About a billion soft drink cans never make it into Ontario’s blue box recycling system each year, according to the most recent report from the province’s environmental commissioner Gord Miller.
Calling Ontario’s aluminum recycling rate "abysmal," Miller has called on the province to double it to the 80 per cent or higher levels of provinces with deposit-refund systems.
His report largely blames industrial, commercial and institutional sectors in addition to apartment buildings that lack recycling programs. Since so many soft drinks are consumed away from the home, they never make it into residential curbside collection systems and end up being sent to landfill. This might soon cause a problem for cities like Toronto that ship their garbage residue to landfills in Michigan which is a bottle bill state and has banned such materials in garbage.
Miller estimates the value of unrecycled cans at $25.5 million — a significant loss to recycling program revenues. Producing that much aluminum uses as much power as 125,000 homes in a year and needlessly consumed tonnes of bauxite, the mining and processing of which is notoriously degrading to the environment.
In his report Miller also said too many toxic chemicals, including arsenic and lead, go down drains and into lakes and rivers because the province has backed away from forcing municipalities to adopt and enforce strict sewer-use bylaws. In 2002, Hamilton released 2,545 kg from one facility alone (its Woodward Ave. treatment plant). In comparison, Ottawa’s R.O. Pickard plant only released only 0.05 kg of lead into water.