The Downsview community has many proud homeowners, with countless manicured green lawns. The neighbourhood’s emerald gardens are a testament to another time’s concept of an oasis. Green, clean and neat, with rows of driveways in between. But even here you find plastic everywhere. Whether its plastic ties, bags, wrappers, bottles or straws. Plastic debris blow in with the wind but dig into any yard and you will find more of it in the soil.
Most of us have come to accept plastic materials as part of our daily life without recognizing the impact that it has on our environment. It is flowing into our waterways at such speed, that it is changing life in the oceans. In 30 years, scientists believe there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Today, there is an island of plastic in the Pacific larger than France.
In Toronto, the problem is of a different nature. The oceans are far away, and Canada has some of the largest sources of drinking water in the world. Except, small plastic particles called microplastics are getting into everything we consume. Whether we drink water from the tap or from a bottle, we are ingesting tens of thousands of small plastic particles each year. A study estimates an average person is consuming 250 grams of plastic every year. That adds up to eating a credit card-size worth of plastic every week (in case you are wondering, tap water has is far cleaner of microplastics than bottled water).
We have been utilizing the blue bin recycling program for about 30 years here in Downsview. However, a number of recent news reports tell us that much of what we toss into the blue bin does not actually get recycled. Because much of the plastic we produce cannot ever be recycled and because of contamination of the materials, most of our plastic ends up in landfills or worse. Only about 10% of all plastic products ever made have been recycled.
The long-term effects that micro-plastics will have on our health are still unknown, but we do not need a science degree to know the effects cannot be good. Plastic is poisoning our water, our food and our bodies. The only real solution is to stop using as much plastic in our everyday lives. We need to make the effort to switch to more reusable and biodegradable materials and avoid single-use plastics altogether. We need more reusable bags, reusable cups, reusable straws, less packaging in our products and less single use plastics. The recent push to eliminate single-use straws is a good starting place but we cannot stop there.
We are leaving mountains of garbage for the next generation. Let’s clean up our act and leave our planet in a better state than how we found it.