I have been predicting for a while now that the recycling industry will collapse. It’s a shame, really, but without huge changes in policy, attitude and funding, recycling will cease to exist in many parts of Canada and especially in Manitoba.
Nearly everyone has seen the dramatic footage of the 60 containers of sub-standard recyclables that ended up in the Philippines. President Duterte, known for equal parts of harshness, determination and drama, sent them back to Canada. Disposing of the trashy mixture became the financial and physical responsibility of the Canadian government, as reportedly, the company that sent the containers from Canada to the Philippines could not be traced to seek remedy.
China, along with many other countries, has shut the door to North American recyclables, as the markets have disappeared.
Nearly everyone has seen the effects of reckless and irresponsible disposal of garbage and recyclables, be it on private land, public property or dumped into our waterways and oceans. The CBC recently did a story on how illegal recycling depots are being shut down in Asian countries, as authorities clamp down due to health and environmental concerns.
The world has a problem, Canada has a problem and Manitoba certainly has a problem. The most visible recyclable, the basic unit of recycling, namely the beer bottle or beer can, is subject to a 10 cent levy. If you buy a beer, you pay the 10 cents. If you take back a can or bottle, you get 10 cents. That makes sense (pun intended). In Manitoba, that’s about where common sense ends. While everyone pays lip service to recycling, including governments at municipal and provincial levels, there are very weak regulations and absolutely no financial incentive to recycle.
When recyclables do get to a depot, they are affectionately called “co-mingled”. That’s a polite term for a crappy mess. No matter how diligently a person cleans, sorts and lays out their recycling, it all goes in the same garbage truck, it all gets lumped together and if contaminated, as it often is, it goes to the landfill.
There are many problems with recycling and there may be many solutions. Local governments are facing a tidal wave of costs for disposing of recyclables, as there is almost no market for any of this stuff any more. Yes, aluminum cans and beer cans have value, but many plastics aren’t being accepted. Paper and cardboard aren’t worth much. It is an impending disaster.
I am planning on doing some more research on recycling and I invite other opinions and ideas. Is clean burn the answer? How about higher levies and refunds to the gatherers and handlers? Can glass be economically ground and re-used?
There is no question that garbage and recycling is piling up at amazing rates. Both are causing huge health and environmental issues, but what is the solution? Standing still and ignoring the problem is not the answer. I invite your ideas. Please email me, Ken, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Micah at email@example.com