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Is Recycling Really Effective For Reducing Plastic Waste?

It's Sunday afternoon, you're having a really productive day, doing your laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and you're making a great dinner. You finished off the last of your laundry detergent and windex so those bottles went into the recycling bin along with a few containers from ingredients you used for dinner. That recycling bag goes to the curb on Tuesday, and you feel great because you did your part of sorting your waste. Or did you?

What happens to your recycling after that? It’s so easy to never give it a second thought once it's out of your possession, but I’m here to tell you the unfortunate truth about where your recycling ends up. 

Here in Canada - a developed country -  we have the luxury of being export  our waste to underdeveloped countries around the world. In fact, over 70,000 shipping containers full of plastic waste were exported just last year from North America. Many of these countries receiving these shipments already mismanage 70% of the plastic  waste that their own country produces. The sobering reality, likely all of this waste will end up in the ocean or a landfill.

The reasoning behind these exports goes beyond just trying to get rid of the problem. It is actually built around exploiting some of the poorest countries for profit. Some of the biggest plastic importers are Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia and Senegal, offering cheap labor and limited environmental regulation. They pay local workers less than $7 a day to sift and sort recycling piles to get it ready to be processed. 

“People think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.” - Andrew Spicer: University of South Carolina 

So what can we do? How can we do better for our planet and our neighbouring countries? Well quite simply we have to start thinking about our waste before we produce it. 
  • Instead of buying that shampoo bottle, get a bar of shampoo soap. 
  • Instead of picking up another bottle of household cleaner, get a refill pod you can mix with water. 
  • Instead of buying prepackaged food over and over, start refilling your containers with bulk food. 

These are just a few of the many things we can do to take steps in the right direction. We need to be proactive in our shopping choices. We have to cut the problem off at the source. 

“If your bathtub was overflowing you wouldn’t run and grab a mop, you would turn off the faucet. That's what we need to do with plastic.” 

The world is overflowing with plastic. Don't grab a mop.

Check out Sustainably Stocked to start making proactive decisions today.

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