Commentary – Reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse

Richard Froese

School is out, Canada Day is over and the summer vacation season for families officially starts.

Summer is time for picnics and community events with plenty of food. That often creates a great amount of waste of plastic and paper products to haul to the landfills and transfer stations. Most of those products are used just one time.

To reduce waste, the federal government last month announced plans to ban single-use plastic products by as early as 2021. That could include bags, straws and cutlery.

Maybe it’s back to the old paper bag that was so popular decades ago until it was trashed for some reason and replaced by the plastic bag.

Well, Prince Edward Island beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the punch. Canada Day was the first day that PEI prohibited businesses from providing single-use plastic bags. They are instead to offer paper bags or higher-quality reusable bags.

Many municipalities have already banned plastic shopping bags.

Some stores charge a very small fee for shopping bags. Most charge five cents.

But something like a dollar or two would be more reasonable to make people think twice about using a plastic bag.

That is likely just the first step in a long line of convenient disposable items that will be banned in the coming months and years to reduce waste and protect the earth.

Consider all the paper and plastic waste at community events where food is served.

What a waste!

As the old saying goes, a person is either part of the problem or part of the solution.

What’s the solution?

Accept only what you can reduce, reuse and recycle – known as the 3 Rs of waste hierarchy.

If anyone offers otherwise, add another R – refuse! Don’t take it.

Food seems to be the biggest culprit of unnecessary waste. Look how much waste is created by consuming food. Take a look at what one community did almost 40 years ago.

Back in my hometown in Agassiz, B.C. in 1991, several residents formed the Green Legacy Society. It urged citizens, organizations, and businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle.

As its first main goal and project, the group urged people to use plates, utensils, cups that can be washed and reused again and again, instead of throwing them away after just one use.

Since many events used paper and plastic, people were encouraged to bring their own reusable plates, cups and mugs, and cutlery. Coffee drinkers soon started to carry their favourite mug around to meetings and community events so they wouldn’t create more garbage.

Eventually, very few community events used paper plates and eating utensils.

Remember, be part of the solution, not the problem.

People have become accustomed to deposit recyclable bottles and cans into separate containers.

After a community dinner or reception where reusable dinnerware is used, people simply put the plates, cups and cutlery in the proper trays and they get cleaned to be reused.

That can certainly be a new trend at community events.

Everybody has a role to meet the 3Rs. That includes organizations and businesses. When you go to a fast-service restaurant, why not take your favourite reusable dinnerware instead of creating more waste?

Let’s all work together to be better stewards of our land and water.

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