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Inside Toronto's plastic problem

Aug. 14, 2019

A low-waste movement to tackle the plastics crisis is gaining momentum, but we’re only in the beginning stages of realizing the dream of a disposable-free society

Canadians are addicted to plastic. In a single year, we generate a staggering 4.6 million metric tonnes of plastic waste. Shockingly, only nine per cent of plastics produced are recycled; the vast majority of it accumulates in landfills and leeches into the environment.

On June 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans for a country-wide ban on single-use plastics like straws, cutlery and other disposable items by 2021. The province has hired a special advisor on recycling and plastic waste, who recommends requiring producers to cover 100 per cent of the costs of recycling plastic waste they produce.

Over the past year, a low-waste movement has also gained tremendous momentum. Local pop-ups are selling package-free products and community groups are organizing beach cleanups. There are even “zero-waste influencers” on Instagram pushing a waste-free lifestyle.

Yes, they’re a thing, posting photos of how little garbage they generate on a weekly basis – all of it tucked neatly inside tiny glass mason jars to make the point that we need more than a recycling bin to do our part to save the planet from what is already a full-blown crisis.

Banning plastics that can’t be recycled will help, as will setting and enforcing more ambitious recycling collection standards. Governments, major corporations and consumers all need to be on board. It’s a tall order.

A deep dive into Toronto’s plastics problem reveals a complicated jumble underneath the mountains of trash.

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