GREENING THE NORTH: Northerners can lead fight against plastic waste

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Ecology North is excited to be offering Yellowknifer readers a bi-monthly column that will highlight topical environmental issues, events, and propose constructive solutions to environmental issues in the North.

Craig Scott is the executive director of Ecology North.

We are excited about this opportunity to encourage critical, evidence based decision-making and further our mandate for a healthy northern environment forever.

Last month, an American explorer ventured down 11 kilometres to the deepest part of the ocean ever visited by man. In those dark cold waters, he came upon a strangely familiar creature, a candy wrapper. These days it seems like plastics are everywhere, the global plastics industry is worth $500 billion and growing, and everything seems to have a plastic coating (or two). It is getting so bad that the World Economic Forum is saying that by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish?

When you look way back to the 1980s, we had a diverse mix of packaging and plastics held a small foothold in consumer goods packaging. Plastic isn’t essential for packaging goods, it’s just a cheaper alternative in which the planet ends up picking up the cost. In recent years, only nine per cent of plastics in Canada were recycled, and last year China announced they would cut its scrap plastic imports by 96 per cent, saying it would no longer take the world’s garbage, putting even that nine per cent in question.

Enter the federal government’s announcement last week that they will introduce a ban on single-use plastics by 2021. The Earth breathed a (tiny) sigh of relief. But we in the NWT can do even better and should take a leadership role as fitting our beautiful, pristine landscape, mostly still unmarred by plastic waste. With one road in, few retailers, a strong composting program, and consumers who love and respect the land, the NWT can go even further.

The alternatives are on the shelves. Consumers can ask retailers not to stock any more non-compostable plates, cutlery and straws. Question purchases that are over packaged, and speak to store managers if you have ideas to help them make the right decisions. If you aren’t sure how to support this movement, you aren’t alone. Ecology North is starting a waste reduction committee that is looking for solutions to this problem. If you don’t want plastics at the bottom of the ocean, or at your favourite picnic site, contact Jasmine at jasmine@ecologynorth.ca.

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