Plastic pollution has reached every corner of the planet, including the Great Lakes. In an outstanding article last week, Simcoe.Com reporter Ian Adams highlighted the immense dimensions of this environmental crisis. Each year about 10,000 metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the Great Lakes. Six hundred metric tonnes of this finds its way into Lake Huron, including Georgian Bay. Overall, 80 per cent of litter in the Great Lakes is plastic.
What can be done to address this problem? A collaborative federal/ Ontario comprehensive strategy is long overdue. Key elements of such an approach must include: public education, higher pricing for water takers and fines for irresponsible littering.
Recycling is important too. But despite the Blue Box program, Ontario has one of the worst return rates for plastic bottles in the country. Over one billion plastic bottles are not recycled in Ontario and end up in landfills, lakes, rivers and on road sides each year.
One easy and obvious policy answer to this failure is to introduce a deposit return system for plastic bottles to increase recycling rates, reduce litter, and generate revenue to be used to protect the Great Lakes. Generally speaking, a deposit return program requires consumers to pay a few cents extra on specified beverage containers. Those few cents are returned (in full or in part) to the consumer once the container is returned for recycling. Ontario already has a program like this for alcoholic beverages, and it works incredibly well; 98 percent of beer bottles are returned for recycling. Why not plastic bottles?
Making waves, I’m Trent Gow
FYI, Liz Zetlin in Owen Sound (former poet laureate for OS and water campaigner) has taken a proposal to City Hall Council that would see water bottle re-fill stations in public areas replace plastic water bottle dispensers. City Hall voted against it.
Trent, thanks for stepping up. Good piece. Another local content item, a Meaford company is gaining traction with water stations sold to municipalities like Guelph, and used at special events throughout North America to reduce water bottle sales and mountains of litter.
I think Saskatoon is embarking on some kind of clampdown on this...maybe
Saskatchewan as a province. I continue to be amazed at how the water takers pay
virtually nothing for clean fresh water, little of which i think ever returns to
the groundwater system from which it was pumped.