Editorial: Organic solution

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How to tackle waste effectively is a problem that’s increasingly paramount for governments all over the world.

Plastic is one nightmare whose epic portions are just starting to be realized. Recent scientific studies have reported finding micro-plastic fibres at the furthest reaches of the planet, from the deepest ocean trenches to the inside of icebergs to rainclouds, which have been sending the material back to earth over the Pyrenees and the Rocky Mountains.

In an effort to avoid choking the Earth’s living systems under this toxic layer, many conscientious people are trying to move away from plastic packaging and one-off uses altogether. But so-called biodegradable plastics and other compostable materials don’t magically return to the earth without the correct processing. Paper materials that are sealed in a plastic garbage bag and buried in a landfill are not entering the cycle as a returnable resource.

Food waste is another problem if trapped in the landfill, producing methane gas as it slowly decays. That’s one reason why the Capital Regional District officially banned kitchen scraps from the Hartland Road landfill in January 2015.

Practically, the CRD has been slow to offer solutions on dealing with the organic and compostable waste it wishes to divert. A request from Salt Spring market vendors to help deal with the problem at Centennial Park, for example, was initially met with a producer-responsibility reply.

Many Salt Spring vendors are attempting to deal with the waste packaging their food products are served in, and are now looking into how a group organics collection depot might work. That is commendable, but an overall cultural shift also needs to include local government. Just as the CRD offers separated bins for garbage and recycling in the park, there should be an option for compostable materials such as biodegradable cardboard dishes, coffee cups and napkins. People are more likely to do the right thing when it’s made easy for them.

An obstacle to this type of collection, no doubt, is where to deposit it afterward. Local government needs to be actively engaged with that question as well.

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