It has been a stellar week as far as the weather goes. Not a drop of rain and balmy warm days. It stays light until 9 o’clock and all the flowers and birds are in full spring mode. I rejoice and luxuriate in my good fortune. I’m doing all right but is the rest of the world doing fine? My friend Camp, who is much more cynical than I, doesn’t think so. He believes we’re doomed to failure because we’re too successful as a species and instead of living in harmony with nature we are abusing nature’s finite resources through over consumption and thereby putting us all in peril.
’Closed up early,’ I said to Camp who was already enjoying a brew.
‘Yeah, not a lot of traffic in the old bookstore,’ he said. ‘I hope it’s the calm before the storm.’
‘I just read a three part in-depth report by Global Newsabout the sorry state of Canada’s recycling industry,’ I said, ‘I don’t know about you but Clare and I recycle everything from cardboard to plastic bags, from empty bottles to tin, tetra packs and styrofoam and even electronics. But according to this article most of it goes to the landfill and gets buried or burned and it’s all just a feel-good exercise in redundancy,” I said to Camp.
‘I try to recycle but I’m also in the business of selling paper – books – and I don’t think any of them are made from recycled paper. But since I mostly eat out or at Muriel’s I don’t produce a lot of garbage,’ Camp said.
‘In Ontario the average price for mixed paper fell 110 percent in the last year alone and the value of newspaper and cardboard dropped 50 percent and film plastic – the kind used in shopping bags – is down by 53 percent,’ I quoted. ‘And since there is no appetite for tax increases to offset the cost of recycling, some towns have backed away from teaching kids the virtues of recycling.’
‘What is this world coming to,’ Camp lamented. ‘Pretty soon we’ll have to pay by weight to get rid of our trash.’
‘You’re not too far off,’ I said. ‘According to the director of the West Yellowhead Waste Resource Authority, which handles recycling for 20 rural municipalities in Saskatchewan, recycling is the number one rising cost that towns are facing right now.’
‘I guess part of it has to do with Asia shutting its doors to Canada’s recycling. Not China, nor Malaysia, not Vietnam and not Thailand nor Taiwan, want our garbage anymore,” Camp said.
‘Exactly. For years we shipped roughly half of our recycling to China, believing that it was being transformed into usable products. Not so much. Turns out that they were mining out the valuable materials like metals and minerals and burned the rest.’
‘And then there is Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines autocratic president, giving Canada until 15th May to take back tons of trash in over 100 containers – marked as recyclables – that were sent there in 2013 and 2014 by a Canadian company that no longer exists.’
‘Yes, but dozens of containers of used adult diapers and household waste amongst them,’ I said.
‘Let’s quarrel with Canada. I will declare war against them,’ Duterte said. ‘Load that up on a ship and I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to.‘Camp quoted from his phone. ‘Even our prime minister’s office had to get involved and promised to repatriate those containers. No word yet where they are going to end up.
‘In the US some towns have resorted to burning their recycling and cancelled their recycling programs altogether. But in Ontario that’s not an option. Communities over 5000 people are mandated to recycle,’ I said.
‘I guess it’s going to take the packaging manufacturers working with municipalities, governments and the recycling industry to achieve a sustainable model,’ Camp said. ‘We all want to recycle but everything we consume is packaged in plastic, glass or fibre.’
‘Better drink up,’ Camp said, ‘here comes Vicky with two fresh pints.’
‘Do you recycle?’ Camp asked our young server.
‘I donate the empties to the Wildlife Rehab centre, and I try not to use plastic bags,’ she said.
‘That’s why we drink draught beer, from the tap. Leaves no trace and kegs can be reused,’ Camp said.
‘Drinking with a conscience?’ Vicky said. ‘You two are my heroes.’