Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Packaging included? No. Why not?

It's one of those good news/bad news stories...

The good news is that the Liberal government inherited a good recycling policy ~Extended Producer Responsibility ~ and made it better.

BC became a world leader in the 1990s for introducing a series of landmark recycling laws. The new laws relieved the poor hapless local governments who have been picking up after the Throw-Away Society at taxpayer expense and put responsiblity right where it belongs, on the producers of the stuff that becomes waste.

This gives the producers an incentive to reduce their waste.

When the Liberal government took power in the early 2000s, they developed a "framework" recycling regulation to replace the collection of stand-alone regulations that had been brought in by earlier governments.

It is a good piece of legislation. It sends a clear signal to all producers of throw-away products that they will be responsible for providing recycling programs for their products. And then it allows the government to move methodically, updating the legislation by adding one product category at a time. The producers have time to organize the programs.

This month the government did just that. It added more categories of electronics products to the regulation, giving the producers 18 months to get programs in place to take back small appliances, toys, radios, cameras and a whole long list of consumer electronic products that were not included in the regulation before. The new products are spelled out in a "schedule" in the regulation.

But the bad news is that the Liberal government did not include electronics packaging in the regulation, despite the fact that the Recycling Council of BC and others have sent letters urging them to do so.

This means that all the styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic and cardboard that come in the new equipment you buy to replace the old one has no where to go.

The Liberal government failed to do what NDP Environment Minister Moe Sihota did in 1994, when his government oversaw the roll-out of a new regulation that required paint companies to take back old paint.

The paint companies tried to avoid taking back paint cans and pails, claiming that it wasn't their responsibility. Sihota simply amended the regulation so that it covered the paint packaging as well as the leftover paint. Today, the paint industry recycles tonnes of cans and pails as well as old paint. They don't like it much, but maybe that will prompt them to come up with containers that are refillable? easier to recycle?
Write to the Premier ( and ask:
Why wasn't packaging for electronics products included in the amended Recycling Regulation?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who is measuring incinerator toxics in agricultural land? Nobody!

When the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver) fired up its new incinerator in Burnaby in 1988, there was a requirement to test the soil and vegetation for heavy metals and other harmful substances produced by incinerators for three years following the facility's start-up.

A report was produced in 1990 that found lead, mercury, cadmium and other harmful substances in various crops in the six agricultural sites in Richmond, Delta and Burnaby that they tested.

The report recommended that "a routine soil and vegetation monitoring schedule be established."

But ongoing monitoring of soil and vegetation is not being carried out.

Instead, the Ministry of Environment requires only "source" and "ambient" monitoring, which includes smoke stack monitoring and an ambient monitoring station on the roof of the Burnaby South High School.

The rationale for not monitoring levels of toxic substances in soil and vegetation is that "it is not scientifically possible to determine the source of any contaminants found in the soils and to link soil sampling results directly to emissions from the incinerator."
If you don't measure it, it doesn't exist.

Pic: Burnaby incinerator, August 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Get recycling off the curb

We are used to thinking of recycling as an extension of our garbage service.

And indeed it is. Garbage and recycling co-exist side by side on the curb, two parts of an "integrated" waste management system.

Because it's part of the garbage system, recycling has been falling more and more into the service mix of the garbage industry who contract with our local governments. They are doing their best to make it look more and more like garbage.

They cater to the laziness that made us become the Throw-Away Society in the first place. No more simple sorting to separate the nice clean paper from the sticky yogurt cups. People want convenience.... but it comes at a cost.

If we want to do recycling right we have to liberate it from the garbage system. Local governments can build the tax base by supporting local recycling shops where materials are kept clean and source-separated, instead of competing against them by providing dumbed-down recycling.
Only by doing it right will we get a sustainable recycling economy.
Pic: What a waste.... Gibsons BC