin" recycling policy, everyone I know got on board. Rinsing out bottles and cans, flattening boxes, washing plastic containers, scrubbing away at the leftover mustard and Ketchup... my Mom would even separate the small plastic inset from the top of the Kleenex box before carefully ungluing the box sides to flatten it perfectly. My first thought was that all the clean water and detergent required to clean our garbage would certainly cancel out any benefits.

At one point, we were told to separate our recycled goods. Cardboard and paper in one bin, plastics and glass in another. I grumbled about it, but did the right thing. Then one day, while working at home, I saw the recycling truck pull up. A man jumped down, grabbed our carefully sorted bins one by one, and threw all the contents together into the open yawl of the vehicle. What? All that careful sorting for nothing? I laughed out loud. And did some research.

I discovered that Montreal has repeatedly (and recently) come under fire for mismanaging its recycling programs. As stated here, in an excerpt from last year's The McGill Daily:
In January of 2009, Montreal’s recycling industry faced a crisis: the global demand for recycling dropped dramatically and Rebuts Solides Canadien (RSC) – the privately-owned company contracted by the city of Montreal to sort its recycled material – had 20,000 tonnes of unsalable recycled materials on its hands. The options were either to pay companies to take the refuse off their hands, to store it until the market got better, or to throw it away in landfills. Patrice Hamel, plant manager of Montreal’s sorting facility, estimates that the company lost nearly $1 million that year because of this crisis.
Still, we continue to stuff our green bins every week. Big, noisy gas-guzzling green trucks come and take it away. City contracts were won and are being fulfilled. But is most of it going to landfill, even now? Good question. And even if it's being recycled, is it costing us more than it's worth?
Heartbreaking image from Patagonia Under Siege.
There are many things we can do to help reduce pollution. Stop driving your car everywhere. Take the train instead of flying (if you can afford it). Eat less beef. Consume less, period. Over-packaging (to allow for easier global distribution) is a huge problem. Plastics are the worst offense, and as a friend recently joked - "We invented an indestructible product, and its primary use was for packaging, which is disposable. Good for us! Garbage that will last hundreds of years." Of course, we now have a huge clog of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, thanks to that. We've turned our planet into a broken toilet. 

It's called the "garbage patch", and it is now bigger than the state of Texas, comprised 90% of plastic. Some 3.5 million tonnes of trash, twisting into a huge indestructible force that, obviously, we will have to reckon with at some point. Or will we just adapt, as another of my friends likes to point out? Yeah, enjoy your swim.

Recycling has to be a way of thinking, I guess, not just a weekly sorting of our garbage. I love the idea of re-using packaging in creative ways, for example. Click here for some genius ideas. 


  1. excellent post Lorrie, i love the link to the creative ideas....

  2. Great post and I love the fact that you finished with a positive spin on what to do with our old things.
    Good for you!!


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