Solid Waste & Recycling

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Message in a Bottle (January 01, 2004)

(October/November edition, page 4)Dear Editor:Your editorial provided an interesting review, but what exactly is the "message in the bottle" as we strive to evolve to a sustainable conserver society w...


(October/November edition, page 4)

Dear Editor:

Your editorial provided an interesting review, but what exactly is the “message in the bottle” as we strive to evolve to a sustainable conserver society while wending our way through the jungle of self interests? Might it be to find that elusive balance from amongst some of the options to which you refer in your editorial?

You raise some interesting options that have, or are, being tried with varying degrees of success around the world. Which of the Optional Administrative Tools (OATs) or combinations will it be?

Refillable or recyclables, deposit refund or unfocussed multi-material curbside collection, mechanical recycling or indiscriminate incineration of all collected items, environmentally-sound green energy or landfilling, voluntary or mandatory post-consumer content, even bans where health aspects may be involved?

The reality is that every system, including volunteerism, has its limits; one size does not need to or necessarily fit all.

In my opinion a policy that has universal merit regarding discarded items is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). This has and continues to be pursued “behind the mountains” in B.C. See “Might B.C. just be doing something right” at www.productstewarship.org (February 2003 edition). (Readers might also be interested in “Lessons learned behind the Mountains” presented at Dundee University’s International Symposium, September 2003, published ISBN 0 7277 3252 8, pages 307-311.)

B.C.’s “hybrid approach” generates sustainable high diversion/conservation rates with few, if any, identified legitimate complaints. It’s not perfect but with continued team effort and ongoing tweaking as per B.C.’s new Environment Act (Bill 53, passed October 22,2003), confidence is high that sustainable Zero Under-utilized Resource (ZUR) will be attained on or before Canada’s Olympics in B.C. in 2010.

Yours truly,

Jim Cairns

Environmental Plastics Advisory Service (EPAS)

West Vancouver, B.C.

(Dear Jim: Thanks for the excellent letter. I quite agree. Your kind of thinking is exactly what my editorial hoped to engage and stimulate. I would caution that the term “Extended Producer Responsibility” is being appropriated in North America by a number of industry groups and used to represent something quite different than what was originally intended in Europe. I’ve followed developments in B.C. for a long time, and our legal writers plan to address B.C.’s new environmental legislation in the next edition. B.C. appears to be the leader and model for the whole country in terms of sensible waste diversion. I’m aware that the province was the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a deposit-return system for beverage containers, before even the most progressive American states. Interestingly, Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan — a bottle bill state — hails from Vancouver and is now creating no end of trouble for Toronto by opposing waste export, in part because of beverage containers in the refuse. Could it be that a Vancouverite was sent on a secret mission to infiltrate the American political system, get elected in the one U.S. bottle bill state that accepts trash from Canada’s largest city, and force change along the lines of how they do things in B.C.? Jim, what have you been up to?!– ed.)


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