PEI

Why we need to rally together to leave plastic behind: Opinion

The waste we produce is being mismanaged. Even our current recycling systems are flawed to say the least, argues Omair Imtiaz.

Attitudes are changing toward plastics, Omair Imtiaz argues

'The waste we produce is being mismanaged. Even our current recycling systems are flawed.' (CBC)

Plastics have officially reached the far corners of the Earth. They're in our oceans, landfills, recycle bins — and they're piling up right here on the Island and around the globe.

Plastics have received a lot of attention recently, and rightly so: recycling plastics hasn't really been working out for us. In some municipalities, up to 80 per cent of the recyclables collected can't be recycled here in Canada. China, the largest global importer of recyclable plastics, has refused to take any more "foreign garbage" as of Jan. 1.

This is a huge problem because we've taken plastics for granted for decades. What didn't end up in landfills ended up being thrown into recycle bins and ultimately shipped off to China. As a result, an attitude of indifference toward plastics became the norm. Fast forward a few decades, and all that has changed.

The waste we produce is being mismanaged. Even our current recycling systems are flawed to say the least. Amongst recyclable plastics lies non-recyclables, garbage and even compost!

Due to growing stockpiles and a limited amount of space, we as an Island community need to work urgently to solve our plastics crisis so we can develop alternatives that will benefit people for generations to come.

In some municipalities, up to 80 per cent of the recyclables collected can’t be recycled here in Canada. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Consumers have the power

The University of Guelph is banning plastic straws and bags from its campus, McGill University is phasing out plastic water bottles and Vancouver aims to be a zero-waste community by 2040. Earlier this month, Liberal MLA Allen Roach tabled a bill in the legislature that would ban plastic bags. If this bill passes, it would make P.E.I. the first province in the country to do so.

We as consumers have the power to make a difference by the choices we make every day. Yes, the responsibility should also fall on industry — but we have the power to consciously eliminate single-use plastics. You can buy reusable straws, coffee mugs, and grocery bags. You can also speak up — ask stores, institutions and policy-makers to give up single-use plastics like plastic liners, bags, straws, cups, take-out containers, and bottles.

Due to growing stockpiles and a limited amount of space, we as an Island community need to work urgently to solve our plastics crisis, argues Omair Imtiaz. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

Can we come up with more innovative applications for alternative uses for the plastic that is already created? Can we as Prince Edward Islanders rally together to leave plastic behind? I sure hope so — the question is, will you?

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Omair Imtiaz was born and raised in Dubai. He moved to the Maritimes in 2007 to further his education in biology and health care. He volunteers with various outreach programs to fundraise for cancer and The Heart and Stroke Foundation. His interests include bringing people together, social justice and inclusion. His hobbies include cycling, kayaking, photography, travelling and exploring the Island.

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