This week we heard that 69 containers of our mislabelled, non-recyclable garbage is being repatriated back to Canada after 6 years of diplomatic discussions around who should take responsibility for the waste shipment.
Yes, you read correctly - 6 years.
Thinking about this diplomatic clash and PR nightmare, I still see signs of our collective denial over the core waste issue we are facing and its scale. Our issue is not in mislabelling our waste, nor is it in limited management solutions. I believe our core issue centres around the creation of waste. A lack of intentional vision around creating a sustainable society has led to the establishment of a take-make-waste approach.
Currently, we produce over 2 billion metric tons of solid waste globally, of which only 13.5% is recycled and 5.5% is composted. The World Bank estimates that our waste generation could increase 70% by 2050. In Canada only 11-12% of our 3.84 million tonnes of used plastic is collected for recycling and only a portion is actually recycled.
The good news is that there is some amazing and inspiring work in this area. Globally, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has put forth the Circular Economy as a north star. “By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems we can reinvent everything.”
In Canada, the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition has put together A Circular Economy For Plastics in Canada, detailing the barriers, benefits and critical policy areas that will enable the advancement to a circular economy. Next week the Recycling council of Ontario is putting on the Circular Procurement Summit, and I am looking forward to hearing international and local experts share their insights on how to use this critically important lever to help advance the circular economy.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has stated that a strategy that works to address the roots of our waste challenges will be unveiled next month. This is exciting. I look forward to this strategy and am hopeful that it will signal a shift from denial to acceptance of the core issues and a commitment to sustainability. As such I am hopeful that that it will be visionary in nature, include specific measurable targets that build towards a circular economy, and include meaningful investments to enable the of transition.
With this we can avoid countless years and resources discussing who should deal with the symptoms and move on to fixing the problem.
 Ellis, Cody, World Bank: Global waste generation could increase 70% by 2050, Waste Dive, September 2018, Retrieved June 2019 from https://www.wastedive.com/news/world-bank-global-waste-generation-2050/533031/
 Circular Economy Leadership Coalition, A Circular Economy For Plastics in Canada, A bold vision for less waste and more value, February 29, 2019, Retrieved from http://circulareconomyleaders.ca/downloads/A_Circular_Economy_for_Plastics_in_Canada.pdf
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, What is the circular economy, Retrieved May 2019 from https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/what-is-the-circular-economy