OPINION: The blue bin is not a magic bin

by | Feb 6, 2020 | Opinion

Anushka Yadav, Editor-in-Chief

I have never been a fan of recycling.

I remember being taught the 3Rs in middle school, the entire class would chant together, “reuse, reduce and recycle.” The teacher would remind us every day about the growing use of plastic, how its filling landfills, and how it pollutes the air and water.

There would be skits and street plays organized by the school to encourage environment-friendly behaviour. But I could never see plastic being a hindrance. I was not a proponent of recycling because I never saw the need for it.

In 2015 after graduating from university, when I looked around, I realized that, yes, plastic littered everywhere I looked. Plastic overflowed from garbage bins, plastic blocked wastewater pipes, plastic floated in holy rivers, plastic piled up in hill stations we visited for our vacation and heaps of plastic decorating the village my grandfather grew up in.

“Indians consume 11 kg of plastic per year,” a 2018 Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) report said. I was not a fan of recycling because even though I recycled, I could see plastic growing every year.

I came to Canada to study journalism last year and witnessed the wonders of recycling. Once a week, I would talk to my friend in India and tell her how Canadians have three separate bins.

I called the blue bin the magic bin. My landlords diligently separate waste and put recyclable waste into the blue bin for recycling.

I started liking recycling but questioned the way I would still see garbage bins at Humber or around the city filled with plastic.

Before talking to authorities about recycling, it was necessary to look at consumers’ behaviour at Humber, the students, the staff and the occasional guests.

As one walks towards the cafeteria or cafes in the college, you will notice plastic cutlery, food boxes, coffee cups and food wrapped in plastic.

What is wrong with paper coffee cups or food boxes? They’re coated with less than five per cent plastic per cup to prevent leaking. This composition makes it difficult for it to be recycled since it is impossible to break down the cup or box into pulp.

The coffee cup mountain outside Tim Hortons is a work of art created by the Office of Sustainability. It represents just 8.6 per cent coffee cups Humber produces as waste, Humber College’s 2019 Solid Non‐Hazardous Waste Audit said.

“We understand change makes people uncomfortable, we’re not here to shame or blame anyone. But everything depends on supply and demand,” said the Sustainability Communications and Events Coordinator Tayler Buchanan.

“We’re spreading the message and hoping students make small changes like bringing reusable cutlery and coffee mugs,” Buchanan said.

The next time you go to get a Tim Hortons coffee or snack, notice the small green office right beside it. A team of merely five people are bringing small changes that impact our lives in unimaginable ways.

Now while I realized I have never been a fan of recycling because when an Indian consumes 11 kg plastic every year, an average North American consumes 109 kg plastic, according to the FICCI report.

I have never been a fan of recycling although 582.5 tonnes of garbage from Humber is disposed to a landfill. Out of the total garbage, 33.8 per cent is non-recyclable waste produced by North campus, Humber’s 2019 Waste Audit report said.

I have never been a fan of recycling because, despite all the recycling, only nine per cent gets recycled with 87 per cent of plastic waste ending up in landfills or dumped somewhere in the environment, an economic study of the Canadian plastic industry, markets and waste by Environment and Climate Change Canada showed.

One million plastic bottles are purchased worldwide every minute, and of those, less than 11 per cent are recycled in Canada, and about nine per cent globally, according to Waste Reduction Week in Canada, a coalition of not-for-profit environmental groups and the 13 provincial and territorial governments.

Indeed fellow Humber students, let us become complacent and not be fans of recycling.