Recycling problems

I followed the recent letters regarding glass vs. plastic bottles and they raised some interesting points.

(Letter writer) Al Hudec says wine bottles are single use and yet most people return them to either a bottle depot or the liquor store. They are then either reused or recycled, I don't know which, but either way the glass is being used more than once.

However, on a wider scale, do any of us really know how much of what we take to the depot or put in our blue bins actually ends up being recycled?

One of the problems is that little word "recyclable" on a huge range of products. Because these products are very often sold in different jurisdictions, what might be recycled in one country is not necessarily recycled in Canada, however most people would assume that they belong in the blue bin.

Cardboard would appear to be eminently recyclable, and yet I found out some years ago (on a visit to Science World in Vancouver) that our cardboard is collected and then shipped to China for recycling.

If this is the case, then we are damaging the environment more than we are helping. The bunker fuel used in ships is one of the most damaging sources of emissions on the planet.

The same applies to much of the plastic we "recycle”. It gets shipped to a Far East nation, which is overwhelmed with plastic from Western countries and subsequently dumps it on beaches or in the ocean.

There is much opprobrium heaped on the packaging industry, but the reality is it is simply responding to consumer demands. If your new TV or fridge was not packed in styrofoam and cardboard, it would probably arrive dented or broken and you would be outraged.

Similarly, people who buy goods in a store expect it to be nicely packaged. In fact, very often, when the packaging is damaged, people will not buy it. I know, I was in retail for 25 years.

Let's expand the issue of recycling even further. California is banning the use of gas-powered yard tools, starting in 2025. It would not surprise me to see Canada do the same if the Liberals remain in power.

Gas vehicles are being discouraged and governments are trying to coerce us all into buying battery powered vehicles. So what is going to happen to the billions of mowers, weedeaters, chainsaws, trimmers, blowers and cars that will be proscribed?

I can see engine blocks and transmissions being melted down and reused, but what about body parts, interiors, handles, wiring, cables, etc. That is all destined for the landfill?

Clearly there would be no financial incentive to pay anyone to pick apart all these products and try and reuse anything, the labour cost would be prohibitive.

The government seems to think when we all drive around in electric cars, the world will be saved. But everything comes at a cost.

We have to take a holistic view of the planet, not just view it through a single country's lens. We might be reducing emissions here, but if it involves destroying it somewhere else are we moving forwards or sideways.

Take the proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada. It is slated to produce 60,000 tons of lithium per year. To do so involves digging up 20 to 30 million tons of earth and destroying an entire ecosystem—plants, trees and animals.

Then there is the sulphuric acid used to process the lithium and the 75 ton trucks and excavators that will work the mine, they will be gas or diesel powered. But hey, you've got your nice new EV, so who cares right?

What we need is an independent audit of the costs and benefits of the present recycling regime. It should be conducted by scientists not linked to either fossil fuel or environmental groups, and certainly not anyone linked to the government.

The chances of that happening? I'd guess zero, as there are too many groups with vested interests who want to steer the narrative one way or the other.

Peter Emery, Kelowna

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