In just a few short days, the world will be celebrating the first ever Global Recycling Day.
Events are set to take place in: London, U.K.; Washington, D.C.; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; Delhi, India; Sydney, Australia; and Dubai, U.A.E. to name a few. The initiative is the brainchild of the Bureau for International Recycling (BIR) — a global recycling industry association representing around 800 companies and 35 affiliated national recycling federations from 70 different countries.
Said BIR President Ranjit Baxi this week: "The world's first Global Recycling Day is a vitally important new date in our global calendar. To truly harness the power of recycling we must adopt a global approach to its collection, processing and use. It is time we put the planet first and all commit to spend 10 more minutes a day ensuring that materials are disposed of properly. It is a joint responsibility...
"Global Recycling Day is also a wakeup call to all of us, wherever we live. We must unite with those involved in the industry — from workers in waste collection to the world's largest businesses — to help them make the best use of what we dispose of and make recycling easier, inherent even in the design of products."
Some big companies are finally joining the recycling battle. The Coca-Cola Company recently launched a new initiative to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030.
Here at home, Vail Resorts announced its ambitious plan to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2030 across all its resorts.
Whistler Blackcomb has had an environmental sustainability plan since 1999. Since 2000, the resort has reduced its waste by more than 70 per cent. In the last 10 years, it has saved enough electricity to power 1,400 homes for a year as part of its "zero waste, zero carbon, zero net emissions" policy.
We can all agree that these targets, and events like the March 18 Global Recycling Day, are inspirational and they appeal to us on an emotional level. Unfortunately, being emotionally impacted is not affecting behaviour in Canada, and even Whistler, to the degree it needs to.
The most recent statistics for Canada show that the average Canadian generates 700 kilograms of garbage a year compared to say those in the 34 OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), which are responsible for 520 kgs per person.
Whistler, however, is a bit of a beacon when it comes to recycling in Canada. Our per-kilogram measure sits at 379 kg for 2017, though the target the Resort Municipality has set for 2020 is 350 kg per person — so we still have a ways to go.
Heading up one level of government, we are also doing well provincially. In 2013, B.C. put all recycling in the hands of a non-profit, Recycle BC, whose costs are covered by all businesses in the province that are deemed to create waste packaging or products.
B.C. doesn't export plastics because all plastics have been recycled in-province for the last three years — thanks in part to Recycle BC guaranteeing a supply of plastics to a local business. This in turn allowed local recyclers to invest in technology to recycle right here.
B.C.'s paper recyclables are sold to China. This year, China sent the recycling world into a tailspin when it announced tough new purity standards on the recycled materials it takes in from around the world. China, which buys approximately two-thirds of North America's recyclables, now requires that contamination levels — plastics mixed with broken glass or still sticky peanut butter containers — can't exceed 0.5 per cent as part of its National Sword initiative.
It's a move that is going to cost nations millions of dollars in cleanup efforts.
Here in B.C., it's not so dire, as Recycle BC's stringent rules mean recycled goods are already pretty clean. We have only a 6.5-per-cent rate of contamination compared to say, Toronto, which sits at 35 per cent.
Still, we know that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste are washing into the world's oceans on an annual basis and there is no doubt we are part of the problem. The average B.C. resident generates around five empty beverage containers a week.
So what can we do?
For a start, can we ban plastic bags in the resort once and for all? If customers forget their shopping bags, let's offer compostable paper bags. And no more plastic straws, please.
A pet peeve of mine — single-use coffee capsules. Fresh coffee tastes great, no doubt about it, but every machine comes with a refillable capsule — use that instead.
Before you throw things out, ask yourself if someone else can use it. Take it to the Re-Use-It Centre, or at the very least dispose of it properly.
Clean and separate all your garbage before you head to recycling, and when you are shopping, try not to use plastic produce bags or buy heavily wrapped foods, like meat on Styrofoam, which is then wrapped in plastic. Ask the deli and meat department to wrap your goods in paper.
And please, hot-house growers, stop single wrapping cucumbers!