By Chad Ingram
Conversations about reducing and eliminating disposable, single-use plastics are becoming more and more widespread, globally and on a local, municipal level.
Certainly, from swirling ocean islands of plastic to the emissions created from the constant production and recycling of the stuff, most of us are aware at this point of the detriment that our steady diet of plastic is having on the natural world.
Within the County of Haliburton, Dysart et al is emerging as the leader in efforts to curb plastic consumption, purchasing water stations for Head Lake Park. The idea is that once enough water stations are available in the park, that vendors at events there will no longer be permitted to sell plastic bottles of water. All of the townships should be re-evaluating their plastics consumption and looking at policy change, including outfitting their roads departments with reusable water vessels, rather than skids upon skids of water bottled in disposable plastic. While they are commonplace to most of us alive now, remember that single-use disposal plastics are relatively new in the span of human history. Humanity got by and stayed hydrated for a long time without them, so presumably can do so again in the future.
The County of Haliburton is moving ahead with a climate change plan for itself and its lower tiers, and presumably dealing with plastics will be part of that framework once complete.
And while it’s important for municipalities to become leaders in reducing use of plastics, ultimately, the problem can only be sufficiently dealt with by going after the corporations that are the producers of these plastics in the first place. They are the ones flooding the marketplace with them, but the task of cleaning them up falls to municipal governments through their waste management responsibilities.
As the Association of Municipalities of Ontario points out in a recent document, municipalities need the provincial and federal levels of government to pass legislation forcing producers to be responsible for the end-of-life care of their products.
“Make producers fully responsible for managing waste from their products and packaging,” it reads. “Municipal governments have no control over the materials that businesses choose to use or commodity markets. Full producer responsibility is the only way to encourage innovation and deliver better economic and environmental outcomes, while reducing the burden on taxpayers.”
And boom goes the dynamite.
Individual responsibility and municipal prudence are important when dealing with the plastics problem, but a truly sustainable solution will only come about by going after the corporations that use plastics in such immense volumes to begin with. Make companies responsible for the end-of-life treatment of their products, subject to steep financial penalties, and watch how quickly more environmentally friendly packaging will be adopted.