Let’s not fool ourselves about waste

I write in response to two recent events in the waste management field: 1) the plastic-to-oil machine newly installed at P&M Recycling and 2) the Village of Haines Junction's recent decision to landfill and recycle

I write in response to two recent events in the waste management field: 1) the plastic-to-oil machine newly installed at P&M Recycling and 2) the Village of Haines Junction’s recent decision to landfill and recycle rather than burn waste in a gasifier.

These events demonstrate the different approaches to dealing with our waste. They are timely given the City of Whitehorse and Yukon government’s desire to reach 50 per cent diversion by 2015.

Neither changing plastic into oil nor gasification is considered to be diversion. Burning ends the life cycle of a material. The goal of diversion is to extend the life cycle of any and all products, to keep as many resources out of the landfill as possible and to compost all the organic matter possible.

I’m happy to hear that Haines Junction has chosen not to burn resources. When a material is removed from the ground and then manufactured into a product, most of the energy cost is involved in that part of the process. Once we get hold of that material, it makes sense to recycle it over and over again until the end of its life. The energy cost to transport material for recycling is minimal.

Unfortunately, the newly announced plastic-to-oil machine may make people feel good, but in fact, it flies in the face of waste management best practices. If we were serious about the environment and developing a cost-effective and efficient waste-management system, funds would be available to help collect, handle and ship recyclables to reputable and ethical remanufacturers in Canada and around the world.

It is not helpful to the industry to have the myth perpetuated that somehow recycling is problematic, that plastics are worthless or that the recyclers merely throw things out. It’s true that recycling costs money and it’s not a perfect industry. However, suggesting that somehow burning valuable resources is a better option is a short-sighted approach.

Raven Recycling believes that the best thing we can do for our planet and our children is to recycle more and more resources – more materials and more volume. Finding the most efficient way to do so in a northern community is not always easy, but it is manageable and worth the effort.

Joy Snyder, executive director

Raven Recycling

Whitehorse

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