Garbage remains a huge challenge to our personal, daily lives and communities – all over the world. Did you know there’s a floating island of plastic and other waste in the Pacific Ocean? National Geographic Education organization calls it the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” (http://education.nationalgeographic.com) On February 12, CBC National News reported how marine
mammals are eating and becoming entangled in plastics (cbc.ca/news).
Mid-February news about Plasco Energy Group’s bankruptcy at Ottawa’s Trim Road facility was also discouraging. The company failed in its efforts to transform garbage to energy via its plasma gasification technology. This underscores a fact: we need to be more mindful about our purchases.
We consumers purchase food, tools, toys, clothes and other products. Much is packaged in one-use-only, non-recyclable containers that we toss. Packaging can be challenging to open, so we
purchase clippers, then pitch the waste into the recycling bin (hopefully). (I think such packaging ought to be banned.) So, what to do?
Evaluating purchasing power
Before buying something, we should ask questions. Do I need it? Is it available second-hand? Is it biodegradable? Is it recyclable? No? Give it a miss.
Consider an object’s energy inputs – and lifetime use. Do you shave? Should we purchase disposable razors? Do you drink coffee? Should we purchase machines dispensing coffee in tiny plastic one-time-use containers? Disposable junk chokes landfills. If we buy these items, we support industries creating a direct-to-landfill (possibly recycling) waste chain.
Food’s necessary yet we’re shockingly ambivalent about it. Guelph’s Provision Coalition states, “In Canada, the equivalent of 30 to 40 percent of the food produced is lost along the value chain, with much of it finding its way to landfill or composting. This food waste is worth an estimated $27 billion each year.” (http://nbs.net/wp-content/uploads/Addressing-Food-Waste-in-Canada.pdf) How to reduce this? Surprisingly, the tip is: eat food. Too much becomes a science experiment sprouting fungi at the back of the fridge that becomes… landfill. Also? Avoid processed food: it’s unhealthy and over-packaged.
Regardless of how careful we are, we produce garbage destined for landfill. “How to throw” becomes crucial. Recycle everything possible (glass, newspaper, most plastic bottles/containers) and place in the recycling bin for collection. Give usable stuff to second-hand outlets or sell on Kijiji. Compost household waste such as vegetable trimmings, dryer lint, pet fur, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
Hazardous waste (paint, fluorescent lights, batteries, etc.) mustn’t be composted, recycled or landfilled. All municipalities/cities should operate a collection site, so enquire. Two examples? Municipality of Pontiac’s hazardous domestic waste collection centre is at 2024 Hwy 148 (municipalitepontiac.com); find City of Gatineau’s at ville.gatineau.qc.ca.
Let’s spend more time being mindful. La Chute landfill north of Montreal receives most Outaouais garbage. Who wants to live beside it? Where will the next one be built? Many of us have fought long and hard to stop more landfills (North Onslow, Danford Lake) and hope(d) for improved technologies… like Plasco concept. There’s no better day than today to revisit stuff we buy – and our responsibility for where it’ll end up.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org