Ontario Today show “Worried that Recycling is a Waste of Time?”(on CBC Radio)

Feb 9, 2023

StopPlastics’ felt compelled to respond to the Ontario Today show of Feb 9, 2023 “Worried that recycling is a waste of Time?”. Listen here and then consider StopPlastics’ rebuttal:

Dear Ontario Today: 

StopPlastics is grateful for the Feb 9, 2023 Ontario Today topic “Worried that recycling is a waste of Time?”  but wonder if you might host a future show just on plastic.  There were many issues that were raised in this segment and the issue of recycling quickly became quite muddied.  We were presented with information on food waste, ICI waste, plastic waste, paper waste, textile and electronic waste, etc. all in one go.  While the host and guest gamely navigated this huge topic, we feel that some of what we heard was misleading and inaccurate.

Listeners were presented with a false dichotomy–it’s either recycle waste or landfill it.   While we appreciate the question was “Worried that recycling is a waste of time?”, rather than pointing to the landfill as the last stop for waste, there could have been more discussion around zero packaging and reusables, a refillable glass milk bottle for instance.

The guest said that concerns around waste contamination of groundwater were being overblown and mentioned leachate liners in landfills to contain toxins, however, the effectiveness of liners is questionable.  In 2016, Ingersoll’s Mayor Ted Comiskey told Toronto City Council that there was no way he’d allow Toronto garbage to be shipped to his municipality to pollute local groundwater.*  He said there is no liner that can contain the leachate. Further, it was disappointing that  all the plastic that finds its way into our lakes, streams, rivers and oceans wasn’t mentioned at all.

The guest said that plastics can be used (recycled) more than most paper products which may lead listeners to believe that recycling is an environmentally sound way to deal with plastic.  There are two problems with the statement:

  • The number of times a plastic item can effectively be recycled depends on its type (the guest did mention earlier in the segment that the lighter plastics are problematic) and most recycled plastics are actually downcycled (“meaning it is made into a product with less recoverable value”**),  a detergent jug becomes a watering can.  Furthermore, virgin plastic is often added to the mix as the waste plastic is too degraded on its own.  Not only that but “Much of the plastic waste that is put into the recycling system can’t be recycled**”
  • While the guest talked about how the ghg methane is released into the atmosphere by non-inert materials, the fact is that plastic is not an inert material; it sends gases into the atmosphere and leachate into the ground.   Moreover, it is an oil product and is a big contributor to ghg emissions at every step of its life–from oil extraction to manufacturing to recycling.  Indeed, recycling itself is a very energy intensive process.

Your phone-in on recycling was very welcome.  Recycling is a huge subject and the host and guest should be congratulated for tackling it.  We hope you do more  shows that deal with environmental issues.  Future topics might question ICI waste “Are you worried about all the construction waste you see as the wrecking ball comes to your neighbourhood?”, or the after Covid proliferation of coffee cups “Whatever happened to the ceramic mugs in coffee shops?”, or the climate emergency “What actions are you taking to address the climate emergency?”, and of course, a show on the proliferation of plastic “Do we really need all that plastic?”


The StopPlastics Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.