On my walk along the beach I picked up a couple of washed up plastic containers and put them in the next trash can. It doesn’t happen often that I see garbage or litter in our pristine coastal town, unless a bear or dog upends a garbage can and spreads it around. Unlike Mexico or many other struggling societies where plastic drift and road side garbage are the norm. I walked up the back stairs to our seaside pub to find Campbell already seated at our favourite table, glued into his smart phone, which he quickly pocketed when he saw me.
As soon as I sat down Vicky appeared like a mirage right on cue with two foaming mugs. Twilight hovered over the grey waters of Howe Sound and a pale lemony sun struggled through the gunmetal clouds with promises of longer days.
“You must recycle a lot of paper and cardboard at the book store,” I said to Camp who looked at me with his head tilted to one side.
He replied like a teacher talking to a dense pupil. “Recycling is a common mode of behaviour here on the Coast. We recycle anything from plastic bags to cardboard, household batteries and egg cartons, light bulbs, electronics, Styro-foam, even compost. It’s like a religion where littering is a sin and bad garbage behaviour is best practised in secret. What brings this on?”
“Well, you must have heard that as of this January China banned 24 different types of waste they will no longer accept from other countries, sending shock waves through the global, multibillion-dollar waste disposal and recycling industry. China happened to be the largest importer of foreign trash and up to 60% of plastic waste ended up in China. No more.”
“The world cannot continue with the current wasteful consumption model based on infinite growth in a finite world,” Camp said, “ and our waste problems start at the source. Governments, industry and corporations need to come up with transformative solutions that will stop the current flood of waste.”
“Good luck with that,” I said, “I saw the colossal waste in the film industry where entire stage sets got trashed after a few days of shooting. It’s probably better today as Polystyrene moulds are being recycled.”
“There is money in garbage,” Camp said.
“I believe so. I know that in Zurich the incinerator which imports garbage from Germany provides over 10’000 households with heat and electricity and it claims to be co2 neutral, ” I said.
“I’ve heard of Nine Dragon Paper, which ships massive amounts of recycle paper back to China which has an insatiable appetite for paper products. There is probably more money in recycling garbage than in selling books,” Camp said.
“Just think of all the old TV’s everybody had to dispose of to make room for the new flat screens. Electronic garbage. We’ve all seen pictures of grubby kids scavenging though mountains of toxic, electronic trash. I scoured the internet in the past couple of days and came across some staggering numbers and facts,” I said. “According to a UN report, up to 50 million tons of electronic waste, mainly computers and smart phones (gone stupid), were dumped in 2017. And then there is the plastic floating in the oceans of the world. Henderson Island which is part of the Pitcairn group, is covered by 18 tons of sharp, hard, toxic plastic that washed up on it’s once virgin beaches. Imagine that.”
“Take Vancouver,” Camp said. “Although it aspires to be a Zero Waste city, dumped 650’000 tonnes of waste in landfills last year, which amounts to about one and a half tonnes of garbage per resident, 30% of which is food waste,“ Camp said, after googling his pocket computer, which is actually against our Thursday rules.
“I pick up garbage when I see it because it bothers me and I try to compost, recycle and reduce waste but I do feel a tad stupid when I save a plastic bag and then have to watch the insane amount of throw away cups and containers from fast food outlets. One family can involve 20 different containers for food and drinks of one meal of burgers, chips and pops, including straws, napkins, trays, cups and lids. According to a city staff report from June last year Vancouverites throw away 2.5 million coffee cups and 2 million plastic bags per week,” I said, checking my note book.
“I don’t frequent fast food joints but you should drink up. Stale beer is a waste of a valuable commodity.”
I immediately followed my friend’s advice. Waste not want not.