Our small mom & pop shop is always looking for better ways of doing things. Our goal is to have 100% biodegradable/compostable packaging for EVERYTHING we do. This “small” task has been somewhat of a “mission impossible” endeavour based on existing packaging solutions available…so we decided to do what any passionate couple would do – produce our own. We have a long way to go before its ready for market, but along the way, we are making some eye-opening observations about ourselves and EVERY company out there.
Recycling is a joke and a slap in the face to every consumer!
There really is no other way to put it. Recycling has tried to be the poster child solution to dealing with waste materials for many years, but when you break it apart, it’s really band-aid fix for a bad plan. According to Stats Canada, 92% of Canadians have access to recycling and, admittedly, we do a damn fine job of using it. In fact, 98% of Canadians utilize recycling programs to some extent.(1) To help make it even easier, Blue Bin programs are popping up throughout the country at a record rate and city sorting and recycling departments are becoming more efficient every year. So go ahead – give yourself a pat on the back. We’ve all done our part and it feels good to know what we recycle gets reused…or does it?
It’s a feel-good story with a nasty twist. As it turns out, 73% of products that have some recycling ability – still end up in the landfill – even if they were put in a Blue Bin. (2) – Case in point – Tetra Paks, paper coffee cups, and every single brown paper food package we consumers purchase at our local health food stores. They might look environmentally friendly – they might even have recycling symbols stamped all over them. The dark truth is that they are made of mixed materials – paper/plastic/foils.
It’s not that they can’t be recycled – it’s that they are costly and complicated to do so and in most cities, no facilities exist to do it. In economic terms, it doesn’t make sense to ship a 2 cent coffee cup 750 Km to be recycled in a specialized facility that separates the micro-thin plastic liner from the paper pulp. (Yes – paper cups contain plastic – that’s why they don’t leak or get soggy) The only financial way to do this is to charge a 25 cent environmental tax to every paper cup… and at that, I guarantee you every Grande-double-shot-with-extra-foam drinker out there would be revolting along with every Barista on the planet.
So if we care about reducing garbage, charging environmental fees would cause a tax revolt, and recycling isn’t saving the planet, then what can we do? Are we destined to just give up and keep burying our problems in the landfills? Desmond Tutu puts it best, “There comes a point where we have to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream to find out why they’re falling in.” The part of the equation that everyone skirts around is where the materials are coming from to begin with. Why do we need packaging with mixed materials? Do we really need to have plastic inside paper cups? Are there no other options available? In every case, the problem of waste goes back to the source – the manufacturer. Over packaging is used to prevent damage or theft of products on store shelves. Paper laminated to a plastic bag gives the “look” of a more environmentally responsible company – but its wrong and as consumers, we should demand better. It is not up to us to fix the problem – it’s up to the makers of the products. Imagine a world where companies were 100% responsible for recovering their packaging – what type of options would “suddenly” be available.
What to do
At the end of the day, we still have the power to produce results. The purpose of a company is to sell a product and make money. Some people pretty it up and say, “Companies provide solutions to everyday problems”. That’s nice – but not if their solution becomes part of your problem. We could lobby and push for more recycling facilities but that involves our tax dollars. By far, the fastest results are always seen when we demand more from companies with our dollars spent.
Our little shop of Riverstone Naturals isn’t perfect, but it is our passion to be responsible for everything we put out into the world. Help us make a better world. Buy produce that isn’t bagged or wrapped in plastic. Stop buying anything that has laminated foils/paper/plastics or other mixed materials.(3) Support bulk purchase stores. Call your local recycling facilities and ask questions. Demand better – and we will get better.
- https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/dai/smr08/2015/smr08_200_2015 / https://globalnews.ca/news/1571447/recycling-at-all-time-high-in-winnipeg/