Recycle like you give a damn

Friday, January 09, 2009

OMG, is he really talking about recycling? Didn’t we deal with all that in the 90’s? Yes I am actually talking about recycling and yes it is something that we probably should have dealt with long ago. Here is a little known fact to anyone outside of the recycling biz. In 1992 the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for Ontario basically mandated a 60% diversion for all academic institutions. Well it wasn’t exactly a mandate but it was strongly suggested that all institutions in Ontario must perform waste audits and must create action plans to divert waste.

So what happened? Why aren’t we living in a wasteless utopia? Well you see after the MOE created the waste diversion regulation they kind of went to sleep. Yep, in fact it took 15 years before they even showed up to do their first inspection at the University of Ottawa. In between that time 2 things happened; first people stopped caring, and second, people thought the problem was taken care of. Let’s start with the latter. The government made a big stink about how important recycling was and it gave the impression to everyone that things were getting done. In actual fact that is not the case. In Ottawa it is true that almost everyone recycles at home, but away from home… not so much. Something sad like 15% of all businesses actually recycle. Check it out for yourself, next time that you step into a store, look around for a recycling bin. If you want to really make sure, snoop around to the back of the store and see if there is a big blue bin.

Now for the second part; people stopped caring. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like people are walking around dropping recycling into garbage bins maliciously. Back during the great Toronto garbage strike of 2004, a wonderful article about the helplessness of humanity was published. It wasn’t quite so much wonderful as it was scary. You see the the article was about a lady who was stuck in her apartment with no way of getting rid of the waste that the ‘garbage companies’ weren’t picking up. The quote of the day… “Why can’t somebody please just take it [garbage] away?”, she cried out while sobbing in her kitchen.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, it shows that many people don’t care about something until it is staring them in the face. If we couldn’t throw out garbage anymore we would be in a heap of trouble. Similarly we take almost everything for granted, why would recycling be any different? People think that somehow somewhere their items are being recycled. I’ll give you an example, 18%. That is the percentage of plastic bottles that are recycled in North America. I’ll bet you thought it was higher than that eh?

So all in, the average Canadian doesn’t even recycle half of the products that they use. We need to do better and hopefully RECYCLEMANIA is going to help us do that.
More to come…

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