October 21st, 2020

Efforts needed to reduce our plastic footprint

By Letter to the Editor on November 19, 2019.

We are in trouble, folks!

The only way to feed and clothe the world’s population over the next 50 years is with more plastic production. That means plastic production will increase six to eight per cent every year with 90 per cent coming from oil and gas – unless we get our act together and create a circular plastic economy.

That means firms like Proctor and Gamble must use at least half recycled plastic in a laundry soap container and Conoco will leave half of their propane in the ground that was extracted to make polypropylene pellets. Workers will be leaving the oilpatch and moving over to the recycling patch.

In the meantime, while this aforementioned transition takes place (10 to 20 years) we must address our “plastic footprint.” Per capita in Canada we generate 116 kilograms (255 pounds) of plastic waste per year. That is about 15 per cent of our municipal household solid waste. How do we counteract this – and keep in mind, if you are a mom and dad with four children, you are responsible for addressing their plastic footprint as well as your own.

Firstly, how do we cut down on our use of bags, bottles, containers, cups, pouches, trays, straws, etc. One example – do not purchase one more container that has a pump on it – one-fifth of the solution (lotion, body wash, shampoo, cleaners) stays in the container and the pump cannot be recycled.

Secondly, use recycled plastic products whenever possible – build a deck with composite board (50 per cent sawdust/50 per cent recycled plastic) or a 100 per cent recycled post consumer plastic board (made right here in southern Alberta). An eight-by-12-foot deck will use 311 kg of recycled board – that is 2.5 years of your “plastic footprint.” Build a fence 60 by six feet high – you use 930 kg of plastic lumber and that is eight years of your “plastic footprint.” And guess what? No more painting and a fence that looks good for at least 60 years.

But, there is a downside – the boards made from post-consumer waste plastic (made in southern Alberta) are either grey or black. If you want a white PVC (vinyl) board you will be adding to your plastic footprint as it is only available in 100 per cent virgin plastic. When sourcing recycled plastic boards, beams or posts, remember – black is beautiful, white is not right!

The same situation applies to our cities, towns and municipalities – what is their “plastic footprint” and can they counteract with policy and purchasing?

Grant R. Harrington


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Kal Itea

recycling? A new
technology turns
everyday trash into
plastic treasure.