The Smithers recycling depot was on fire May 9. (Thom Barker photo)

Focus should be on cleaning up our own backyard

Reducing and reusing more effective than recycling

Understandably, Smithers has been a little preoccupied with recycling since a fire destroyed the processing plant in early May.

With recyclables now being collected as trash and taken to the landfill, and some residents saving those items for the eventual resumption of processing at some unknown point in the future, it’s the perfect time for a reminder there are three pieces of the conservation puzzle.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Of these, recycling is the least effective means of addressing the environmental impact of plastic pollution, which is a massive problem for the world, many would even say a crisis.

There is an island almost twice the size of British Columbia in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California made up of plastic garbage.

Despite the attention recycling gets, it simply is not working.

According to Environmental Defence, a Canadian advocacy group, Canada only recycles approximately 11 per cent of plastic waste.

If we are to tackle the crisis, it seems obvious we are going to have to take the other two Rs more seriously.

There are signs of that happening at a grassroots level. Businesses, particularly in the food service industries are switching to biodegradable straws, stir sticks and other single-use plastic items. Many people carry around their own travel mug for coffee and remember to bring their own reusable bags to the grocery store.

Some grocery stores have stopped providing plastic bags. Some towns have banned them.

If we are really serious about tackling the problem, it is going to take legislation because it will require a monumental culture shift following more than a half century of building a society based on convenience.

Last week, the Liberals promised to ban single-use plastics by 2021, but other jurisdictions don’t have to wait for the federal government, particularly since there is no guarantee we will even have a Liberal government by November, 2019.

And there is no sense bellyaching that China, or the United States, or anybody else, is not doing their part.

All we can do is make sure we clean up our own backyard.

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