Throwing Out Your Tax Dollars Simply Makes No “Cents”
Anyone would agree that taking money out of your wallet and throwing it directly into the trash would be a crazy thing to do. Of course it would be. So is paying for excessive packaging that we don’t need or even want. It gets thrown in the trash and then we pay all over again to put that trash in the dump.
If we could see the amount we pay in utility rates getting buried in the landfill as clearly as we can see the coins and bills in our wallets, we would be shaking our heads.
We might think we’re saving money on cheap plastic bags, but the reality is they cost an estimated 30 cents each to dispose of. That’s something like a billion dollars if you add up all the plastic bags in Canada over a year.
Using blue recycle bags makes most of us feel better because we think that our recycling gets made into something else. We forget that we pay for that– the pickup, the trucking, the shipping overseas, the fees at landfill when no one will take it off our hands. These dollars add up quickly. And the truth is, it’s getting much harder to ship off.
Buyers of recyclables are tired of the materials being mixed together, but sold as separated. They say they’re tired of being a dumping ground. The more competitive these markets get, the more time needs to be spent sorting materials properly. That means more staff hours, which means more money.
Edmonton currently contracts most work out to a company called Suez. About 40% of the waste utility rates we pay are funneled into profitable companies, primarily to one based in France. Edmonton Waste Management spends about $80 million/year on private contracts.
So what can we do?
We can make the producers of these products more responsible by financially incentivizing them to use less packaging or different materials that are easier to process and break down. It’s called EPR- Extended Producer Responsibility– and we need to call on our provincial and federal governments to adopt it. We can demand better, and they can do better to provide more choices.
Other provinces and countries are way ahead of us. So is industry. Plastics manufacturing companies are already building single-use plastic bans into their business models. They know it’s time. When it comes to our wallets, our environment, and our health, the status quo just isn’t good enough.