A company with a chronic deficit solves nothing by taking out a loan. Likewise, Toronto did not solve her garbage problem yesterday. Toronto’s purchase of the deceptively-named Green Lane Environmental Ltd. (say, didn’t we used to call those things garbage dumps?) is the purchase of a little more time, nothing else.
How much time? About twenty years. How much time has it taken us to find this dump? About twenty years. And the next one will take even longer.
We’re the only species on this planet that makes true waste — as in, something that doesn’t go on to become food for something else. Looking at it that way, waste is economic inefficiency. Waste is lost profit. The only true solution to our waste problem is to eliminate waste altogether.
I know, sounds crazy, right? It’s not. In the past three years alone, Toronto has reduced the number of trucks we send to Michigan from 143 a day to 80. (And no, we didn’t just get bigger trucks.) We’ve done that by diverting recyclables and organics, and that’s just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. The real magic happens when you start using materials in continuous cycles.
Take the beer store, for example. They get back and reuse 96% of the bottles they sell! Ontario’s announcement that they’ll start doing this with LCBO products as well is a huge step in the right direction. Just think, if hungover people have the wherewithal to return bottles, how much more could we do with the packaging of non-intoxicating products?!
The bottom line is that we need to stop subsidizing waste, and start making manufacturers responsible for their own products. Author Paul Hawken often writes about having three categories of waste:
- Consumables. Anything that can biodegrade completely and harmlessly. That includes clothes (assuming we stop putting other weird stuff in them) and food (assuming we stop spraying them with toxic pesticides).
- Products of service, like cars, TVs and refrigerators would be “leased” to the customer, ultimately to be returned to the manufacturer who would be responsible for the product’s recycling or reuse.
- Unmarkatables. This is the nasty stuff, like radioactive isotopes, toxins, and chemicals that bioaccumulate (build-up) in your body. Manufacturers really shouldn’t be producing these things at all, but if they do, they’ll pay to have them stored in “parking lots” until they can figure out how to neutralize them.
So, you can either make products that are 100% biodegradable, figure out how to reuse the parts, or pay the government to store your waste for you.
Anyone who thinks waste reduction, and ultimately elimination, isn’t realistic, should ask themselves one question. How realistic is the idea that we can just keep finding new dumps forever? (To say nothing of all the virgin materials we keep extracting unnecessarily.)
We need to start now, so that by the time this dump is full we won’t have to go looking for another one. Let’s not waste the next twenty years. (Ah ha! There’s the pun I was looking for.)
ps. By the way, this new dump is located in some of Ontario’s (and therefore, Toronto’s) prime agricultural land. As our garbage starts to break down it will leach into the earth that grows our food. The phrase “don’t shit where you eat” comes to mind.
9 thoughts on “Insert “Garbage” Pun Here”
Good site. Hey I ran across an article that stated that Halton was building a plant that could take 70% of Toronto’s garbage. Is this even part of discussion in Toronto?
Short answer: no. David Miller is unequivocally (some might say stubbornly) opposed to any form of incineration.
As for my opinion, I don’t have a simple one. On the one hand, I think that with current technology, incineration can actually have less of an environmental impact than landfills, which leach toxins into the earth and groundwater without filtering. The other thing I like about incineration is that it can be more local. I think that Toronto should deal with its own waste.
That being said, just because I think incineration is a slightly better option than straight landfill doesn’t mean I have to support it. (It’s still not the best option.) Aside form the fact that it’s also not healthy, incineration actually works against the three R’s. As soon as you’re generating electricity (and making money) from waste, it’s actually in your interest (as a city, or business) to throw things in the incinerator instead of diverting them through recycling or reuse. Incinerators and recycling plants would be in direct competition for material, especially considering that they both want to make use of the same high-energy items, like paper.
It’s similar to the way in which new electricity generation can’t live in harmony with conservation. As soon as you build a power plant or an incinerator, you have to use it in order to get a return on your investment. That’s the wrong path.
It’s similar to the way in which new electricity generation can’t live in harmony with conservation.
OK, as a new ‘lite’ Green member and an electrical engineer, I don’t quite buy that.
We have several issues at play.
1. There is a heavy demand for electricity in Ontario. This has caused McGuinty to start looking at bad environmental solutions such as nuclear energy. This would work towards at least reducing the demand for nuclear plants somewhat. If we want electrical generation to become ‘greener’, we need to support such initiatives.
2. You are spending money to transport this garbage long distances to sit in an American landfill. Any long term solution which helps this problem cannot simply be thrown off the table.
3. I don’t believe that all waste material can be recycled. You don’t recycle banana peels. Certainly some people will compost (and that may be preferable) but some people live in high rise towers. Recycling and incineration should not be considered to be mutually exclusive.
I appreciate your comment that this may act as competition to recycling plants but my response is ‘can a recycling plant replace the need NOW’.
Not sure we’re going to convince each other on this one, but I’ll take one last stab. ;-)
First, regarding the power plants, I was thinking specifically of the proposed 550 MW Portlands Energy Centre. Ontario could easily find 550 MW of electricity through conservation and efficiency. If they did that after building the plant, however, they will have wasted a lot of money, because they will have built a plant that isn’t needed. Once you’ve build a plant, there’s a strong economic incentive to use it.
I don’t believe that all waste material can be recycled.
It is in nature. As for banana peels, they fall in to category 1 (consumable), because they can biodegrade harmlessly and completely.
No, I’m not suggesting that we could eliminate waste tomorrow, or that we don’t need to find solutions in the mean time. Toronto may not have had much of a choice in deciding to buy this dump. I’m just trying to point out that we can’t pretend it was a solution. It’s just a temporary fix at best.
Another downside to incineration is that, after building an incinerator, Torontonians would have little incentive to reduce their waste since we will have just paid for a massive garbage burning plant which costs A LOT. In other words, if we build an incinerator to handle our current garbage load, but end up somehow cutting down our waste production, this would constitue a major waste of money. We would likely end up taking in garbage from other cities to keep our incinerator at full functioning capacity, and I for one would rather not have the rest of the country’s garbage stinking up our streets.
Fair enough. I don’t need to win this discussion but, at first thought, I thought it was a good idea mostly since it was a form of biomass power plant. I worry about Ontario leading the country down the nuke path.
The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.
The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.
Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.
Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.
Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.
If there are no gaps there is no emotion.
Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.
When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.
There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.
People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.
Man becomes machine.
A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.
A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.
A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.
FAST VISUALS /WORDS MAKE SLOW EMOTIONS EXTINCT.
SCIENTIFIC /INDUSTRIAL /FINANCIAL THINKING DESTROYS EMOTIONAL CIRCUITS.
A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY CANNOT FEEL PAIN / REMORSE / EMPATHY.
A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY WILL ALWAYS BE CRUEL TO ANIMALS/ TREES/ AIR/ WATER/ LAND AND TO ITSELF.
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