An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WHILE I WAS contemplating Wednesday’s editorial on plastic bags, I happened to pick up a copy of the National Post and looked at the World page. (Yes, an actual copy on newsprint, not online.)
There, in the righthand column, was a story headlined “Nearly all ‘plastics made since 1950 still with us’.”
It’s a fascinating story. Written by Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press, it says more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic has been made since 1950. In fact, most plastic has been made since then because it’s a relatively new material.
Nearly seven billion tons of that 9.1 billion is no longer used. Nine per cent has been recycled, 12 per cent incinerated. Which means there’s 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste still around. A lot of it has been buried in landfills, and a lot is in our oceans.
I don’t want to go all David Suzuki on you, but that’s appalling. And we’re falling farther behind. In 2015, says the article, 448 million tons of plastic was manufactured. That’s twice as much as was made in 1998.
We aren’t going to stop making and using plastic any time soon. It’s everywhere — in products like bottles, cars, phones, refrigerators and clothing. More than a third of the plastic we use is in the packaging of other products, many of which, of course, are themselves plastic.
“At the current rate, we are really heading toward a plastic planet,” says Roland Geyer, the author of a global study on the substance.
“The growth is astonishing, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.”
So, returning to the plastic bag recycling issue, maybe the folks who complain about having to separate them from the rest of their recycling should consider that before they start tossing them in the garbage instead.
And maybe we all need to work harder at using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic ones when we go shopping.