Ontario’s paper industry is now attempting to ban old corrugated containers (OCCs) from public and private landfills as a way of promoting proper recycling and environmental sustainability. This decision comes in light of Quebec’s own recycling legislation. Quebec is moving to have OCCs banned completely from landfills by 2013, and wished Ontario to make the same commitment for the environment. Notably, the industry hopes that such a ban on OCC will act as gateway legislation for further recycling acts.
Landfill laws such as these are becoming increasingly important in our trash-filled world. Canadians generate over 30 million tones of trash each year, with 67.2% of that garbage entering a landfill. With paper and paperboard products amounting for about a third of our trash, that means upwards of 6 million tones of recyclable paper is thrown away each year. The province’s current disposal method isn’t that bad, of course; after all, up to 87% of OCC is collected each year (which means the majority of thrown paper is regular paper). However, the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council is still dissatisfied with this inefficiency, and want as close to the “100% recycled” mark as possible.
Alongside traditional landfill enforcement methods, the Council is also considering adding landfill fees to OCC as a deterrent from having trucks cross the border to US landfills where OCC disposal is legal. The hope is that, by making OCC disposal both illegal and costly, companies are even more inclined to adapt to the new legislation. Even with those two in place, the Council still expects a two-year wait period before the effect of the ban is in full effect across all of Ontario.
By banning the remaining 17%, Ontario and Quebec would expect to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 85,000 tones, while increasing the longevity of landfills by 2.5 years. As a whole, such legislation would save companies 12 to 18 million dollars in disposal fees. These strictly fiscal advantages are on top of the benefits this ban would have on the environment, and on promoting environmental sustainability.
Hot button topics in environmental activism have recently centred themselves around renewable energy and sustainable development. And while economic growth through sustainable power lines and green city blocks are important, so too is the oft-forgotten aspect of disposal. Even if we manage to perfect environmentally safe city growth through technologies such as solar panels and green roofs, it seems an empty gift if we continue with our model of unsustainable consumerism. Our cities might be green, but who can see them if they’re under a mountain of trash?