Recycling Is The Third "R"
I am not sure when I first started caring so much about our environment. It is a feeling that naturally grew from my love of the great outdoors. I loved wandering aimlessly through the woods as a young boy. As a teenager, I loved wandering back roads and trails on my Honda trail bike. Now I love wandering those trails on my mountain bike.
I am a country boy at heart, but have always lived in the city. I don’t hate the city of course, but I am more comfortable being by myself in nature, than with lots of people in the noisy city.
When the Blue Box Recycling program first came to my city, I embraced it with enthusiasm. I was excited to take part in a program that was meant to help sustain our natural environment. I read all the rules and followed them vigorously. I would take tin cans out of the family trash and rinse them, and peel the labels off of them as requested. I knew everyone wouldn’t be as interested as I was at doing this, so I did it for them, for me, for us.
That all changed drastically on one particular day. It was about fifteen years ago, and the fact is ingrained in my mind, as I am sure it is, in many other like-minded people who witnessed it. And that fact is, that the front-page news of the day was, that my great city of Ottawa had been spending two million dollars a year, for the previous two years, to send all the plastic bags that I had been carefully putting in my blue box… to… CHINA. That one statement blew my little mind, and it is still blowing my mind… I could not believe it.
Anytime I have recounted my feelings about that memory, I get very upset all over again. The idea that some of my carefully sorted, cleaned, rinsed, and recycled, GARBAGE… was being transported from the end of my driveway, to a country thousands of miles away, was just unimaginable to me, but TRUE.
If it was being sent anywhere more than a hundred miles away, it would have been too far. But China? How obscene. The one country that, no matter how much we all clean up our act, they have the power, and the apparent inclination, to destroy our planet.
How this obscene scenario was allowed to happen is unknown, to me. All I remember is that it was revealed to the press somehow, and as soon as it became news it was declared that this process would end. And they have not allowed plastic bags, or similar thin plastic, in our blue boxes ever since. There were apparently no facilities close-by to send the plastic to.
The idea that they still don’t have any appropriate place closer than CHINA to send it to, is totally unacceptable, since other municipalities do recycle these tons of plastic. I just checked, and Toronto is recycling all this plastic, hopefully closer than China. But anything is possible in this upside-down-Trump-world.
What to me is most unacceptable, is that the people responsible in my local government to allow this perverse action to happen, were never singled out and disciplined. Any person that knew about this, and said nothing, should have been immediately fired, and the managers responsible should have had some kind of criminal, or civil court action pursued against them. But they are probably all now making over two hundred thousand dollars a year, making equally dumb decisions everyday at the moment.
Instead it was just quietly pushed aside, and eventually forgotten by most, but not all.
You can now imagine that my attitude towards recycling, and towards the competency of my city, has never been the same. I still recycle, but not near as fastidiously as I used to take great pride in. I have never pealed a greasy (or clean) label off since. If my city would allow such a grotesque travesty to happen, they obviously just don’t give a damn, about anything.
Several years back, this same city, and their totally incompetent management, went ahead with a multi-million-dollar green bin plan. They wanted us to fill new expensive green bins with compostable garbage. I was completely sceptical that this would be of any value, with the way they had it set up, and sure enough it has been a disaster from the start.
Every single person working in the recycling program is doing it for one reason. To make a living. And there are many people making a decent living, and that is very good, for them. But just how much actual help any recycling is doing in saving the environment is very questionable. I don’t know all the facts of course, but I am sure that many items being recycled are costing us more in time, money, energy, and other resources than just throwing it away and starting new. There should be a comprehensive study on all the items and the true value, or savings, if any, in recycling them. And then there should be a much more concerted effort in explaining to everyone how to participate in this program in a much more effective manner.
When they first started the program, the one item that was taking up the most space was newsprint. They didn’t have enough Ontario facilities to accept the onslaught of the stacks of newspapers, so thankfully, instead of shipping it all to China, they started filling warehouses with this excess paper. And when many were filled, they stored all the paper outside. And that is when I learned that all this paper was outside getting wet, and apparently greatly degrading it’s worth.
So now I am depressed every time I put my paper, and cardboard, out for recycling while it is raining, knowing that the soggy paper is not worth hardly anything. And is obviously very nasty to handle for all the workers. So why bother even sending the large crew in their trucks to pick it up? I have no doubt it is going from their sorting area, to the landfill. So just let that crew handle it directly. Across the river in Aylmer, Quebec they are much smarter, using big covered recycle boxes, so that this gross waste is not a factor.
When I was a schoolboy we were all taught that the three “R’s” were Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. For many years now we are told that the three “R’s” are Reduse, Reuse, Recycle. They are listed in this order for a reason. Reduse is by far the most effective R. Just don’t make the damn thing in the first place. We don’t each need three of everything. Reusing is quite effective, and Recycling is by far the least effective.
I wish to HELL that our society would stop being such a disposable one. If some cheap Chinese-made crap breaks, it is usually less expensive to just throw it out, instead of repairing it.
This is the one factor that will probably destroy our world. Not greenhouse gases, just our grotesque over-consumption.