“We love all plastics,” proclaimed Jim Downham of the Packaging Association of Canada (PAC) at the City of Toronto’s Packaging Waste Reduction Forum, held September 10 at Old Fort York. It appeared a bit strange that he followed Mayor David Miller who kicked off the forum with a reminder that city residents are “far ahead of politicians and business in the wish to attain Toronto’s 70 per cent diversion goal” (currently struck at 42 per cent) and that waste diversion was good “for both the environment and the economy.”
The forum focused on how to divert more in-store packaging (the kind of clam shells and other packaging, usually Styrofoam or rigid plastic) used to package take-out food in grocery stores. Downham was followed by a string of plastic industry lobbyists who, by the time they had finished their presentations, had invoked the Walkerton water tragedy (which resulted from the negligence of water treatment facility operators) in an oblique defense of bottled water, and also the Lysteria crisis (the result of contaminated food processing equipment) as well as the deaths of untold numbers of Africa children (as a result of water borne illnesses). It appears that health concerns are the plas-tics industry’s main line of defense against any potential ban (which the Toronto forum discussed) on take-out coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, takeout food containers and (possibly) water bottles!
The power to ban such products, is contained within the new City of Toronto Act (COTA). According to speaker and City Solicitor Mi chael Pacholok, Section 8 (2)(5) Section 267 of the COTA allows the City to pass by-laws with respect to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the City and to impose taxes for those purposes. But it was unclear from the forum that this power would be used.
One of the best presentations of the day was from Maria Kelleher who provided details on various initiatives world wide, particularly Ireland, to deal with materials like plastic shopping bags. (See article, page 32.) Her information and views appeared to be independent and not beholden to any industry lobby.
A notable tidbit of information came from Brockton and area (population 20,000) that sends off a tractor-trailer full of non-food Styrofoam (the stuff around TVs etc.) every three weeks. In Toronto terms (population 2.5 million), this could equate to 42 trucks a week, or roughly 10 per cent of all garbage trucks that leave from the city to Michigan. As Toronto staffer Geoff Rathbone remarked, “Landfills don’t get heavy; they get fat.” Hence the interest in removing this kind of packaging waste from landfills. Yet he also remarked that the city is prepared to potentially collect plastic shopping bags in its blue recycling carts, despite costs of thousands of dollars per tonne.
Other than to give those stakeholders with financial interests in the status quo an opportunity to vent their spleen, the purpose of the day seemed unclear to this writer. This magazine will continue to follow what, if anything, Toronto does to divert this kind of packaging waste, and who pays for it.
— Rod Muir (See article, page 62.)