Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How do I Get Ontario to Sign Up?

I just read on the CBC that Albertans will soon be paying a deposit on milk cartons. According to the article, they're the only province in the country to do that. Damn those environment hating prairie hicks.

The truth is, I would like to see the Ontario government expand the list of deposit-worthy items from wine and beer containers to all containers, plastic or otherwise.

Now, I must be honest about my intentions. I'm not all that concerned about the environmental impacts of recycling or not. My current feeling, after years of meticulous sorting, is that it's more trouble than it's worth. Kingston made it worse for me when they added grey boxes (for paper, plastic bags, etc.) to the blue boxes (now only for cans, bottles, etc.) already part of their recycling program. I just don't make that much garbage to begin with (I'm more into reducing and reusing than I am recycling). Adding another only slightly less bulky grey bin to a preexisting, bulky blue bin was just enough disincentive for me. With the amount that I could potentially recycle, both bins will always be less than half-full. Great for the pessimist, not so great for the apartment dweller with limited storage space. Not to mention the fact that the bins only go out on alternating weeks, blue one week, grey the next. It just got to be too much hassle for me. (Reports say it did save the city money, so I guess there is one upside to it.) Plus, I've been getting this growing sense that, for all the efforts that people, citizens and city staff alike, put into it, the impact is small. There may be a net benefit from doing it, but it is low, and there are probably better places to put our resources, and our garbage, if our greatest concern is the environment [1].

Now that I've established that I don't put much stock into the Third 'R', let me get to why I hope Ontario will implement a policy similar to Alberta's. Ontario already has a deposit program in place for beer bottles and cans, and wine bottles were recently added. As far as I know, that's it. You used to be able to return pop bottles, back when pop bottles were made of glass (am I dating myself here?) I can't remember the last time I saw pop being sold in glass bottles other than for nostalgia and novelty purposes. I actually don't how many milk cartons get tossed in with ordinary garbage, either in absolute or relative terms. As far as I'm concerned, buying milk in cartons is a hose-job [2]. There is a 10 cent different between a 4 litre bag of milk and a 2 litre carton. Why would anyone buy that? Yet people do. I'll never understand. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. There are things that can be returned for deposit, certain classes of bottles and cans. How often do you see them lying around? Not very often, and if so, not for long. For example, when I was moving out of my last place, I had about 12 empty beer bottles lying around, and two or three empty wine bottles. It wasn't worth the extra 2 bucks or so that I would get to make the extra stop on my way back from the grocery store to return them. So when I moved out, I just left the bottles sitting in the driveway. Within an hour, while I was still inside packing, somebody came by and made off with my bottles. I have no idea who this guy was, but I'm grateful for him and others of his type. He saved me a trip, and he cleans up after other people besides me, all for the low low fee of 10-20 cents a bottle, to be paid by the beer store. I don't even have to supply the dimes! It's great!

Meanwhile, things like plastic bottles are not covered. They could be. Plastic water bottles, plastic pop bottles, whatever. And pop cans too. I often see "Return for deposit in Anywhere But Ontario" on the sides of these things. And no surprise, they are lying all over the place in Ontario. Especially water bottles. My parents would rarely drink bottled water themselves, but they managed to fill up three or four recycling boxes full of plastic bottles from bottled water, just by going for walks. Old neighbours say the neighbourhood has gotten messier since they left. Oh sure, we should be able to count on the good people to not throw out their empty containers everywhere. But we can't, because there aren't many and they're mostly busy somewhere else. We can't really count on there being very bored retired people with nothing to do but pick up garbage either. What we can count on is people who are willing to pick up after those lazy, ignorant slobs [3] for a ridiculously low price of about 10 cents per unit. Not a bad deal in my books. So if McGuinty should decide to target milk cartons, though they don't seem to be the scourge that plastic bottles are, maybe some of those plastic bottles could get hit in the crossfire.

The article linked to above claims that milk producers object because people will stop buying as much milk. Piffle! Tosh! Those who are truly concerned about that extra 10-25 cent deposit can, I don't know, SAVE their empty milk cartons and get the deposit back next week. Also according to the article 90 percent of Albertans are in favour of it. 90 percent! So most people are probably going to be willing to put out those extra few cents. And something tells me that the remaining 10 percent who are opposed to it aren't going to boycott milk because of it. It hasn't hurt the beer industry (for which the subsidies and marketing opportunities are fewer).

So onward Albertans! Return your bottles, plastic or glass! Return your cans! Return your milk cartons! And may Ontario follow you in your hillbilly ways! Yeehaw!

[1] I think, though I am not certain, that the idea of recycling originated was a solution to a logistical problem and not an environmental one. New Yorkers (city, not state) ran out of space to put their garbage, resulting in a so-called garbage crisis. They also ran out of arable land, resulting in a food crisis. Or not. You decide.

[2] And by hose-job, I mean they actually make a profit. Milk is, or used to be, a loss leader. If you walk into the store and buy a bag of milk, they actually lose money. They charge you less than it costs them to get you into the store. So if you want to stick it to Big Grocery, go buy lots of milk in bags.

[3] Myself, I'm just a lazy slob.


Carpe Diem said...

In B.C., they charge a deposit on all pop bottles, etc, except for milk jugs. depending on the size it ranges in price. But then again you have to pay for recycling as well. One thing is for sure though, you don't see litter as much as you do in Ontario!

Anonymous said...

Don't be hatin' Alberta!!!!

Randy Elzinga said...

Ain't no hatin' of Alberta goin' on here.

Jonita said...

I'm pretty sure that Mac's Milk charges a deposit on their chocolate milk and white milk containers. Maybe they're on to something?