Originally published in Medicine Hat News
Crystal Metz Insurance Agency has recently taken up the mantle of the Zero Waste Challenge and is looking for other local businesses to hop on board.
To that effect, owner Crystal Metz and account manager Mandy Friess went to the local CanPak recycling plant to see their options for reducing waste.
“The issue we’re dealing with really needs to come not just from consumers, but … a huge start would be with companies and businesses where they can make an impact,” said Metz.
They began their initiative on Aug. 27 after going to the CanPak plant on Aug. 24, where general manager Randy Wong took them on a tour of the facility.
“We wanted to go to CanPak just to see actually what happens,” Metz said. “When we’re doing recycling here at the office and our own homes, are we doing it properly? Is it going where we think it’s going?”
They learned many Hatters have been putting items in their blue bins that are not meant for recycling, a phenomenon Friess referred to as ‘wish-cycling.’
“When you put something in your blue bin it makes you feel good, because you’re doing good for the environment, but you don’t think about what’s happening to it at the end,” said Friess.
For example, they saw some old car parts at the plant.
“They’re metal, which is OK, but they’re not something that someone should be putting in their blue bin,” Friess said.
“You’re just wearing down the system,” added Metz. “You’re actually causing them more work and using more power.”
There’s also a surplus of recycled plastic the plant is having trouble selling, which Friess referred to as a nation-wide “crisis.”
Recycling is not a single magic bullet to reduce waste, as recycling plants only have a finite amount of space, Friess explained.
“It’s literally being bailed up and stored in the CanPak yard for potential future sales, because right now nobody wants it,” she said, adding that the plant is doing all it can to ensure the plastic isn’t taken to landfill.
“We all know that plastic does not biodegrade,” said Friess. “It just sits there underground … or it goes into our waterways.”
According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, microplastics are increasingly becoming part of people’s drinking water and disturbing fish habitats.
The Zero Waste Challenge has five ‘R’s for reducing plastic consumption — refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle and rot.
“There are very, very small changes that everyone can make,” said Friess, such as composting food waste, or taking tupperware to a restaurant to package any leftovers, as opposed to using their styrofoam.
But ultimately companies must cut off the supply if they want to most effectively assist the planet.
“Our economy is based and has grown on supply and demand,” Metz said.
“If we demand products, then companies are going to supply them. And that’s why I want to get companies on board in Medicine Hat, so they will stop supplying it based on the knowledge of what it’s doing to our environment.”