The nitty gritty

I’ve had parts of this post written since February 2008!
It is due time I finish it, especially in wake of the city strike.This is a really hard post to write because I am trying to keep this blog positive and I also don’t want to be peachy so I keep having to take out parts, and redo them. It definitley isn’t my best piece of writing, but here it is, the post about the shortfalls of recycling and industrial composting.
Recycling is completely different that reusing. I once talked to a woman who made crackers about the fact that she packaged them in plastic. I told her if I could get them without a package I would buy some. She got offended and said the plastic was recyclable so it would be the same, put it in the recycling bin and get new plastic-voila. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The bag doesn’t get washed down and used again. It gets broken down into components and made into something else. Not all of the parts can be used, so the rest is waste. Plus you’ve got all the energy and pollution from the trucks and the recycling plants. It’s not an efficient system. I’m not saying don’t recycle, but don’t just recycle. Reduce as much as possible first and then recycle as a last resort.
The other problem with recycling is that programs accept much more than they can actually recycle just to get people to use the program. If there is too much sorting to do, many people just won’t do it, so the idea is to accept as much as possible even though many of the items accepted can’t actually be recycled.Here is the guide of what can and can’t be accepted I was surprised to see that paper can only be accepted if shredded and put in clear plastic bags. Does this mean none of the paper we’ve been putting in the bin has actually been recycled? I need to call and find out. We do use both sides of paper, and we reuse envelopes, but still once that is done, quite a bit goes in the plus bin.
Styrofoam can now be accepted, as well as plastic bags, but both items are difficult to recycle and the end product is not in much demand. For example plastic bags are made into plastic garden furniture-there are way more bags than the amount of furniture needed. In my research, I’ve discovered the #1 reason for recycling plastics is actually job creation.
The city of Toronto has made a goal to divert waste 70% by 2010. There have recently been media exposes on how they are doing that by including items they accept in compost and recycling but don’t actually divert. The city denies this, but does admit to accepting things that can’t be diverted to encourage people to use the programs.
Composting (green bins)
It really saddened me to see how many people got rid of their backyard composters when the green bin came. The green bin should really be for people who can’t have the other (better) kind of compost and maybe don’t want to deal with worms (vermicomposting). We also use it for egg shells and our flushable cat litter because the shells attract rats to our garden and the flushable litter sometimes clogs the toilet. It’s best to keep things in your own backyard, literally. Pretty much everything (food, waste disposal, household goods) is better and more efficient when done closer to home. As soon as you have to deal with transportation, factories etc, the greenness turns murky.
The other sad thing is seeing how many awesome and smart people decide to use disposable diapers instead of cloth because they are accepted in the green bin. The problem is they are not composted. They are accepted in order to up the numbers, but they get picked out in the filter. I called to ask if maybe some of the inside cotton parts get composted and they were reluctant to tell me, but the final answer was NO. The diaper is basically completely filtered out and sent to landfill. It just took a detour to get there.
Before I go, let me say, I think Toronto is putting forth a valiant effort in trying to divert waste. I just think we all need more information about exactly what is happening, and we need to remember that the first step is reducing. The idea of diverting our waste is a bit funny to me too. I think first off we should try to make less, and then divert what’s left. If I were queen of the city I would impose a big tax on garbage. Then people start leaving their packaging at the store and the stores start pressuring the producers and less packaging is made. I am not actually a genius. This is the exact model Germany used.


1 Comment

Filed under environmental news, garbage laws, tips, Uncategorized

One response to “The nitty gritty

  1. re paper recycling and shreddedness: The way I read the sentence on the guide is that only the shredded paper (i.e. what you’ve put through the paper shredder) needs to be enclosed in tied plastic bags. Other stuff, like newspapers and magazines, etc. are fine not shredded.

    Thank you for calling about the diapers. I was saddened to hear similar things from people who I thought should know better.

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