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Just An Observation: Paper versus plastic, let the debate begin again

The latest announcement advocating environmental stewardship need not be all or nothing

Just what nobody needed, yet another divisive topic driving a wedge between Canadians.

The latest announcement from the federal government that is advocating environmental stewardship need not be an all-or-nothing strategy.

For those still confused, the big dogs on Parliament Hill have decided that the public can’t be trusted to be responsible anymore and are moving forward with a ban on certain (allegedly in my opinion) “single-use” plastic items.

According to the government release, the ban is scheduled to be in place by 2021 and may include water bottles (?), plastic bags and straws.

However, just what specific items will be banned is to be determined following a scientifically-based review. As well, apparently items will only be banned should it have a reasonable alternative available.

Forgive me for a moment while I put on my cynical hat, but how many citizens out there are willing to trust a government-appointed panel of “experts” on this issue? Especially when it comes to determining what is and isn’t a “reasonable alternative” that regular people can afford to purchase?

Now, that isn’t to say that I’m completely against the idea, but why not make an attempt to draw on some common sense in the battle against plastic pollution first?

Let’s take consumable products like packaging of certain foods and other products such as tools and make-up.

How often is it that we, the general public, have to cut open or slice through one or more layers of plastic or cardboard in order to reach the product we want — which is often covered in more packaging?

And given the recent troubles with recycling various plastics (Lacombe has ended its program because most of it was going to the dump anyway) maybe start by changing the regulations around how and what type of packaging can be used.

Currently, federal rules on packaging only defines what a container is and that takes less than a page.

Although, when it comes to what the label says or instructions or product information or the size of the container, the rules go on in detail for about 22 pages.

If Canada’s Competition Bureau, the department responsible, can intimately describe the exact word-for-word description that needs to be used on a label, then it should also be able to tell manufacturers or companies exactly what type, size and form of product packaging is acceptable.

Going to the store and buying, for example, a box of cereal will include a cardboard box with plastic packaging inside. That’s acceptable since what else can one expect.

That said, walk down another aisle and you’ll find plastic covering a plastic product that is already encased in plastic.

Common sense anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Straw poll

Leaving the sometimes atrocious packaging predicament for now, let’s turn to the debate that has many people I know stocking up on a plastic product that is likely to be banned.

Yeppers, I’m talking about straws.

A number of fast food chains are moving toward, or have already implemented, changing to paper straws, with what I would call rather mixed results.

What do I mean?

Well, have you experienced the difficulties with drinking a milkshake through a paper straw? Or went on a road trip and witnessed the destruction left behind when the straw stays too long in your beverage? And what about the over-packaging by encasing said paper straw in yet more paper, not to mention all of the trees needed to produce all of this paper?

Every environmentalist I’ve spoken to is concerned with how the planet’s resources are being pillaged and would like the old-growth forests to be preserved.

Yet, on the flip side, these “activists” want society to halt the use of plastics because they are harming water bodies and various animals.

Now, I certainly can’t discount the affect that plastic pollution is having on the surrounding environment and that of the “throw-away” society which has been generated over the last couple of decades.

“Banning” practices is a too simplistic solution to a problem that could be addressed better — and likely in a more cost effective, efficient manner.

Unfortunately though, government decides to take the easy way out and copying the EU, something meant to service hundreds of millions of people, instead of looking for a better solution that won’t be just a drop in the bucket.

Hmmm, I think I’ve heard something like that before in this province.

But that is…just an observation.