Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Waste-free is the new recycle

Recycling has been a major part of the ecological movement for almost as long as there has been an ecological movement. It's popularity began with public awareness of the amount of waste going into landfills, and the popularity of the environmental movement as a whole (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring having much to do with it). Today, recycling programmes are popular not only because i this sense of ecological stewardship, but because of the market. Petroleum and woodpulp prices are high enough that using recycled materials is just as costly or more economical.

In all the efforts ecologists have been pushing (especially where i work, at the Éco-Quartier), i feel there is not enough of a push towards waste-free living. It's very simple for people to simply recycle all their waste and think that they are doing something good for the environment. Because in way recycling is not good for the environment, it is just slightly better than throwing something into a landfill. It still takes energy to transport those recyclable goods (whether they be packaging surrounding a consumer good, or a consumer good in itself) to you, and then to the recycling facility in it's after-life. Though it it less energy than producing from raw-materials, recycled good still require energy to be recycled.

It seems time that recycling should be considered common place, standard, if you will. Too often people feel it to be exceptional, as if it instantly makes them an ecologist, when in fact it is only the lesser of the two evils (evils being waste).

Given all this, it's encouraging to see that there are some steps being taken to reduce waste. The popularity of reusable bags is one thing. Three years ago, a grocery store clerk would give you a look of confusion when you would say you brought your own bag. Now it is not uncommon to see people carrying their groceries in reusable bags that are sold at any given grocery store, big chains and small. Today (as soon as i finish this blog post...), the Éco-Quartier is starting a bag-reduction campaign. This will involve making the cashier more aware of the excessive waste the use of plastic bags is creating, and to simply ask the customer if they need a bag instead of instinctively shoving it into a plastic bag. Hopefully, if this campaign works out, every store in downtown will have a sign urging the consumer to consider the environment in a small way.


laura said...

Nice post, and I totally agree. I think Montreal is already far ahead of other cities I've lived in in terms of plastic bag conservation, though. I was somewhat rudely rebuffed when I tried to get one for my pile of books at the BANQ the other day! I picked the wrong day to leave behind my usual canvas tote bag.

ps. I think you mean Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, not Emily Carr.

Jon said...

Nice to know the library is hesitant in giving out bags...
Thanks for pointing out the error! I must have been thinking about the exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts when i was writing it!

Jeannette said...

Nice post. I wish it had sarcastic cynicism having to do with soccer-mom's and trendiness. Oh well.

Jon said...

Jeannette! You have to wait for part II