Saving the world …

Waste disposal … recycling …. never the most eye-catching and engrossing of topics for a blog, I know, but I bet you didn’t know that  by the age of 6 months, the average Canadian has consumed the same amount of resources as the average person in the developing world consumes in a lifetime.  That’s frightening.  The UK fares much better – mind you, when you look at the world rankings for being environmentally conscious, it’s harder to get much worse than poor Canada ….. unless you’re in the USA of course, who sits at the bottom of the league table.  Based on recent events and the USA’s denial of any climate change, it’s easy to understand why  …..My experience of waste disposal in the UK was never great.  Whilst each householder has a rainbow variety of bins to select from in which to put their rubbish, there are strict rules on what to put in each, how often they get collected, and woe betide you if you fill the bin up above the required level.  We’ve often reflected that our regular Sunday activity was a trip to the local tip, waiting in line whilst we slowly made our way to the required bins in which to dispose of anything else that we had in excess of the weekly entitlements.  I’m sure my husband still hankers after these days ….. 😉

Cut to life in Canada.  As a householder, we put our ‘garbage’ out in plastic bags on the front lawn and every week without fail (yes, even in -30 and below), the garbage truck arrives and takes everything away.  There are guidelines on what you should leave out – and most things outside this (like batteries, electrical items, paint, etc), are encouraged to be taken to a local ‘eco station’.  Huge recycling centres where you may be charged depending on the items you wish to dispose.

One of the things I’ve always found quirky over in Canada is that we pay a recycling levy and tax at the point of sale for any bottle of liquid.  Being fairly new to the Canadian way of life, I’ve always thought that this is a great way to incentivise people to recycle – charge them a fee at source, and reward them with some monetary incentive if they then do return the bottles and help the environment.   Never quite understanding how the whole process worked, it was only after a woman started arriving at our garbage pile every week with a car to collect our bottles, just before they would be taken away by the garbage truck – that we started to think there may be something in this.  There were some telltale signs … in 2 years of collecting our bottles she’s managed to upgrade her vehicle and now appears in diamanté jewellery ……

Anyhow.  Collecting our bottles is only half the tale.  There are ‘bottle depots’ (pronounced ‘dee-poes’) around the city, so as a bit of an experiment, we started to save all our liquid containers with the intent of taking them to one of these localities and seeing how much our ‘waste’ was worth.  After a month and a half – and in our defence, we did have a visitation from a fab friend over from the UK during this time which saw an upsurge in the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed – we decided to take our 8 huge bags brimming with all manner of glass, plastic and cardboard containers to one of these places.

Upon arrival, the smell of stale alcohol and the way your shoes stuck to the floor took me straight back to my Saturday nights out as a student in  Sheffield.  Unaccustomed to such odours, my youngest kid scrunched her face with disgust and turned up her nose declaring, ‘what’s that awful smell’, whilst my husband and I exchanged a knowing glance and reminiscent smile.

The rules are simple.  If it hold less than 1 litre, you get 10 cents, more than 1 litre you get 25 cents per item – irrelevant of whether it’s made of veneered glass or the cheapest piece of cardboard going. You tip all your bottles in a huge bin next to a friendly ‘operative’ with ear plugs, who then sorts and counts out each item.  The noise is deafening as you’ve got another 8 banks of operatives all performing the same task alongside each other.  Frankly, it was embarrassing the sheer volume of cans, bottles and containers we’d amassed and finally after only 10 minutes, we were awarded with the grand total of $18.Not enough to fund our retirement I know.  But upon departure, we concluded as part of our commitment to helping the environment, it was only in the global interest that we should continue to consume such liquidities and make this a regular family venture.

It does fly in the face of both our vehicles – mine is a truck – which manages to deliver an average fuel economy of between 16 – 18 mpg.  Still, we’ve got to start somewhere.  Baby steps as they say ….. 🙂