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GREENINGS: Plastic ban born of necessity (May 2019)

May 28th, 2019 · No Comments

China done with being the world’s dumping ground

By Terri Chu

The Ontario government has announced it is mulling a ban on single-use plastics. As environmentalists rejoice at the small bone this gas guzzling loving government throws at us, we should all take a moment to thank China for this small miracle from the “red tape cutting” bandits. 

Provincial rumblings about a ban on single-use plastics do not represent a sudden ideological shift on behalf of the current government. Premier Ford is still a climate change denier.

For decades China has taken in the world’s trash. Valuable bits, usually metals, are recycled, while less valuable bits are burned. Sometimes they end up in the oceans. However, a year ago China decided it was done with being the world’s dumping ground. The government decided there was enough internal garbage to deal with and shut its doors to recycling. Since then, landfills around the world have been scrambling to deal with the pile-up of plastic that was once shoved onto a boat bound for China. Some are burning it, some are burying it, but all are feeling the pain of suddenly having to confront their waste addiction. 

Provincial rumblings about a ban on single-use plastics do not represent a sudden ideological shift on behalf of the current government. Premier Ford is still a climate change denier, and his cronies have not gotten suddenly passionate about clean water. The plastic pile-up is simply too big to manage. A solution is needed, and fast. 

We’ve known for two years about this impending problem and have been grappling with its reality for more than a year. And now are we throwing open a “consultation” process. 

Since Premier Ford took office, the political process has been moving at the speed of light. We can barely get our heads around the most recent devastation when the next cut hits us. It’s hard to keep up, but on this issue, we’ve got to step up.

We should definitely take advantage of China’s policy on imported waste and tell the Ontario government that yes, we want a ban on single-use plastics. We should tell them that all waste should be dealt with in the jurisdiction where it is produced. We should tell them we support measures like taking away flat municipal garbage collection fees and instead collecting those fees at the till with each cup of coffee sold, every television brought home, and every over-packaged box of individually wrapped candy. All waste collection fees should be line-items at the till so we know what every item costs to dispose of. Every bit of plastic needs to be charged by weight to the consumer so those of us who choose not to drink smelly water from bottles no longer subsidize those who do. 

Opportunities like this do not come often. Those who manage waste are seeing their profits soar at the expense of those who produce waste. Normally, the environment is a loser with no dollar value attached. This time it’s different, and we have a chance to remind people that pollution is not, and should not, be free. We either pay for it now or force someone else to pay for it later. 

We should be responsible adults and choose to pay for our own trash. Our children will be far better off for it than a handful of tax cuts. 

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths. Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Life · Opinion