Recycling efforts aren’t always so green

The problem with recycling is: what do you do with all the junk it creates? At the Ponoka County Fair there was a recycling booth. If you brought an empty bottle to recycle, you would receive a prize.

The problem with recycling is: what do you do with all the junk it creates?

At the Ponoka County Fair there was a recycling booth. If you brought an empty bottle to recycle, you would receive a prize.

We brought two bottles. One prize was a flat plastic (green) miniature jig saw puzzle made from recycled bottles and the other prize was a small plastic portable dispenser pen filled with hand sanitizer.

My son made the puzzle in about five minutes and now we are left with the useless plastic frame it came in. Where do we recycle that? And what of the plastic container for the hand dispenser? Where does it go?

I have about seven fleece blankets at home and about another seven fuzzy vests and jackets – all made from recycled bottles. And we have at least 10 reuseable shopping bags – all of these proudly labelled “Made from recycled bottles.”

But wait a minute! I took those plastic bottles away to get them out of my garage and now they have returned. Like some shape-shifting aliens – they are invading my life with more junk that is only slightly more useful than the useless junk it used to be.

And have you gone to any trade fairs recently? Every booth has some knick-knack guaranteed to make you feel good and remember the company: plastic stress balls, colorful rainbow sticky pad note kits, toys, pens, mini-highlighters, key lanyards, demo CDs and DVDs and billions of brochures, leaflets, business cards and directories – many labelled as “made from recycled materials.”

These products represent a myriad of advertising services performed by thousands of people – yet is this productive work? Are we creating useful, necessary products for our long-term survival? Or are we wasting precious resources and human ingenuity on frivolous self-deception by recycling junk into . . . uh . . . junk?

A recent Advocate editorial by John Stewart pointed out that we talk carbon capture while individually we spew carbon everywhere, invisibly, through our choices. There’s even a significant irony in the government bailing out GM so as to create more and more new cars, while planning to stick it to us in taxes to pay for carbon capture.

Wildly amusing, to me, is David Suzuki’s subsequent article wherein he claims that “buying high-quality offsets at least ensures that an equivalent amount of reductions is made elsewhere.” Hey. He should get a job in advertising or as an illusionist.

“No,” I say. It’s not about what we can make out of the bottle we don’t need any more. It’s about making only what we actually need in the first place.

It’s not really about green house gases at all. It is simply about over-production and over consumption of useless material goods that are destroying us!

We need to stop manipulating our reality with slick advertising thinking. We do not need to re-invent GM.

We need to make only useful things and many fewer of them. We need to grow, make and buy as much as we can locally since transportation is one of the largest contributors to GHGs.

We need to dedicate all that ingenuity that goes into making useless trinkets into science, technology and yes, philosophy, morality and ethics.

Is it moral or ethical to dedicate $3 billion a year in Alberta alone for carbon capture when people are homeless or helpless in the face of medical challenges?

If you want a cheaper way to reduce carbon output, raise the price of gas – again. Make it too expensive to go shopping for just a litre of milk.

Another cheaper way to reduce carbon output – tax the heck out of electronics including charging your VOLT. The making of electrical devices create massive pollution in the process – and when they are ‘recycled’ a great deal of this First World e-waste ends up, wantonly and dangerously splattered, in Third World landfills.

Further, our reliance on ‘everything’ electronic requires the province to build a new high capacity voltage line to support demand and yet much electricity is generated by coal-fired, pollution-producing plants.

With a hugely higher tax on gas and electronics, the provincial government could be out of debt in no time and financing fantastic health care for everyone.

That would be the best “quality offset” yet. Real and behavior modifying.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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