Cities can’t be left holding bag for recycling crisis

Categories: News
Published on: January 29, 2020

Montreal Gazette / Allison Hanes / 20 January 2020

For more than 25 years now, the vast majority of the recycling collected by municipalities in Canada, the United States and Europe was shipped to China. As programs adopted a “single-stream” so citizens could toss everything together without having to sort plastic, glass and paper themselves, the different materials started to contaminate each other. As our reliance on disposable containers like coffee cups and water bottles grew, we essentially off-loaded the consequences of mass consumerism on China.

But China got fed up and announced a sweeping ban on recycling imports, sending the markets for milk cartons and yogurt tubs into a nosedive, and leaving cities with mounting piles of rubbish.

That, in a nutshell, is how we got to the point where municipal programs are collapsing, companies are folding, and the stuff citizens toss in the recycling bin in good faith is ending up in the landfill.

There’s no doubt it’s a crisis. But as [Montreal mayor Valérie] Plante said, it’s also an “incredible opportunity” to remake how we deal with waste from the ground up.

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