In a time when we, as global citizens, are constantly being surrounded by messaging around the declining health of our planet, it makes sense that we look for ways to individually contribute to the cause. The easiest way for most of us is through household recycling.
Not everyone participates but for those of us that do, making the choice to throw that piece of paper or plastic into the garbage or put it into a blue or green bin is fairly easy and doesn’t require a lot of thought, money or time. But everything changed in January of 2018. China, who had handled almost 50 per cent of the world’s recyclable waste for the past few decades, banned the import of plastics and other recyclable materials. Governments around the globe scrambled to figure out a plan B and started taking drastic measures to temporarily deal with this new reality – stockpiling, banning, or even disposing of some recyclable materials. Discussions were had and information was shared in newspapers, online, television and in podcasts. Municipalities sent out bulletins and posted on their websites.
But if you wander onto one of the social media sites or comment sections in our community, you would never know that these global changes have taken effect. Almost every day there seems to be another post complaining about the recycling services in St. Albert, blaming City Council for being the only municipality to make these ridiculous changes, with one comment even alluding that individual councillors should be jailed over it. Repeatedly, informed community members post rebuttals, sharing facts and figures, that seem to be ignored or challenged.
For the most part, we as community members all have the same goal. We want a service that meets our needs, where the value we feel we get corresponds with the amount of fee we pay. We want to be good global citizens, doing our small part to help the environment by ensuring that we don’t trash materials that have value or can be reused.
So perhaps it's time that we change this narrative for good. Stop blaming local politicians for problems created in faraway countries and start focusing on how we can help them to solve these problems in new ways. We can help by changing our shopping habits to purchase items with less packaging, communicating our desire for products that have less plastic to businesses we frequent and sending letters to regulators to evoke their support for more funding for new innovative recycling technologies.
Perhaps we can help our local municipal groups and recycling associations finally convince the Alberta government to finally put an Extended Producer Responsibility program in place, where the companies that produce the products are responsible for reducing the environmental impact of that product throughout its entire lifecycle.
We can work together to make change that really matters, that will impact generations to come, and will give us the outcomes that we all want, citizen and politician alike. Trust me, taking the time for that will feel so much better than the time wasted posting an uninformed rant on Facebook.
Lisa Holmes is a former Morinville mayor and councillor who lives in St. Albert.