Recycling is a wonderful idea and everyone is in favour of it. For some it is a passion, for some, it is a duty, for some it is a begrudging obligation and for some, it is just a pain.
It doesn’t matter how you view recycling.
It may well be doomed, dead as a dodo bird and here’s why. In spite of huge efforts by MMSM and Recycle Everywhere and most towns, cities and municipalities, recycling is not working out very well.
We pretend to recycle glass but, in actual fact, we are storing used glass, not re-using it. Some places it’s ground up and used for fill at the landfill or for roadways or whatever, but it is a very expensive myth that is being propagated. Just about any place ground glass is used, it would be cheaper to use sand.
Municipalities can buy all the new, shiny recycling wheeled dumper bins and dumpsters they want, but they simply don’t work all that efficiently. Here’s why. Some people are basically lazy. Open up a wheeled recycling bin or dumpster and look inside. There will almost always be garbage dumped in with the recycling and that means the whole load is contaminated and will be diverted to the landfill.
There has been multi-tonne loads of recyclables go to our local landfill and someone, by mistake or by being lazy, has dumped a jar of pickle juice or other garbage in the blue bin. It will all be crushed up together and the whole five tonnes is ruined. More fill for the landfill.
The only way recycling will work is if there is a financial incentive (real, not tax dollars) at each stage to get the job done. The municipalities should probably get out of the recycling business. The marketplace might be able to look after tin, cardboard, old newspapers and magazines, lead and aluminium if the government got out of the way. The current container levy is a waste of time and money. If the government really wanted to get aluminium cans out of the waste system, the levy would have to be 10 cents like it is for beer. Most other containers have little value, unlike aluminium and tin or steel.
A side story to recycling is the islands of plastic forming in our oceans. Individual people can’t be blamed for ocean garbage. That is the fault of cities that can’t or won’t cope with their mountains of garbage. There have to be huge amounts of garbage being barged out to sea. That is just plain criminal when some countries can do the clean-burn thing to create heat, to steam, to electrical energy. The little bit of ash by-product can go into roads.
A lot of information is out there about how Sweden has beaten back their garbage problem to the point they are importing garbage. They fuel their generators with trash and send only a very small percentage of the leftovers to the landfill. It makes sense and that is the main reason Canada and Manitoba may be so reluctant.
To the great credit of Evergreen Environmental, the facility that serves Minnedosa, Neepawa, Carberry and several RMs, the clean gasification of waste. Hopefully, it will be a great success and lead the industry.
Like a lot of processes, recycling and garbage disposal and utilization requires an integrated approach to regulation, financial incentives and education. Note I put education in the third spot, as most people already know what needs to be done. Mostly, the changes needed require financial [support?] and common sense. There is no common sense in polluting our land, air and oceans. A lot has to change or the consequences will be ugly and expensive.
Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.